Written by John Immel,
Evolution & Taste BudsTaste buds are important for maintaining our health. These days, many people distrust their taste buds. Processed foods like bread, cheese, and corn syrup bypass and trick our taste buds into eating food that is unhealthy. However, taste buds also helped our ancestors survive in the wild. Our tongue is a precise laboratory for our health.
Ayurveda identifies the six tastes as sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Instead of defining the six tastes according to our physical experience, Western medicine defines taste according to the presence of taste buds. Researchers have identified taste buds for sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. Scientists are also researching the possibility of the presence of calcium taste buds.
Cravings & CreationAs our tastes change, our food choices change. Taste is the mother of creation because we are what we eat, and we eat what we crave. Tastes are not only on our tongue, but also describe our choices in clothing and home decor. Taste is desire, and good taste is an art. Similarly, the sexual organs transform desire and preference into fertility; this is why taste and sex are linked in Ayurveda. Our tastes and lifestyle inform what kind of people we attract.
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Tastes & EmotionsEmotions are in the mind, but we express them with our mouths. A smile means we are happy. Tastes are the emotions of the body and are also located in the mouth. Emotions and tastes can change quickly and unpredictably. An orange that tastes sweet yesterday may taste sour today. Every food has a "taste personality," which takes some time to figure out. Eating a food every day for two weeks will help you discover the personality of the food in your body.
Tastes & HealthEvery taste is associated with a physical and emotional response. Sweet taste causes physical satisfaction and attraction, whereas bitter taste causes discomfort and aversion. Knowledge of the different tastes brings awareness to our food cravings.
A balanced Ayurvedic diet includes all of the six tastes in every meal, but each individual should adjust the quantity of the tastes for his or her own body. For example, Kapha should use less sweet taste while Vata and Pitta would benefit from using more sweet taste. A person may have an excess or deficiency of taste which can be detected by an Ayurvedic practitioner in a consultation.
Food CravingsTastes are not in the food, but rather, they are on the tongue. One of the first signs of illness is altered taste. Altered taste leads to poor food choices and cravings. When taste buds are altered, we recommend cleansing programs programs to remove excess from the body and put the doshas back in balance.
Cravings are our body's best attempt to heal itself. For example, excess Kapha causes circulation to stagnate, resulting in low energy. Then, Kapha craves sweets for a quick "pick-me-up." Sweet cravings might have been appropriate for our ancestors in the wilderness but there were no ice-cream cones in the forest! In modern society, however, indulging in ice cream only causes more Kapha stagnation and cravings.
Sacred CravingsAll cravings come from unhealthy or deficient organs. By understanding taste and the nature of deficiency, we can understand the root of our cravings. When health and desire are one, our cravings become sacred.
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics. His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda, offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.
John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, as well as public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well. Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 6 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.
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