Our senses of taste and smell are intertwined and they work together to help us enjoy the pleasures of eating. The taste buds on our tongue help us to identify basic tastes of bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and savory. Our noses detect airborne molecules called “odorants” or aromas, which are picked up by the membranes inside the nose. They then travel to the brain where they are united (through neural connections) with the sense of taste and we experience “flavor.” Most tastes come from odors.
When something is not working properly with either our sense of smell or sense of taste, we have difficulty discerning “good” food from spoiled food, and often find it difficult to enjoy eating.
There are many causes for loss of sense of smell or taste and it is important to identify which sense is suffering. Medications, some cancer treatments, diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, injury and the very process of aging can all impair our sense of taste and smell. In the case of age-related loss of taste, not much can be done, except to be sure the mucous membranes in the nose get plenty of moisture.
One thing that can counter the loss of taste is to add extra flavor to your dishes with spices. Not only do spices add flavor to food, but also, there is a growing body of research that uncovers the medicinal benefits of spices. Eating Well Magazine has a report on 8 of the world’s healthiest spices. Here is a brief summary of the spices and their potential benefits:
- Sage –Pairs well with: Squashes; parsley; rosemary; thyme; walnuts
May help: Preserve memory, soothe sore throats.
Recipe to try: Sweet Potato & Turnip Mash with Sage Butter
- Rosemary–Pairs well with: Potatoes; citrus; honey; garlic; onions; chile peppers
May help: Enhance mental focus, fight foodborne bacteria.
- Turmeric –Pairs well with: Garlic; citrus; ingredients in curry powder, such as coriander & cumin
May help: Quell inflammation, inhibit tumors.
- Chile Pepper–Pairs well with: Ginger; chocolate; beans; beef.
May help: Boost metabolism.
- Ginger–Pairs well with: Soy sauce; citrus; chile peppers; garlic.
May help: Soothe an upset stomach, fight arthritis pain.
- Saffron–Pairs well with: Shellfish, rice, tomatoes, garlic, onion.
May help: Boost your mood.
- Parsley–Pairs well with: lemon zest, mint, garlic, capers, fish, beef.
May help: Prevent cancer.
- Cinnamon–Pairs well with: Cloves; nutmeg; allspice; chocolate; fruit; nuts.
May help: Stabilize blood sugar.
Creating meals that are spicy, colorful and that have a rich array of textures, aromas, and flavors is a good way to improve one’s diminished sense of taste. If variety is the spice of life, then spice up your meals with a variety of health-filled spices! Bon Appetite!