When your brain identifies a specific flavour, several senses come into play. Imagine a red, crunchy and juicy horseradish. From the moment you see the horseradish, to when you smell it, and finally place it in your mouth all of your senses create that particular sensation that your brain identifies as flavour.
The very first flavour that many people came across with in their lives is the sweetness of mother’s milk. The detection of flavours is an instinctive trait that allows us to survive by seeking food that will nourish us and by discriminating against that which could be a possible hazard.
Through your taste buds nature helps you obtain all the nourishment your body needs. Nutrients portray different flavours. For instance, the flavour of fruit involves a blend of odour and taste derived from the sweetness of its sugar content, sourness of the organic acids or even astringency due to the presence of polyphenols. On the other hand a meaty flavour is created by the presence of umami substances, products that come from unsaturated fatty acids, proteins and the cooking process.
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The Ayurvedic Approach
According to Ayurveda, flavour can be classified as sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent and astringent. These flavours can promote wellness by pacifying or aggravating different qualities in the body. Based on the idea of humours, which include wind, choler and phlegm, flavours can convey different strengths. Humours can be perceptible in various characteristics of the body. Wind can be considered as dry, light, cold, harsh, fine, and mobile. Choler is unctuous, sharp and hot as well as light, smelly, diffusive and liquid. Phlegm is unctuous, cold, heavy, slow, smooth, slimy and solid. Ayurveda achieves balance through this teaching:
Sweet, sour and salty flavours can destroy wind. Bitterness, pungency and astringency can destroy phlegm. Astringent, bitter and sweet flavours can destroy choler whilst alternating flavours can augment these humours.
When there is a humour imbalance, the digestive system can be affected by either becoming too sharp or too sluggish, which can lead to illness. Illness can originate inside or outside of a person, and their location can be in the body or the mind. Imbalances in the mind can be caused by anxiety and stress and lead to illness the same as eating just one type of food or avoiding vegetables can. A way to tackle this is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet full of flavour.
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Flavour Explained by Science
Scientists agree there are seven different tastes: sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, astringency, pungency (hotness) and umami, also known as meatiness. There is scientific evidence indicating that flavour plays an important role in obtaining the nutrients your body needs to function properly, feeling full and controlling your weight.
Previous research has signaled that people who consumed food that had been seasoned and was tasty was correlated to a reduced calorie intake compared to those whose food was not as tasty. Further research which studied the dietary intake of older adults observed that the reduced detection of flavour that comes with age could lead to a poor diet. In this case, results indicated that the addition of mono-sodium glutamate to food could act as a taste intensifier which led to a better nutritional intake.
Further research indicates that what your mother ate could have influenced the way you eat today. According to studies, the diet of a mother while pregnant could expose the baby to certain type of compounds. It has been observed for instance that mothers who have a high vegetable intake while pregnant are more likely to have children who like and consume veggies when they grow up.
How to Boost Flavours in Food?
More flavour doesn’t mean more salt. What Ayurveda teaches is that your body is naturally wise; you just have to listen to what it needs. To obtain an optimal state of nutrition and health you need balance. You can obtain balance through your diet when you:
- Give variety to the foods you include in your meals
- Consume fruits and veggies of different different colours.
- Combine different sources of protein, carbohydrates and fat in every meal.
When your food is tasteless and bland, you end up eating more than you intended because your body doesn’t know to say it’s full. Intensify the flavour in your food by using spices. Include seasonal herbs, garlic and chilli to bring out the flavour, activate your taste buds and help your brain find satiety, but remember to be moderate. Avoid going overboard with the salt and chilli. When you do so your taste buds became accustomed to higher levels of these ingredients making you have higher intakes of sodium and making other food seem tasteless.
Do Science and Ayurveda Agree?
Both disciplines agree in that what your tongue tastes can have a great impact in your health. From early age to older adults, the tastiness of your food can influence your food selection. Therefore, avoid thinking that a healthy diet is bland and boring. Spice it up! Avoid being repetitive with the foods you eat. Your body needs diversity to obtain all the nutrients that it needs to be in optimal conditions and a great way to do it is by adding flavour to your food and your life.