Taste and smell are key components of the FiveSignals practice. Our senses of taste and smell act as guides and regulators of what we eat and drink. It’s no accident that the nose is located directly above the mouth! We use our nose to determine if food is spoiled. If our nose doesn’t stop us, our taste buds warn that a food has gone bad.
Could our senses of taste and smell also point us to foods our bodies need? Dr John Kitkoski’s vast research indicated a fundamental function of these senses is to select foods that meet our nutritional needs. In fact, he found, taste and smell could also be used to identify individual nutrients we need. When he isolated nutrient salt compounds such as magnesium sulfate or sodium chloride, people had a range of reactions to the taste. The tastes ranged from ‘good’ to ‘no taste’ to ‘bad.’ When people smelled vitamins such as Vitamin A or B12, he found the same range of reactions — some people said the smell was good, some said there was no smell and some said the smell was bad.
A person would take the exact same nutrient every day and then repeat the taste or smell test. Over time Kitkoski found that those who reported a nutrient smelled or tasted good would change their perception. The taste or smell would become less ‘good’ and moved to mild or bad. He concluded that when a nutrient tasted or smelled good, it indicated a need for that nutrient. As the body filled its need, the taste and smell changed. If the taste or smell was bad, the body indicated it has an adequate or excessive amount of the nutrient.
Kitkoski created a taste and smell scoring scale based on the responses he got from the people in his studies. The scale ranges from ’1′‘Very Good’ to ’10′‘Puquey Yuk! Could not smell worse.’ A smell score of ’3′‘No Smell’ seemed to fall between scores of ’2′‘Good’ and ’4′‘OK, Mild.’ The scoring system indicated a scale of nutritional need from deficiencies — score of ’1′ to ’4′ to excessive levels — scores of ’6′ to ’10.’ Optimal scores would be a ’4′ or ’5′ indicating an adequate level of the nutrient existed in the body.
Kitkoski produced a line of smell and taste sensitive supplements he called the Life Balances Kit in three sections — that I do not recommend. The vitamins are synthetic and are not whole foods. Rather they are isolates which can be good for identifying deficiencies however the long term use of synthetic isolates (chemicals made in a lab) contributes to imbalances and malnourishment. For the body to use an isolate (like ascorbic acid AKA “vitamin c”) the body requires pulling all the other elements of a true Food Source vitamin from its reserves to utilize the isolate. Studies have shown that people with Scurvy who took ascorbic acid got worse due to this reason. Something to think about!! However, the body can be confused my isolates causing more issues around rejecting nutrients and absorption.
If there is a relationship between nutritional need and our senses of taste and smell, there are important implications for diet. A person’s food preferences and cravings change from meal to meal and from day to day. Breakfast foods typically differ from food considered dinner fare. Snack vendors report people buy sweets in the morning and salty foods in the afternoon. A food that smells and tastes delicious at the beginning of a meal becomes less tantalizing as it is eaten. Biological factors such as taste and smell may be leading us to certain foods at certain times of the day as well as signaling us that we’ve had enough to eat.
Food choices are also influenced by other factors including culture, family habits, health advice and health conditions. None of us escape these influences and many embrace specialized and restrictive diets. We learn to ignore our senses of taste and smell and eat what is available or what is supposed to be good for us. Processed foods add binders, texturizers, preservatives and artificial flavor enhancers that corrupt our sense of how a food actually tastes. Despite these factors, our senses of taste and smell still function to select or reject specific foods.
We have cravings for sweets or salty foods… While a specific craving may not lead us to healthy foods, the craving is a clue to a nutritional need. Someone may love chocolate but wouldn’t want just any food that contains chocolate. Chocolate contains magnesium, an important nutrient. A person who wants chocolate ice cream may need calcium, a person who wants chocolate covered nuts may need extra magnesium. The specific craving can indicate key nutrients that may be missing from the diet.
What do you crave! What are the nutrients in it?