Flavorings for Food Wilmington DE
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Savor Your Flavors
By Nancy Lonsdorf, MD
The six-taste ticket to good health You may know the three primary colors, the eight notes in a musical scale, and the nine planets circling our sun, but can you list the six fundamental tastes in food?
According to ayurveda, the healing tradition from ancient India, eating all six tastes can balance your body, eliminate cravings, and help you lose weight—without counting calories, restricting carbs, or feeling deprived. In fact, not eating the full complement of tastes each day can actually cause cravings and may play a role in America’s obesity epidemic.
Westerners already know at least four of the six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. We enjoy the sweet taste in grains, legumes, dairy, starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, and carrots), sweet fruits, and the cookie jar. Sour comes from citrus fruits, curdled foods like cheese and yogurt, and fermented substances like alcohol, vinegar, and pickles. We find salty in the ever-present saltshaker and in prepared foods. For spicy, think salsa. Ginger, chilies, black pepper, clove, garlic, and milder spices like cinnamon, basil, mint, and thyme also count as spicy.
The last two tastes—bitter and astringent—tend to rank low on our list of favorites. We’d do well to include them in our diets, though, because they’re the dominant flavors in the most beneficial phytonutrients, and the foods that contain them may offer the most health benefits of all. Bitter characterizes Popeye’s spinach fix, as well as most green leafy vegetables, tea, coffee, olives, grapefruit, and cocoa. Astringent foods—such as cranberries, walnuts, turmeric, pomegranate, rhubarb, and most unripe fruits—make us want to pucker up, and they leave the mouth feeling dry. Foods often contain many tastes, but ayurveda classifies them by their main flavor.
According to ayurveda, each of the tastes affects us differently, depending on which of the three doshas it’s connected to. Doshas are the fundamental processes that guide the way our bodies function. They include mind and movement (vata dosha), metabolism (pitta dosha), and structure (kapha dosha). To help understand doshas, think of them in terms of your car: Vata controls the electronics and moving parts, pitta controls the burning of fuel, and kapha controls the chassis, lubrication, and all the structural parts.
When our doshas function normally—“in balance”—we enjoy good health. If they’re imbalanced and one dominates the others, symptoms manifest in our bodies and minds, depending on which dosha is out of whack.
Since the six tastes affect our three doshas in predictable ways, we can favor food flavors that will tame a rogue dosha and restore balance to the whole body.
Balancing vata and kapha
Sweet, sour, and salty flavors balance a rampaging vata dosha. Vata controls all activity, breath, and consciousness, but when it predominates, you can suffer from anxiety, dryness, digestive problems, and insomnia, among other things. The popular and u...
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