Hey Angels and Alphas,
When you’re thinking about the right nutrition for your fitness goals, it’s completely normal that you’d become fixated on the macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fats. But most often, we forget that’s not the only factor in play that determines our health and performance. For hundreds of thousands of years, our bodies have been learning and guiding us as we are navigating between nutritious food and poisonous food.
For example, in ancient Ayurvedic practices, each of the 6 main flavors is associated with some sort of nutritional value that our bodies crave. That’s why it’s helpful for us to understand what exactly our bodies are telling us when they’re asking for certain flavors, what we’re really tasting when we eat the foods we choose, and how that relates to our health and fitness.
The six tastes – salty, sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, and astringent – all come with their own special perks. Here’s what they’re all about:
Our bodies naturally start craving salty foods whenever we’ve experienced dehydration or our bodies are full of lactic acid. Salty flavors can also aid in tasting food thoroughly, and they also help rehydrate and lubricate our body tissues, especially when digesting food.
But if you hear “salty food” and you understand that as processed snacks and fries or salty chips, that’s not what I mean. Think sea veggies, broth, flaky salt, but even fries and chips are okay in moderation.
Foods that are sweet, such as fruits, veggies, natural sugars, and more, are key for helping us rebuild bodily tissues and calm our nervous system. If you’ve spent your whole day with high-intensity, adrenaline-pumping training or experiencing physical or emotional challenges, our bodies will often ask for sweet flavors.
When we’re experiencing these cravings, we most often run for a dessert or sweet treat. But going the route of grains, fruits, and natural sugars will still satisfy that craving and leave you feeling much more satisfied in the end.
Sour foods not only aid our lymph system and bodily tissues in detoxifying, but they also allow our bodies to more easily absorb crucial minerals from the food we eat. This isn’t something you’ll usually crave, or it will be at least something difficult to detect, but we do sometimes crave sour foods when they are missing from our diet. This includes fermented foods, yogurt, or even a squeezed lemon or lime added to our favorite meal or drink.
If you’ve ever had a spicy food craving, you’re essentially craving pungent flavors. These flavors are great for stimulating our digestion and eliminating toxins and waste from the body. They include garlic, herbs, spices, chili peppers – they’re all pungent – and they’re all extremely valuable toward achieving a natural nutritional balance and performing at our best.
Bitter flavors are also very well known for helping us detoxify. They even reduce inflammation. And while flavor isn’t really something you’d crave at all, sometimes you might find yourself “just wanting a salad.” Because of the herbs, spices, and leafy greens inside salads, they’re often associated with this flavor. But when you top up your leafy green salad with other delicious and nutritious ingredients, there’s no limit to how healthy your salad can get.
Astringent flavors are also very hard to discern as a craving, but they’re still there. Raw fruits, veggies, legumes, and herbs all include various astringent flavors, and they’re all known to help us absorb more water, remove waste from the body, and relieve inflammation.
Bringing it all together…
When you’re putting together your meal plan for the next week, pay attention and try to weave in as many as many of the six tastes you can as possible. Some of them calm you, others rehydrate, others help you digest, and others help you detoxify. The bottom line is, as long as you’re providing your body with enough proteins, carbs, and fats to keep yourself going, using flavors strategically is the next step to maximizing your nutrition and your health.
And don’t worry about giving your body what it wants – even if you might think that almond butter cookie will tip you off your calorie balance every once in a while. It’s not just the ingredients that are important, but also the tastes you’re experiencing that help you improve your health so you can perform at your best – in the gym and outside of it.