Tag Archives: Turmeric

Ayurvedic Concept of the Role of Taste in Nutrition

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For those familiar with Ayurveda, one of the most surprising observations regarding modern nutritional science is that the relationship between taste and nutrition has been completely overlooked in Western investigations and conceptualizations. This is especially true when one considers that the sensation of taste is the primary and most obvious influence for every food that is eaten. The concept that taste may contain important clues to the biochemical actions of food is certainly an intriguing one, especially in light of the exquisite sensitivity of the taste receptors. Sweet taste can be perceived in a dilution of 1:200; salty, in a dilution of 1:400; sour, in a dilution of 1:130,000; and bitter, in a dilution of 1:2,000,000. According to the concepts of Ayurveda, this exquisite sensitivity of taste represents a communication mechanism to signal the physiology of the complex biochemical qualities of each food.

The sense of taste performs the dual role of informing the individual about the external world and connecting that perception with information about their internal environment. It is known from research into the sense of taste that molecules act on taste cells in particular areas of the oral cavity to trigger signals which are then transmitted to the cortex via afferent nerves, the caudal hindbrain, and the thalamus. The hypothalamus and limbic system are also reached by taste afferents. The taste of food is known to trigger physiological as well as behavioral reactions.

According to Ayurveda, when the taste buds first experience the different tastes and textural properties of food, an enormous amount of information is delivered throughout the body, triggering basic metabolic processes. These are held to reflect individual characteristics of the food as indicated by the taste. The influence on the physiology is then individualized according to the metabolic style determined by the individual’s Ayurvedic psychophysiological constitution and disturbances in the physiology.

Ayurveda describes six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Of these, the two that are not specifically recognized in Western nutritional science are ‘pungent,’ which refers to hot, spicy foods, and ‘astringent,’ which refers to foods with a drying, absorbent property (Table 1).

Table 1. The Six Tastes and Some Examples

  • Sweet – Sugar, milk, butter, rice, wheat, bread, pasta, honey
  • Sour – Yogurt, lemon, cheese, tomatoes, sour citrus fruits
  • Salty – Foods with a high salt content
  • Pungent – Hot spicy foods, hot peppers, ginger, cumin
  • Bitter – Spinach, other green leafy vegetables, turmeric
  • Astringent – Beans, lentils, apples, pomegranate, tannin in tea 

Ayurveda recommends that all six tastes be represented in each meal, although the proportions of the six tastes will vary according to the individual’s psychophysiological constitution and physiological disturbances. When all six tastes are experienced, the appetite will be satisfied by this balanced intake. If any of the tastes are left out, the person will likely continue to eat even though they are full, in an effort to satisfy the body’s hunger for the missing tastes. Inclusion of all six tastes is easily accomplished by use of Ayurvedic churnas, which are spice mixtures tailored to different constitutional types.

Because of the gate-keeper role that the taste buds play, taste is considered central to the classification of foods. It should be noted however that the analysis of food in Ayurveda is more sophisticated and precise than the analysis of taste alone. In analyzing food, additional properties are also taken into consideration, including six major qualities of food that are identified as heavy, light, oily, dry, hot, and cold (Table 2).

Table 2. The Six Major Food Qualities and Some Examples

  • Heavy – Cheese, yogurt, wheat products
  • Light – Barley, corn, spinach, apples
  • Oily – Dairy products, fatty foods, oils
  • Dry – Barley, corn, potatoes, beans
  • Hot – Hot (in temperature) foods and drinks
  • Cold – Cold foods and drinks 

Dietary prescriptions in Ayurveda are tailored according to individual need, based on determination of the individual’s Ayurvedic psychophysiological constitution and disturbances in the physiology.

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Turmeric-The Golden Spice

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Excerpt from Turmeric – The Golden Spice

Ayurveda’s top candidate as the world’s best anti-cancer spice would be nothing other than the commonplace turmeric. Yes, that turmeric, the one that for years seemed like just a little food coloring. In the recent past, if you had it at all, it sat on the shelf in the same bottle for month after month and year after year until you moved away, cleaned house, and threw it out. Little, orange, tasteless, neglected turmeric. It’s a serious cancer fighter.

Neglected in the West, turmeric has been a pillar of the diet in India for thousands of years. There in the East the bottle does not sit neglected, and turmeric is hardly just food coloring. For at least 5,000 years—every day in every Indian kitchen, while cooking their lentils and vegetables with turmeric—Indians have been using this anticancer wonder spice.

Ayurvedic tradition knows both the spice itself and, just as important, how to use it to coax the maximum benefit from the seemingly shy spice. Need a little convincing on the possible benefits of this ‘sleeper’—a relative of the much more zesty ginger plant and, like ginger, derived from the rhizome of the plant? You can get it now from Western medicine, which recently has devoted a great deal of research to the subject of this now-remembered spice. Here from Western science are some of the documented benefits of turmeric, including its anticancer properties:

• Anticancer properties: Protects against DNA damage, stimulates detoxifying enzymes, anti-mutagenic effect, anti-tumor
• Anti-inflammatory: Inhibits lipoxygenase, thromboxane, cyclooxygenase-2, leukotrienes, interleukin-12, hyaluronidase
• Antioxidant
• Hepatoprotective (protects the liver)
• Antibacterial, antifungal
• Promotes wound healing
• Decreases low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides (TG)
• Anti-thrombotic (helps prevent blood clots)
• Prevents lipid peroxidation and aortic streak formation
• Protects cells from beta-amyloid injury – may protect against Alzheimer’s disease; improves Alzheimer’s disease in animal models
• Enhances metabolism (i.e., good for digestion)
• Protects against heart disease
Turmeric is good for your digestion, which means that it will help to dissolve those undesirable fats in your body instead of allowing them to accumulate. It gobbles up free radicals, which protects your blood vessels. It’s antibacterial, and it’s always good for the heart to cut down on the infection-causing bacteria in the system. And it is a supremo antioxidant. Would you have thought that it’s good for your heart, to eat turmeric regularly as a cancer-preventative? Well, it is.

“Wow,” you might think, “this flat-tasting, slightly bitter, yellow-orange powder can do all that? Who would have guessed it? I’ll take a spoonful with every meal.” The stuff is cheap and available. You might be tempted to load it into a water bottle and glug it all day long. And, as a natural food, it seems perfectly harmless. Why not just eat as much as you want? Well, these initial reactions deserve a bit more attention, along with one other common perception of such a potent spice.—“If this stuff does all this, why don’t I just extract the potent part, and have a genuine drug for myself?” First, let’s start with the right way to use turmeric. Then we’ll lay to rest some of the popular misconceptions surrounding it.

Cook with It

First of all, there are right ways and wrong ways to ingest your turmeric. The right way (you won’t find this advice hard to swallow) is to cook with it. According to the ancient Ayurvedic tradition, the best way to use this potent spice is also the way that it tastes best and is easiest to digest. Eating deliciously cooked turmeric doesn’t just get your own gastric juices flowing (which helps you assimilate the spice and get the most benefit from it). The cooking itself also brings out the best in the substance. When you cook turmeric with food, the turmeric doesn’t lose any of its innate, plant intelligence. Instead, the intelligence of the turmeric enhances the intelligence of the food, and vice versa. Food and turmeric play a very pleasant duet together, to the lasting benefit of your body.

Turmeric goes with every kind of taste identified by Ayurveda. This substance is versatile. You can put it in a salty dish, which you may not find surprising, but you can also put it in a sweet dish.

Create a Turmeric Sauce for Everyday Use

To create a versatile sauce with turmeric, sauté the turmeric in olive oil or ghee (clarified butter), then put it on your food. You can add turmeric to any of your foods. The serving size is ¼ tsp. per meal.

Note that some of turmeric’s beneficial nutrients are water-soluble and some are fat-soluble. By sautéing with ghee or olive oil, you release the fat-soluble chemicals. By mixing with food and cooking, you release the water-soluble chemicals. It’s best to do both.
Cook it with Your Main Meal. Cook lentils, vegetables, fish, poultry, etc., with turmeric. Most popular curries from India include turmeric, and curries are indeed a great way to get your medicinal benefits while indulging in a delectable meal. Here’s a tasty curry recipe:

Curry

Ingredients:
6 parts turmeric
10 parts ground cumin
1 part ground ajwain
6 parts ground fennel
1 part ground black pepper
(Ajwain, if it’s new to you, is an excellent anticancer spice, good for cleaning out the channels in the body. You can get it at an Indian grocery store.)

Directions:
1. Mix the spices together well.
2. Use this mixture when cooking your lentils, vegetables, etc. A recommended serving size is ½ to 1 tsp. per person. Enjoy this curry with lunch and dinner.
3. Store the spice mixture in an airtight container in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

Here’s a good way to cook vegetables with this spice mixture:
1. Heat up a little oil or ghee on medium to medium-high heat.
2. Add the spice mixture and sauté briefly.
3. Add the vegetables and stir them into the spice mixture.
4. Add water if necessary, add salt, and continue cooking until done.
This method maximizes the healthful effects of the spices and also makes the veggies taste so good you’ll actually want to eat them!

Enjoy Delicious Turmeric Milk

Here’s a way to enjoy turmeric in liquid form. Besides preventing cancer, this tasty delight helps prevent colds:
Add ¼ tsp. turmeric to one cup of milk and boil it. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Let it cool a bit, then sip it slowly.
Make Your Own Immunity Booster
You can mix together several spices, including turmeric, to strengthen your immunity to colds, flu, and all kinds of other imbalances. Here’s how to make your own Immunity Mix:

Immunity Mix

Ingredients:

6 parts turmeric
3 parts ground cumin
3 parts ground coriander
6 parts ground fennel
1 part powdered dry ginger
1 part ground black pepper
¼ part ground cinnamon

Directions:
1. Mix the spices together well. (Store them in an airtight container in a cool place away from direct sunlight.)
2. Heat one teaspoon of the spice mixture in one tablespoon of ghee, using medium to medium-high heat, until the mixture releases an aroma. Remove from the heat immediately, so it won’t burn.
3. Put this spiced ghee on cooked rice, vegetables, or your other foods. (Or you can cook your vegetables with this spice mixture the same way as mentioned above.)
If you take this combination of spices regularly with each main meal of the day, you’ll boost your immune system and enhance your digestion.

This modified chapter was taken with permission from: The Answer to Cancer, by Sharma and Mishra, with Meade, SelectBooks, New York, 2002.