There are many theories for the state of obesity in our country. A new theory suggests that we have been looking at the wrong suspects. It is not the fat or the sugar or the gluten that is making us eat more – it is the lack of flavor.
We are programmed to eat foods that nourish us. Our instinct depends on our sense of smell and taste. However, the food that we grow has been getting blander. As we focus on insect-resistant crops and livestock with higher yields, we have been losing flavor. Your parents or grandparents may tell you that food just doesn’t taste like it did 50 years ago.
As natural flavors diminish, we compensate by adding artificial flavors in processed foods. So we eat more junk food, resulting in obesity and other chronic diseases.
The father of gastronomy, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, said, “The fate of a nation depends on the way that they eat.” America’s mother of gastronomy, Julia Child, once said, “How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”
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The way to be healthy is to stop obsessing over calories and counting numbers. Instead, satisfy your cravings by eating real food that is full of flavor.
Here are some tips to enhance flavor:
Cook most of your own meals. Learn to cook simple and healthy meals. Use slow cookers and other such appliances that make meal preparation easier.
Stay away from processed foods prepared with artificial flavors. Even the healthy sounding “natural flavors” may not always be natural. Eating sugar-laden strawberry flavored fruit roll-ups is not the same as eating a fresh strawberry.
Visit farmers markets and produce stands. Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to shop for locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Try different colorful fruits and vegetables. Make it a family event so children can see where their food comes from.
Grow an herb garden. Plant easy-to-grow herbs such as basil, oregano, chives, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Use ginger, garlic, cilantro, lime and lemon for variety.
Explore the world of spices. Spices have traditionally been used for centuries to prevent and cure ailments. A number of herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antioxidant properties. Try cinnamon, cloves, cumin, paprika and nutmeg, to name a few. Flavoring your food using herbs and spices helps reduce the amount of fat and salt.
Experiment with flavors. Cultures around the world use different combinations of spices and herbs for their authentic dishes. Try Caribbean, Ethiopian, French, Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisines for a variety of dishes using whole grains, beans and vegetables.
When we satisfy all our senses including sight, smell and taste by eating real food, we reduce cravings, have more energy and create a healthy environment inside our body that increases immunity and lowers risk of chronic diseases.
Parul Kharod is a Clinical Dietitian at WakeMed Cary Hospital. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org