Craving chocolate, salt or sugar after a meal?
Well, there’s a good reason for that. Most likely, the meal was missing a key flavor or ingredient or there was an excess of one particular taste that leaves the body unbalanced, unsatiated and wanting more. Thats when junk food cravings sneak up and drive poor eating habits.
According to the Mother of Holistic Medicine and 5,000 yr. old science of Ayurveda, meals are not complete without appropriate portions of the Shad Rasas, better known as the 6 Tastes.
The 6 tastes correspond to 6 stages of digestion and provide complete satisfaction when they are present in each meal. Foods with the six tastes should also be eaten in a specific order to reduce food cravings following digestion. Ayurveda supports the notion that if each of the 6 tastes is represented by foods of various colors and textures in every meal, then food cravings will cease to exist.
So, what are the ancient secret tastes and how can the alleviate food cravings?
Check out the list for details.
Naturally Sweet Taste
Sweet – Ayurveda teaches that there are many foods that are naturally sweet and do not require sugar or artificial sweeteners for this pleasantry.
In Sanskrit, the sweet taste is known as Madura and is present in many fruits, vegetables and grains, and of course, in natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and unrefined sugar. The sweet taste is associated with the early digestion of simple carbohydrates by saliva in the mouth and sweet foods should be eaten first on a plate, not last.
Recognition of this sweet taste may not come easy if the taste buds are continuously exposed to processed sugary foods.
To best identify the naturally sweet tastes of food and eliminate the sweet sugar craving:
1. Stop eating processed, boxed, canned and frozen food for 1 day.
2. Then begin trying different fresh fruits like ripe strawberries, apples, pears and/or raisins and then move on to carrots, butternut squash and/or sweet potatoes, finally trying wheatberries, barley and/or faro.
3. Afterwards, taste processed strawberry jam, store bought apple or pumpkin pie and white bread and notice the different effect on the taste buds.
At first, the subtle sweet taste will be present in the natural foods. This will be in extreme contrast to the processed sweet foods when reintroduced. Incorporating more of the naturally sweet fresh foods into a daily diet will significantly control or eliminate the craving for candy, pastries and other sugary snacks.
Sour – In Sanskrit, the natural sour taste is known as Amla and is easy to recognize in citrus fruits like lemon and lime, but more subtly recognizable in foods like tomatoes, mustard or mustard seeds and fermented foods like vinegars, fresh plain yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, capers, amalaki fruit and tamarind.
The sour taste correlates with the stomach and sour foods should be eaten second and intermittently with foods on a plate. As a high acid environment, the stomach produces digestive enzymes that are stimulated by the sour taste. Eating small amounts of sour foods will help increase sour digestive juices, break down food more easily in the stomach and stimulate the appetite.
Excess cravings for the sour taste includes overeating foods like pickles (not while pregnant), tomatoes wine and monosodium glutamate (MSG) on chips or in processed foods. Limiting the sour taste to small amounts of naturally sour foods in each meal will help satisfy this craving.
Salty – In Sanskrit, the salty taste known as Lavana is beneficial in small amounts for the bile in the liver and gallbladder to digest fats.
Salty or high sodium foods are prevalent in most diets, but run extra high in processed chips, pretzels and fried snacks. Cravings for processed salty foods may reflect either an electrolyte deficiency in the body, dehydration or changes in kidney function.
The Mayo Clinic actually recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet for individuals watching their salt, limiting sodium intake to only 1500mg to 2300mg per day.
To moderate excess salt cravings:
1. Switch from Morton’s or sea salt to a land salt like Himalayan Pink Rock salt.
2. Try smaller amounts of natural foods high in sodium like sea vegetables, beet greens, fish, egg yolks, lean meats and low fat dairy.
Pungent – The pungent taste is referred to as Katu in Sanskrit and is responsible for heating and igniting cellular “fire” in the body. Pungent foods correspond to the fiery digestive action of the small intestines.
An excess of the pungent taste results in overeating of foods like chili peppers, garlic, raw onions or paprika. These spices are often used to enhance the flavor of fried and processed chips, snacks and sauces.
Overuse of the pungent taste creates inflammation in the body and may damage the joints, muscles and liver.
Carefully monitoring food intake with the pungent flavor and eating fresh, naturally pungent vegetables will lessen the craving for artificially hot flavored foods.
Bitter – Believe it or not, according to Ayurveda, bitter, known as Tikta in Sanskrit, is the taste responsible for one of the most popular food cravings- Chocolate!
The bitter taste is thought to reflect the natural flavor of many foods with key minerals that are often overlooked such as nutrient dense seeds and nuts.
Instead, individuals craving bitter taste reach for chocolate and chocolate-flavored processed foods.
According to Ayurveda, the bitter taste is critical to digestion because it indicates to the body to stop eating. Therefore bitter foods should be eaten at the end of a meal to signal to the body that eating time is over. Bitter foods also help detoxify tissues and blood, reduce cholesterol and fats and tonify the kidneys.
To reduce chocolate cravings, begin to include bitter foods such as leafy greens – spinach, kale, chard, beets and mustard greens, collards – along with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, brazil nuts and bitter spices like turmeric and fenugreek as a regular part of the diet.
Astringent – As one of the more challenging tastes to recognize, the astringent taste is present in dry foods such as legumes/beans/lentils, vegetables like jicama, artichokes and sprouts and raw fruits like pomegranate and apples.
Excess cravings for astringent foods often results in overeating of chips, crackers, bread, rice cakes, cereals, protein bars and similar dry foods.
Astringent foods are beneficial to the colon in digestion, but should not be eaten in excess. Reducing portions of astringent foods and eating naturally astringent foods only in the wet, spring season, will appropriately reduce the excess craving.