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Just one square of chocolate…

Or one bite of cake…

You only intended to eat half that bowl of ice cream, really.

And the kicker of it is: you hardly remember eating the whole thing. You barely even enjoyed the indulgence that you will now feel guilty about for the next 36 hours.

Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing: sweet is a taste that we are hardwired to seek out.

Why? Before packaged foods and processed sugar, before shipping food worldwide so that it is as easy to buy oranges in December as July, sweet was actually hard to come by.

The sweet taste, in moderation, nourishes us and builds tissue. It’s comforting and expanding. One thousand years ago, that was a good thing.

Today, with our easy access to sweet, it can be damaging, both physically and emotionally. The folks over at Herbiary tell me that one of our most common questions is: “Do you have any herbs for weight loss?”.

To understand how to break your sweet tooth, you need to understand a little more about taste.

Ancient cultures knew that each of the tastes our taste buds can detect have a different effect on the body. I am often asked how people figured out what herbs do what and knowing this is part of the answer.

Here’s the basic rundown:

sweet
salty
sour
pungent
bitter
astringent

In the Ayurvedic tradition, every meal should have all tastes, preferably presented in this order.

Sweet for nourishing and building.
example: rice, sweet potatoes, milk chocolate, fats

Salty for cleansing.
example: seaweeds, table salts, salted snacks

Sour to improve digestion.
example: fermented foods, acidic fruits

Pungent to improve metabolism and fight illness.
example: onions, garlic, white veggies like radishes

Bitter to increase appetite, tone the organs, and detoxify. Associated with Fire.
example: coffee, dark chocolate, bitter herbs (and for Fire, also think of foods that are extremely heating, like hot sauce)

Astringent to reduce secretions.
example: leafy greens

During retreat weekends with my students, one of my favorite things to do is a six tastes meal. During this weekend’s Sage School Retreat, we made a fabulous discovery: if you keep eating round the food wheel, you break the hold the previous taste had on you!

So if you are eating cake, try munching on some seaweed to break your sweet tooth. If you are eating salted caramels, then move on to sour and have some lemon water or a pickle to break the salty/sweet cycle. Binging on Sour Patch Kids? Move onto something pungent and spicy.

Chew consciously and notice the different sensations within your mouth as you switch flavors. See if you can feel the change in your body as you change up the taste.

Comment below to let me know about your sweet tooth!

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