In last week’s blog, our Toronto naturopath spoke about the importance of the sweet flavour, even if added sugar is not so healthy. This week, we’ll address the other four basic flavours and why a diet packed full of diverse flavours supports your health.
Salty is another flavour taste buds can perceive which has acquired a bad reputation due to extreme amounts of salt in processed foods. However, salt is important for the enjoyment of food, bringing out and harmonizing flavours. It’s also important for health, and on its own will NOT cause high blood pressure to develop (though some people with high or uncontrolled blood pressure need to reduce salt in their diet). In fact, some people with low blood pressure are deficient in minerals or have low adrenal function, and upping their salt intake with a good balanced sea salt will feel great and benefit their health. Another example is during the ketogenic diet, a medical diet your naturopath may recommend, salt becomes even more important as your body excretes more salt and electrolytes when eating low carb. Finally, Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that salt helps digestion by helping the food “descend” in the stomach.
The sour flavour contained in lemon, many fruits and vegetables, as well as fermented foods, helps stimulate appetite and good digestion. Just as you can feel the saliva start to flow, the secretions in the stomach increase with this evocative flavour. That’s why drinking water with a squeeze of fresh lemon is so great before a meal or on waking up in the morning.
The best examples of bitter foods are chocolate and coffee, however many green vegetables have a strong bitter taste – for example dandelion leaf or arugula. These really support the liver, improve bile flow for good digestion, and encourage the natural detoxification functions the liver caries out every day. Small children don’t tend to like bitter foods which is perhaps adaptive as these can act strongly on the gut, but it’s an important taste for adults to acquire for all the benefits they provide.
Last but not least, the umami flavour is less well known and is sometimes referred to as “savoury.” The word umami comes from Japanese where this flavour is revered, but is common across all cuisines. Umami helps make meals feel more filling and satisfying. The most obvious foods for umami flavour are meats and broths. In next week’s blog we’ll share more about how to incorporate the umami flavour into the diet, and its benefits.