Healthy Epicurean Featured Book: Flavor First
Author, Nutritionist, Advisor; James Beard Award Winning Chef: Cheryl Forberg, RD
What does it mean to be a “healthy epicurean”? With a plethora of diet books to choose from, there is one nutritionist and author Cheryl Forberg who has recognized how important our sensual needs are. We learn in her book, Flavor First that our taste buds have been falsely trained by highly processed foods to expect extreme flavor because processed foods contain such high amounts of sugar and salt (and other additives). On the other end of the spectrum is diet food which can be bland, boring and tasteless—let’s call it an epicurean’s purgatory!
Dieters and foodies have no fear– Cheryl’s call to action is Flavor First! No one understands better than Cheryl how diets fail for so many. For thirteen season’s now, she is the official nutritionist on the hit NBC show “The Biggest Loser” where she learned a lot about the typical American diet and how easily we develop unhealthy eating habits and pack on the pounds. What I love about this book is how she walks us through the importance of flavor and our five basic senses. Let’s not forget smell and touch are also part of the healthy epicureans experience and “Flavor First” is all about the pleasurable experience of eating. Here is a book for the “healthy epicurean” and I’m excited to present this author and expert to you!
Lauroly Q- So glad you could join us Cheryl. I have been a big fan of your books over the years and I’ll definitely share them with everyone at the end of this post. You were also a keynote speaker for an event I produced called “Inside Beauty” in New York. Your career has really skyrocketed since then and I am so happy you found some time to visit us here at World Wise Beauty. Let’s get right to the great subject of flavor! Tell us more about flavor and how our sense of taste activates in response to different flavors. What are the five basic tastes?
Although we can potentially identify hundreds of different flavors, our tongue registers just five basic tastes. (If I had my way, I’d add a sixth taste to the mix—freshness. Though it’s hard to describe, without it the other five don’t mean nearly as much!) When we eat, the thousands of taste buds—tiny cells plugged into nerve endings on our tongue—send instant signals to the brain, contributing to the overall sensation of flavor. The five tastes we are able to discern are:
Sweet–If you have a powerful sweet tooth, you’re not alone! Many of us (myself included) have an innate preference for sweet foods—that is, we naturally crave the taste. The good news is that white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other unhealthy, refined ingredients are far from the only sources of sweetness. Fruit sugars, some alcohols, and even spices like cinnamon all taste sweet—giving us plenty of options for satisfying our craving healthfully.
Sour- The puckering reaction we have to acidic foods like vinegar, cranberries, citrus fruits, and even some vegetables (such as rhubarb) may seem unpleasant on its own. But sour notes can add complexity to a recipe and help balance out other flavors; and a mild tart taste can create a sensation of refreshment, as in a lemon sorbet.
Salty- Sodium chloride—table salt—is the most common source of salty sensation. Salt can enhance natural flavors and balance other spices, but it can also dominate our palates, so that we fail to notice other, subtler tastes. Reducing salt will not only open up a whole new world of flavor, it will also help boost overall health: Limiting sodium intake is an important way to control high blood pressure. This doesn’t mean we need to ban it from our kitchens. But learning how to coax the most flavor out of your ingredients makes it easy to cut back on the amount of salt we add to our food as a flavor enhancement.
Bitter-Our ability to sense bitterness may have originally helped our predecessors avoid plants full of poisonous alkaloids. While we still tend to avoid extremely bitter foods, there are plenty of milder variations of this taste sensation we’ve learned to enjoy—our morning cup of coffee or evening glass of wine both have bitter notes, for example. Grapefruit skin and tonic water (which contains bitter quinine) are other sources of this taste sensation we tolerate.
Savory (umami)-A relative newcomer to the roster of five basic tastes, umami, a Japanese word that translates as “savory” or “meaty,” was identified in the early 1900s, and has been gaining in popularity in recent years. The rich, silky taste is associated with glutamate, originally found in seaweed used to make soup in Japan, but which is also found in soup stocks, mushrooms, and many other foods that have a prominent place in the Flavor First pantry. Yeast extracts (available in health food stores) can also boost the umami taste—and are a healthy way to add richness without slathering dishes with fats. “
Lauroly Q- Wow, even with just five basic tastes we can experience so much! It’s interesting how our taste buds adapt to our food sources and culture. Some people grow up with intense flavor like chili peppers and the words “very hot” don’t seem to register. Others never exposed to the peppers might have a palpitation! In your book you highlight global food cultures such as Southeast Asia, Latin America and India as just some of the cultures bursting with aromatic flavor. What is it about the cultures you cover in your book that have allowed them to experiment with flavor more than others? Is it just all about the terrain, climate and food sources available to them? Or is it about human creativity and our need for flavor?
Cheryl Forberg: I think it’s really a combination of the two. Many global regions are blessed with a plethora of indigenous ingredients, seasonings and options to vary their culinary techniques greatly. Other regions – not so much! And just as our surroundings provide us with different pantries of ingredients, our cultures, societies and subsequent workloads allow each of us to have greatly different amounts of time to spend in our kitchens to be creative.
Lauroly Q- We can understand how our diet in America “went to pot”—no pun intended, because our food ended up in a “package” often filled with additives to try to make it taste good. Fast Food take out is another American cultural phenomenon that took us away from real food and flavor. We are a tough nut to crack for nutritionist! Tell us about your experience with Americans and weight problems…
Cheryl Forberg, Author of Flavor First
My work with “Biggest Loser”
has given me a lifetime’s worth of experience in understanding the dietary and health problems that Americans deal with daily because of their respective limitations on knowledge, time and financial resources. The insights I gained from my very first season with the show were stunning, and at the time, unbelievable. After 13 seasons with the show, I now understand that my exposure with this incredible group of people has given me valuable insights as to how much of America lives and eats. There is an awful lot of work to be done, but I feel so blessed that I now have the ability to influence and effect change. I am making this my life’s work.
Lauroly Closing- Thanks so much Cheryl for sharing your knowledge and wisdom about food and nutrition with us. Your work in the culinary field is so rich and multi-faceted. Our readers can learn more about your interesting career on your about page at your website www.cherylforberg.com. One thing for sure is we look forward to your next project whether it is a book or television show!
You can purchase Cheryl’s book by clicking this link Flavor First. You can also check out her latest book The Biggest Loser: Six Weeks to a Healthier You and another very informative book is Positively Ageless: A 28 Day Plan for A Slimmer, Younger, Sexier You. What I love about Cheryl’s books is they all have a foundation of research and science behind them and ultimately her goal is for you to develop a healthy relationship with food and understand nutrition. So World Wise Beauties– I encourage you to get busy discovering your amazing five senses and experience the healthy epicurean lifestyle where flavor and pleasure are celebrated.