Take it or leave it.

Monday, August 6, 2012


The human tongue comes equipped with taste buds for various taste sensations. These include sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Textbooks differ on the existence of a fifth taste bud. Perhaps, and this is only speculation, only a portion of the population has the spicy taste bud, which might explain why some enjoy spicy food, and others are averse to it. We are kidding, of course. Spicy foods are actually picked up by pain receptors in the brain, which, if you eat enough of them, can make you feel somewhat like this poor fella:

Be that as it may, the average person uses spices, seasonings, and sauces to some degree. And why not? If you have the taste buds (and the receptors), it can't hurt to stimulate them now and again (or it can, but that's why we reach for those jalapenos, don't we? hurts so good?). But spicy food is not just for the masochistic; hot food can increase the metabolism as well as act as an appetite suppressent; moreover, the capsaicin present in peppers such as serrano, jalapeno, and habanero, acts as a natural pain reliever. And your body's response to pain is to release opoid-like hormones called endorphins, which make you feel oh, so good. In all, not bad reasons to go ahead and spice it up.

The problem comes not from spicy foods, but from the sauces and salsas that are used in their creation. Next time you reach for that bottle of salsa, sauce, seasoning, or marinade, take a close look at the ingredients it contains. Note that many sauces contain ingredients lists that run a paragraph long, maybe more, and contain unpronounceable and in many cases exotic names designed to disguise what's really inside.

To avoid the stomach upset, gas, and bloat associated with these sauces, stay away from products with more than 3 to 5 ingredients, especially when those ingredients include canola oil (which is often genetically modified), or its synonym, rapeseed oil. Also, wheat, gluten, and xanthan gum are all best avoided, as are MSG (monosodium glutamate, a neurotoxin), and corn and its byproducts (often genetically modified). Even dehydrated onion and garlic can cause heartburn, as can salsas that include diced tomatoes (which ferment in the jar after it has been opened) and diced onions (one word: flatulence).

Using spices with a hodgepodge of less than healthful ingredients can cancel out some of the beneficial effects of eating nutritious foods. While these precautions seem to preclude every sauce, there are some that will delight your palate without upsetting your tummy or causing heartburn.

Go for these:

1. Mustard (especially dijon)
2. Tabasco sauce (only three ingredients, and what a kick!)

3. Soy sauce (but make sure there is no wheat, and the soybeans are non-GMO)

4. Lemon juice

5. Coconut milk (but make sure to purchase the light variety)

6. Diced olives and/or jalapeno peppers are also good, in moderation.

The above ingredients can enhance the flavor of virtually any dish (except perhaps, fresh fruit) and leave you feeling satisfied and energized. Happy eating!

1 comment:

  1. I didn't realize that only some people have the spicy taste bud. Interesting.