Savor the Flavor of Eating Right

(The Monterey County Herald/TNS) -

At last … something to take our minds off the presidential campaign. National Nutrition Month happens in March. And this year we are called to “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” Who can argue with that?

Take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives, advises Libby Mills, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, sponsor of National Nutrition Month.

We’re all Americans, right? And no matter our ethnic preference, we are free to choose foods that are tasty as well as healthful, say experts. Herbs and spices help us to use less salt (sodium) and have been shown to possess health benefits of their own. Here are some traditional flavor combinations, says Mills:

  • China: Low-sodium soy sauce, rice wine, ginger
  • France: Thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, lavender, tomato
  • Greece: Olive oil, lemon, oregano
  • Hungary: Onion, paprika
  • India: Curry, cumin, ginger, garlic
  • Italy: Tomato, olive oil, garlic, basil, marjoram
  • Mexico: Tomato, chili, paprika
  • Middle East: Olive oil, lemon, parsley
  • Morocco/North Africa: Cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger
  • West Africa: Tomato, peanut, chili.

For the less adventuresome, a basic assortment of dried herbs and spices for everyday cooking works just fine, says Mills. She recommends oregano, garlic powder, thyme, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder, Italian herb seasoning and rosemary. Other flavors to be explored include curry powder, turmeric, cumin, clove and bay leaf.

Turmeric, for example, contains a chemical called curcumin that appears to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in animals. Human studies are underway.

Note: If you still have the same spices that you had four years ago, it’s time for a change. If stored properly in airtight containers in a cool dark cupboard, herbs and ground spices can last up to 3 years and seasoning blends will deliver the best flavor if used within 1 or 2 years, according to McCormick & Company.

When it comes time to eat, turn off any distractions so you can fully appreciate the tastes and textures of your meal, experts advise. It’s true; when we savor each bite, we enjoy it more. And when we eat slowly, we give our tummies time to feel satisfied, often on less food.

It’s called “mindful eating” — being fully aware of how, when, why and where we eat. Being a mindful eater helps to reset the body and the mind towards a more balanced — and healthier — life, say experts. We owe it to our multitasked brains and bodies to set aside time in our schedules to find a special place to eat mindfully.

Let’s not forget we’re all in this together.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.