Taste, Variety, and Your Health
Weight loss may be helped by a healthier thyroid, and it may also be related to an enhanced sensory experience of food. Yes, you heard that right: smell, taste, and texture can make a huge difference in how your body responds.
If you eat monotonously, your body will crave variety, leading you to overeat, in search of the food or taste you didn’t get. I’ve also seen patients who avoid sugar suddenly become obsessed with sweetness, finding it nearly impossible to resist their sugar cravings.
Conventional medicine tends to ignore taste, but cutting-edge research has discovered what I and my colleagues always knew: taste is pivotal to food, weight, metabolism, and appetite, and we neglect it at our peril.
Recent studies have identified taste receptors in our intestines, airways, brain, and even in the testes and sperm. Bitter taste receptors seem to play a unique role in our gut function, metabolism, thyroid function, and body weight—so begin to fight weight gain and indigestion by steaming up some bitter leafy greens!
You’ll also want to examine food type, and here, too, your body seeks balance. For example, if you consume a high-protein breakfast, you’re likely to find yourself craving carbohydrates for lunch. And if you tell yourself, “I’m never eating carbs again,” the craving might become overwhelming.
This wish for balance isn’t caused by a sweet tooth or lack of willpower; it’s fundamental to human biology, confirmed by research showing that sweetness is an inherent taste that attracts us from birth.
Make sure that you sample the whole spectrum of tastes every day and, ideally, at every meal. Get some sweetness from carrots, sweet potatoes, pears, and berries. Savor the sourness of citrus fruits and tart green apple. Enjoy the bitterness of greens and eggplant. Take in the wonderful taste of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt sprinkled on your stir-fry. Pique your taste buds with savory (umami) seaweed, tamari, and miso (organic only, please!).
This variety of tastes will awaken your mouth, nose, and throat to the stimulating scents and flavors, spurring your thyroid to optimal function and revving up your metabolism. Just by stimulating your olfactory sense through the smells of food, you begin the digestive process.
I also urge my patients to add modest amounts of natural sweetness into their diets with sweet fruits (dates, figs, raisins, prunes) and natural sweeteners (raw honey, molasses, maple syrup). When I traveled to other countries like Taiwan and Nepal, I noticed that small amounts of savory and sweet sauces, pickled foods, and other delicacies are part of almost every meal, which reflects the principles of traditional medicine.
About the Author
Dr. Deanna Minich is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (F.A.C.N.), a Certified Nutrition Specialist (C.N.S.), Certified Nutritionist (C.N.), and a Registered Yoga Teacher (R.Y.T.). A resident of Port Orchard, Washington, she is a senior advisor to the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute in Seattle, Washington, and an adjunct professor at the Institute for Functional Medicine, Maryland University of Integrative Health, and the University of Western States.