As a Health Coach and true foodie, I like to place emphasis on eating a BALANCED diet with a wide variety of foods, and on the pleasure of eating nutritious food. It’s important to eat sufficient amounts of protein, healthy fats, healthy carbohydrates, and fiber, but also, to include a wide variety of TASTE and COLOR in each meal.
I like to refer to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda (Indian healing system), which says that there are six tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent - and including all six tastes in every meal ensures that all major food groups and nutrients are represented, and also provides us with the feeling of SATISFACTION in eating.
Each taste has a "balancing" quality, and including some of each taste balances our appetite and digestion, and minimizes cravings.
Here are examples of foods containing these six tastes:
SWEET: whole grains, starchy vegetables, dairy, meat, chicken, fish, honey
SOUR: citrus fruits, berries, plums, tomatoes, sauerkraut, pickled foods, vinegar, yogurt
SALTY: seaweed, salty fish, soy sauce, sea salt
BITTER: bitter greens, endive, spinach, kale, all leafy greens, celery, broccoli, sprouts, beets
PUNGENT: radish, daikon, peppers, onions, garlic, cayenne, black pepper, cloves, ginger, mustard
ASTRINGENT: lentils, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, figs, green apples, pomegranates, tea
Obviously, in every category of taste, there are some not-so-healthy foods, and the idea is to focus on the highly nutritious ones. I like to favor fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, whole (and naturally gluten-free) grains, nuts, seeds and “clean” protein (such as organic eggs, cold-water fish and lean poultry cuts).
What I like most about taking all “6 tastes” into consideration, is that it almost forces us to experiment with new foods and spices.
The Standard American diet tends to have too much sweet and salty taste, but lacks particularly in the bitter, pungent and astringent. Here are my favorite 4 tricks to make sure you’re including all tastes in every meal:
- Pungent & Salty: Cook your meals with a high quality sea salt, fresh pepper, onion and garlic
- Bitter: Always include a leafy green salad with your meals (switch it up, using spinach, arugula, kale, romaine, watercress, red and green leaf lettuce, etc.)
- Astringent: Finish your meals with a digestive tea – I love fresh ginger and/or mint tea
- Sour: Include a few forkfuls of raw sauerkraut with your meals (note: raw sauerkraut is filled with probiotics and AMAZING for your gut health) and/or drizzle some lemon juice on your veggies or protein
Here are 4 delicious and healthy examples of BALANCED MEALS with all 6 tastes:
1. Grass-fed beef patty (prepared with minced onion, garlic & spices of choice) served with a large baby mixed greens salad (baby romaine, kale & spinach) with a dressing made with: whole-grain mustard-apple cider vinegar-lemon-olive oil dressing, and a side of roasted cauliflower. (Note: vegetarians can swap the burger for a black bean & quinoa patty for example)
2. Lentil stew (lentils, sweet potato, spinach, onion, garlic, ginger & curry spices) served with a small scoop of brown rice or quinoa (cooked with herbs & sea salt) and an arugula, tomato and avocado salad.
3. Vegetarian “pasta-less” lasagna with layers of: Butternut squash, zucchini, yellow, squash, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese (vegans can use cashew cream), served with a side of garlicky sautéed broccolini, and a digestive tea.
4. Salmon fillet drizzled with lemon, olive oil and fresh chopped parsley, with a cabbage salad, and a side of roasted sweet potato and kale.
Honestly, the options are limitless! Try paying attention to the variety of tastes in all of your meals and you will notice a difference in your cravings. Most importantly, be cognizant to include the bitter, astringent, pungent and sour (as the salty and sweet are almost a given!). If you’re still feeling sugar cravings, try having a tea with some raw honey - that will help satisfy your sweet tooth while providing nutrition (without the excess sugar!)