Being grateful for our bitter sensing tastebuds

A sensitivity for the bitter tastes in life may be linked to the pain relief and other healing benefits we gain from the phytonutrients that are the active ingredient in the pain relief tablets of Aspirin TM. Salicin/salcylic acid/salicylates are a group of phytonutrients found in berries and other fruits and some vegetables and in many spices used in India. A reduced cancer rate in people of rural India is speculated to be associated with the increased use of traditional foods and cooking spices in the their diet. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16608205)

Some people may have food sensitivities or allergies to the group of phyotnutrients and a list of foods lower in the nutrients then other foods and those, such as buckwheat, that have more of the nutrients available than average here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b04313

Aspirin was developed from analysis of the Willow Bark Tea, which was a traditional medicinal remedy for pain relief.   https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319610310000578

Some people have more sensitive perception of the bitter taste and it was found to be associated with increased sensitivity to the salicin content of foods. The genetic difference developed around 1.1 million years ago. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131111185522.htm

Addition 5/12/18: I had a genetic screening test done recently and learned that I do have a genetic difference in my ability to taste bitter flavors that may have made me more sensitive to lower amounts of bitter substances as a child and then might have gotten used to more bitter flavors as an adult. https://www.snpedia.com/index.php/gs227

So a spoonful of medicine may need a little sugar to help the bitters go down better.

(pun intended, Bitters was an old type of medicine based on quinine that was occasionally used in alcoholic mixed drinks and was called Bitters because of it’s bitter, sour or bittersweet flavor, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitters

This article about a study with less than 1000 people that is making links between food taste preferences and psychiatric tendencies is sensationalistic and unreliable with such a small group of people. nypost.com/2017/12/31/if-you-like-gin-and-tonic-you-might-be-a-psychopath/ Certain illnesses and some medications can cause an increased sense of bitterness in taste whether or not the food is very bitter to the average person. bitter+taste+preference+and+inflammatory+conditions

I’ve written about this topic before with excerpts from two research articles. The post includes a list of some foods and spices salicylate content: Carrots, spices and Baby Aspirin may help prevent cancer and inflammationhttp://transcendingsquare.com/2011/10/21/carrots-spices-and-baby-aspirin-help-prevent-cancer-and-inflammation/

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Luck is about being grateful for what you have

I’m not superstitious, I believe good luck is in part simply being grateful for what you have or what you receive. Having a positive attitude in itself may be more physiologically healthy than a negative attitude, so being grateful for what you have may help health by promoting a more positive mood.

Respecting tradition, or participating in tradition, is also something I appreciate. Having black-eyed peas for New Year’s Day wasn’t a family tradition while I was growing up. I first tried black-eyed peas  and tried cooking them after learning of their significant nutritional benefits. The southern tradition may have started out of a negative situation – no other food to eat, but the people left hungry got lucky in the food that was available.

Black -eyed peas are a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is important for the immune system and for a good energy level by promoting healthy fully mature red blood cells. Without adequate folate a type of anemia with immature, non-functional or poorly functioning red blood cells can occur even when adequate iron is available in the diet. Black-eyed peas can help prevent anemia risk with the folate content and their iron content is also quite good at 2.2 milligrams per 1/2 cup serving. (Black-eyed Peas Health Benefits Including Anemia Prevention, Health Tips)

Per 100 grams of the food (about 4 ounces or 1/2 cup), black-eyed peas have 208 micrograms of folate while sugar has 1 microgram of folate. Green peas have 65 micrograms of folate per 100 grams. (Google: black eyed peas and folate)

So was it lucky to be left with very little food during the Civil War – no. Was it lucky to be hungry enough to try the legumes that were meant to feed farm animals – no. Was it sensible to cook them and see how they tasted – yes. Sometimes we make our own luck by working hard and accepting what is available as a positive rather than having a negative attitude and giving up. Black- eyed peas do have a slightly stronger flavor than many other beans and peas but sometimes strong flavor is a sign of more nutrients. Trying things because you learn they are good for you may be an unfamiliar habit but if you try something a few times or more the taste can become familiar and may even become something you enjoy.

With young children it is recommended to not force foods to be tried or eaten in large quantities if they are new but to offer a taste or two regularly. It can take thirty tries of a new food for a toddler to become used to the new food as something familiar and enjoyable. If force and negativity is involved however they may instead develop an aversion, a negative feeling about the food. I use the word toddler because that is the best time to accustom children to a wide range of foods. If caregivers give in too regularly to “I don’t like it” attitudes then that habit may become more fixed for the child and trying to change it later may be more difficult. Children also copy what they see adults doing so having a wide variety of healthy foods on the table and sharing a few tastes of what you are having can also be a good way to start toddlers and children with a taste for variety of flavors and foods. (Getting Kids to Try New and Healthy Foods, pbs.org)

If allergies are a problem then that should be taken into account but there are still many nutritious foods that are not regularly used and are not common allergens that could be added to a menu plan. Avoid this list of eight foods that cause up to 90% of allergies and you’ll be avoiding the most common food allergens, (unfortunately some of the ingredients are in practically most commonly used mixed dishes – so that isn’t easy to do):

  • Milk (mostly in children)
  • Eggs.
  • Peanuts.
  • Tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans.
  • Soy.
  • Wheat and other grains with gluten, including barley, rye, and oats.
  • Fish (mostly in adults)
  • Shellfish (mostly in adults) (this group may include shrimp as well as crab and lobster) (WebMD)

I am avoiding everything on the list except tree nuts so most of the recipes on this website do not use those foods. The almond meal in the recently posted Chocolate Cookie recipe that was included in the post with the Black-eyed Pea Soup recipe (New Year, new recipes) could be substituted with more brown rice flour or buckwheat flour is used in the original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. A discussion of modifying recipes is included with that recipe: (G8. Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Herbs and spices that aren’t too hot with hot pepper or horseradish are also a good way to add flavor and nutrients to simpler foods. A child’s tastebuds don’t need too much hot pepper but a small amount of spicy things may be enjoyed and tolerated well. A child’s tastebuds may be more sensitive than an adult’s so they may prefer simpler things because they simply need less flavor to activate their tastebuds. A child’s sense of smell may also be more acute than an adult’s and aroma adds significantly to the apparent “flavor” of food. The tastebuds don’t notice as much difference as our sense of smell can appreciate and differentiate. (Do children have more sensitive taste buds than adults? Ella, age 7: blastscience.co.uk)

Luck and superstition are two different topics and I believe luck is one part hard work and two parts good attitude, throw in a dash of common sense and who knows what might be possible. And superstition may include some common sense, someone may have had an accident occur when they walked under a ladder and the superstition that it is unlucky may have grown out of the common sense habit to not walk under things when you don’t know what is above – it may have grown out of an ancient instinctual knowledge that predators leap down from hiding places.

I try to do the best I can to be careful and simply clean up salt that is spilled, tossing more over my shoulder seems silly rather than respecting a holiday tradition such as having black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. However in more ancient times when salt was difficult to find and was treated as a rare and expensive commodity it may have been a worse catastrophe – very bad luck – to spill some. Throwing a tiny pinch of what was spilled over shoulder to ward off more bad luck may have occurred at that time. During the Middle Ages there was a saying regarding table placement – to be seated above the salt meant you were important and would get served sooner from the shared dish of salt or other more expensive and sparse entrees. To be seated below the salt meant you were of less noble lineage in medieval times. (wisegeek.com) Salt is an important nutrient and more is needed in situations where it is hot and more sodium is lost in sweat from working or just from the hot environment.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

 

New Year, new recipes

Black eyed peas are a traditional good luck food for New Year’s Day that dates back to the Civil War. Soldiers would take all the food that was available but leave the black eyed peas because they were considered a food that was fed to farm animals. The slaves that were still on plantations were glad to have the high protein food and the flavorful peas became associated with good luck – lucky to have food. They were traditionally served with collard greens or some other greens, corn bread and pork. The pan drippings added flavor for the greens and the corn bread helped soak up any extra liquid. The gold color of the corn bread was associated with gold and good fortune – money due in the new year. Read more: tripsavvy.com.

To make plain black eyed peas or other larger beans such as pinto or kidney beans:

  1. Sort the beans for any that look discolored or shriveled and occasionally small rocks may have been missed by the sorting machines.
  2. Rinse the beans or peas in water and drain.
  3. In a large stock pot add water to cover the beans with about four inches extra at the top.
  4. Leave the beans or black eyed peas to soak over night, about eight hours; or for the quick method, put on the lid and place the stock pot on medium high heat. Bring it to a boil for one minute and then remove it from the heat and let it sit covered with the lid for one hour.  Split peas and lentils and very small beans such as adzuki don’t need the overnight or hour long presoak.
  5. Drain the soak water as it helps remove some of the gassy effect (by removing some less digestible starches or something like that) and replace with fresh water to cover plus a couple extra inches if the goal is to have beans without much extra soup stock liquid. For two pounds of beans add eight cups of water for a pot of beans intended to be served without much soup broth or add about 12 cups of water if more broth is desired.
  6. Place the stock pot back on medium high heat with the lid on and bring back to a slight boil, for a large pot it might take a few minutes. Reduce the heat to a medium low so the stock continues to bubble gently – a simmer. Cook for one and half hours total.
  7. For soup with vegetables I let the beans cook for the first half hour without additional spices or vegetables as those cook in less time. I added about 2-6 cloves of garlic depending on whether small or large, minced, 2-4 tablespoons of cumin/coriander mix, 1 tablespoon of rosemary, 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped in a half inch dice, about 3 cups, 6 large celery stalks chopped in half length wise and then sliced, about 1/4 inch dice, about 3 cups in all, 4 small carrots cut in half and sliced made about 1 cup chopped, add to the soup stock pot.
  8. In a separate pan saute 2 small or 1 large onion chopped in a 1/4 inch dice until wilted, but not necessarily caramelized – browned. Add the sauteed onion to the soup stock pot. Sauteed onion can be easier for some people to digest then boiled onion.
  9. After all that work another half hour is likely to have elapsed, add more herbs if desired. I added 1 teaspoon of thyme, and 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning.

Since I am no longer lucky enough to be able to eat corn bread due to autoimmune symptoms I prepared two cups of rice in a separate pan and combined it with the soup when the vegetables and beans were done.

A large batch of soup ideally should be chilled in small glass or heat resistant containers or stir the soup in a large container or a couple larger containers in the refrigerator occasionally until the soup is chilled before adding to a plastic container.

I add salt at the table as we only taste salt that is on the surface of the food and unlike in baked goods there is no chemical reaction that requires stabilization by salt. If you forget the salt in a baked good it will likely have a crumblier texture. Baked goods are chemically recombining the ingredients into a new molecular form. Soup is more of a watery base with stuff floating in it.

Speaking of baked goods – a cookie modification to the eggless, gluten free recipe on my newer website (Chocolate Chip Cookie). These cookies are dairy free as I use baking cocoa and no chocolate chips. They are slightly less sweet and would have an increased amount of protein due to the substitution of almond meal for the buckwheat flour in the other recipe:

Chocolate Cookies

Makes 48 cookies, bake at 350’F for approximately 20-25 minutes.

  • 3 Tablespoons Golden Flax meal, ground
  • 10 Tablespoons of Boiling Hot Water,

Step 1: — Combine the flax meal and boiling water and stir together for a few minutes until the mixture is thickened and looks a little like a watery porridge. Then add the melted coconut oil, brown sugar, vanilla and apple cider vinegar, stir and set aside until later.

  • 3/4 cup Coconut Oil, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar (This is needed in the corn free version of the recipe in order to make the Baking Soda work properly as a leavening agent. Baking Powder has cornstarch and it also has an acidic ingredient that Baking Soda doesn’t have.)
  • 1/2 cup of water (The baking cocoa makes this a dry mixture and the flax meal works best with a moist dough, the amount of water needed to make a soft dough that doesn’t crumble may be slightly less or more depending on how packed or overflowing the cups of flour and spoonfuls of cocoa powder are. I added a couple tablespoons at a time and found I needed 8 in all which equals a 1/2 cup, and it would be easier to combine with the wet ingredients. This is a new recipe, first trial run with the baking cocoa, second try with the almond meal substitution, it made a nice chewy texture. I tried this recipe again and ended up adding a little extra flour. Depending on how rounded or how packed the measuring cups are the moisture/flour ratio may need to be adjusted at the end. The dough should be soft and sticky but be able to be rolled in balls if your hands are wet or sprayed with a little of the pan-spray oil.)

Step 2: — (actually step 1 combined several actions): — add the dry ingredients to a different larger bowl and mix together thoroughly:

  • 1/2 cup Almond Meal
  • 1 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 3/4 cup Coconut Flour
  • 6 Tablespoons Baking Cocoa
  • 1/2 and 1/8 teaspoon Baking Soda (*Baking Powder has cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cardamom Powder – this spice works well with the flavor of buckwheat flour. It tastes a little like cinnamon but is not quite the same.

Step 3: — mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly.

If desired these cookies could be made as double chocolate cookies by adding the chocolate chips at this stage as was included in the original recipe. I didn’t have any on hand.

  • 1/2 to 3/4 of a ten or twelve ounce package of Dark Chocolate or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. This batter is greasy seeming and the chips constantly pop out of the dough so I don’t even try to add a full package. It is easiest to work with the dough when the mix is more wet than dry, more like muffin batter than a typical “cookie dough“.

Step 5: — Preheat oven to 350’F., and form cookies with a scoop or with a pair of metal spoons as the batter is sticky and might even work in a cookie press if there weren’t chocolate chips. Form approximately one inch size balls of dough. Place about 24 on a pre-oiled or nonstick cookie sheet.

Step 6: — Bake in the center of the oven and/or rotate the top and bottom pans after 15 minutes of baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden brown.

Step 7: — Allow to cool slightly before eating and store in an airtight container once they are cool enough to no longer be emitting steam. The cookies keep for about a week or until they are all eaten, whichever happens first. They can also stored in the freezer once they are baked or as a cookie dough to be formed into cookies and baked at a later time for a treat fresh out of the oven with less work.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.