IF OUR TASTE BUDS COULD TALK

As a teenager, in high school, I remember an experiment in the biology class with Ritz Crackers. We were studying about the importance and role of enzymes in the digestive process. Our teacher (I don´t remember his name) went around the room, passing out one cracker to each student and asking us to put it in our mouths. “What do you taste?” Everyone blurted out “Salt!” He then told us to start chewing, without swallowing, for 30 seconds. “What do you taste now?” “Sweet!” We then learned that the Ritz crackers were made from wheat, a carbohydrate, and that the enzyme Amylase, produced by the salivary glands, converted the carbohydrates (starches) into sugar, which would eventually be delivered into our muscles and liver cells…to be used as energy.

What we were told then, and what I now find very interesting, is that carnivores do not have amylase in their saliva, which strongly suggests that they do not tolerate carbohydrates. Also, carnivores, unlike us humans, don´t have taste buds for sweet and that´s why, if given the choice, they won´t generally eat sweet foods. In fact, it could make them sick. Check this out with your cat. On the other hand, omnivores, such as our pet dog, can eat sweets, and herbivores…love sweet foods. Because of this abundance of Amylase in human saliva, and the absence of it in a carnivore´s saliva, we can conclude that today´s humans have evolved, both biologically and chemically, to the point where they thrive on foods rich in carbohydrates (i.e., whole grains and cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds). And, if this is true, then maybe it would be a good idea to re-think whether or not the ever popular low carb diet is actually good for our health. Case in point: The Standard American Diet (SAD), which is a low carb diet, is consumed in populations that have the highest incidence of chronic diseases (i.e., heart cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, alzheimers).

To expand on this…since the human tongue thrives on the taste of sweet, salty and fat (front of the tongue) and less on bitter and sour (back of the tongue), why are we so enamored about the taste of meat?

Carnivores and omnivores usually eat raw meat. We humans don´t. We cook our meat. And yet, I don´t think most of us really enjoy plain boiled meat or chicken. It´s too bland. What we do enjoy, however, is our meat, when it´s fried (fat), salted or sweetened with sauces, spices and gravies. In other words, it´s not the meat itself that makes us salivate. It´s what we add to it that gives it that special taste. And, if it´s the big 3 (salt, sweet and fat) that entices our tongues, then isn´t it at all possible that by adding those same flavors to grains, cereals, vegetables, fruits and nuts, we could create extremely tasty meals. And that is exactly what happens!! The problem is that we´ve been programmed for so long that plant based foods cannot be tasty. When I order vegan food, on a flight, the stewardess almost always brings me this ridiculous plate of boiled and overcooked, insipid vegetables.

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All it takes is a little imagination and an understanding, on the part of any cook, that many of the same flavors that are used to give taste to meats can also be used with grains and vegetables. Often, people ask me, “What will I eat?” I tell them that, besides recipe books, there are literally thousands of wonderful vegan recipes on the internet (just write vegan recipes and “click”. In fact, if you write a list the ingredients you have in your cupboard, recipes using those specific ingredients will pop up on you screen.

This is also the case with dairy which, just like meat, lacks carbohydrates. Milk, cheese, butter and ice cream are loaded, in distinct proportions, with fat, salt and sugar…among other added ingredients to stimulate our taste buds. That´s why we crave them.

So, if you´re willing to accept the fact that we homo sapiens are designed for carbohydrates and that whole carbs are healthy for us, because they are our fountain of energy and our only source of fiber, anti-oxidants and phytonutrients… I guarantee that your taste buds will concur…and your body will reward you with optimal health.

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