Ep #34: Taste and Flavor and Aging

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Did you know that it is estimated that as much as 15% of American adults suffer from some form of smell or taste disorder, and that your ability to taste flavor shifts as you get older?

In this episode, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Benay Dara-Abrams, a woman in technology with a  passion to use technology in order to help improve the health and overall quality of life for others. Using her doctorate in Computer Science, her MA in Counselling, and coursework in gerontology, flavor chemistry, and food science, Dr. Dara-Abrams hopes to help people understand the impact that their perception of flavor can have on their diet as well as how factors like aging, sensory dysfunction, and overall health can change their relationship with flavor and food. Our eating habits and food choices are heavily impacted by our relationship, ability to sense and detect, and our understanding of flavor. Listen as Dr. Dara-Abrams discusses aging, four different taste disorders that can impact your diet and healthy lifestyle choices, and finally, solutions to enhance your relationship with food and flavor, leading to a healthy diet and lifestyle!

If you like what you heard today, please go to Apple Podcasts and leave a review. The more reviews we receive, the more women will learn about the podcast and learn from these lessons. If you know someone who is struggling with food, send them a link to the podcast and maybe they can find something here they haven’t heard before!

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Why is understanding of flavor so important to a healthy diet and lifestyle?

  • What things can impact my perception of flavor?

  • What are some common “taste disorders” that can impact my relationship with food and flavor and what can I do about them?

  • How can an understanding of the role flavor plays in my food and diet choices improve my health and overall quality of life?

  • What is one simple, enlightening takeaway that Dr. Banay Dara Abrams wants me to know that can help me visualize my diet in a better way?

 

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript: 

Full Episode Transcript

With Your Host

Pat Beaupre Becker

Pat: 00:00 You are listening to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight, a podcast with Pat Beaupre Becker, Episode 34.

00:18 Welcome to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight, a podcast for women approaching 60 who have been successful at everything, but reaching their weight loss goals. Tune in each week for tools and strategies to help you lose weight, create a strong body and support a healthy mind. Here's your host, certified weight and life coach, Pat Beaupre Becker.

Pat: 00:40 Hello my dears, today we get to talk to Benay Dara-Abrams and her specialty is taste and flavor and quality of life. Now, when I first met Benay and heard her presentation, my brain just started click, click, click, click. How can we make this connection? How can we take this information and apply it to our own understanding of why we overeat or why we have certain desires for flavors or why we do what we do. I'm really excited about today's episode.

Benay has a BS, an MS, and a PhD in computer science. She has been a pioneer amongst women in technology. She also has an MA in counseling and earned a data science certificate. She, in the past, has worked with the National Institute on Aging and received a couple of small business grants to create a sensor enabled elder social support platform and also an online psycho social assessment instrument.

Her passion is to use technology to solve problems and she's directed her skills further by taking coursework in gerontology, flavor chemistry and food science. And being the practical scientist that she is, after learning about the current science and the understanding that we have about taste and flavor, she became frustrated along with many of the patients in this situation with the current thinking and the current applied science. She has decided to build a personalized flavor guide which is going to combine cognitive computing and data science tools, so we are really excited and we have this to look forward to.

As we start to churn this information as to how we can apply it, we can look forward to that personalized flavor guide. Take a listen and I bet you you're going to learn something different that you never knew about taste and flavor.

Hi Benay, why don't you tell us how you got into this from a software background.

Benay Dara-Abrams: 02:57 Actually, as you said, what I've been trying to do through my whole career is, I see the benefit of using technology to help people solve problems and my husband was going through radiation and losing his sense of taste and his sense of his taste was off so I said, "Okay, what can we learn about this?" I've had a couple of grants from National Institutes on Aging. National Institutes on Health have multiple sub institutes and one of this focuses on aging, so I had been doing some software development to connect older adults and caregivers and I thought, "Well, who in the NIH would be looking at taste?" I found that there was a group and it was kind of stepchild of a stepchild. It was under the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which I thought was a little bit of a mystery, because this is taste.

I said, "Where can I find out?" So I started doing research and found it actually because of the work that's being done now in neuroscience, there's a new appreciation of what's happening in the brain, what's happening with taste, that it's not all just what we learned way back when and what's happening on the tongue. I joined the American Chemical Society, which I could do with my PhD in computer science. They consider me a scientist, which is great and I took a food science course, a flavor chemistry course. I found a conference on neuro gastronomy, it's the new field of really looking at the whole area of eating and flavor and taste from a neuroscience point of view, as well as from a cooking point of view and an agriculture point of view, so really multi faceted.

I found a taste and smell disorder conference so I've been traveling around going and gathering this information and trying to put it out there for people, because I found out that why people didn't know and have no tools at their disposal and feel very, very frustrated, but they're not getting addressed. Their problems aren't getting addressed. And as you said, as people age and often lose some sense of smell and some sense of taste, or they might have medication, or they might have radiation or chemo that disrupts their sense of taste. And they may end up overeating, trying to find things that taste good or under eating or just eating strange things, just trying to find something that works for them.

I was like, "Well, what can we do? How can we pull this together?" That's what really fueled my interest in trying ... And I said, "Where can technology help? How can we get this out?" I feel there's a lot of work being done, which I'll talk about in a bit, in the UK, which is interesting.

Pat: 05:44 Why don't you give us an overview of taste as you can ... Because I think one of the things I was fascinated when you talked about the difference between taste and flavor. I was like, "I had no idea." Why don't you give us an overview of taste?

Benay Dara-Abrams 05:58 One of the things that's interesting is in some languages taste and flavor are the same word. In English, taste and flavor are two different words. Taste is actually one of our sense, just like we have smell and if you look at basic tastes, we have different ones. We have bitter, like quinine. We have salty, you know, like salty taste, sour, like from lemon, sweet or umami which is a newer one to us. Japanese have talked about for a long time, that's kind of a savory one. But if you talk to the flavor chemists, the flavor chemists say, "There may be a whole of other ones that we're not talking about." Bitter maybe actually subdivided into 20 different bitter tastes. Some people think there's a fatty taste that's a basic taste.

Now that people are really getting into it, they're beginning to think that there are actually more basic tastes. But when you think about flavor, flavor is a perception and that comes from lots of things. That comes from what it looks like, from your visual sense, from the smell, from the taste, from what they call chemosynthesis. There's a particular way that you feel an irritation like from bubbles, like from sparkling water or from a spicy food. Tactile, you feel the food. That also relates to the texture and the auditory. When you hear the crunch of a potato chip, that tastes better. That's the flavor perception.

You say, "Mm." And if you've got a stale potato chip and it's sort of soggy, you don't get that sensation. When we talk about flavor, it's really how do I perceive this? A lot of high end restaurants kind of play around with things like having sounds of the sea when they give you some kind of seafood dish or they've even tried things like having a dinner in the dark. Some people really dislike that, but just really feeling it. If you look at little kids, too, they're very much ... I look at my little two year old granddaughter, she touches her food.

We also do get something from the texture, so flavor is all of that. Flavor isn't just how does it feel in my mouth? Also, one thing I want to talk about with smell. When we're talking about smell or olfactory as one of the ways that we perceive food and this is the smell is very critical, but there are really two ways that we smell. One is like an animal, like a dog from the front. That's what we think about when we sniff something. Dogs and a lot of other animals have a very strong sense. If we walk into a room we might smell the food cooking, but the other way we smell is through the back of our nasal passages and that's when we chew. That's really critical to the taste.

Both of those work in conjunction. You may actually be able to smell something from the front, but not get that perception from the back and then you will have a reduced sense of taste because of that. And that can really interfere even more. Something smells good and you go, "Woo, this is going to taste really good." Then you chew on it and like, no, I didn't get much impact from that. That's important. People didn't realize that there were actually two ... You could have a disruption in your olfactory system that's farther back, because you have some polyps in your sinuses and that could really interfere with your taste.

Would you like me to talk a little bit about what happens with dysfunctions in taste?

Pat: 09:46 Sure, sure. I think it's interesting when you even say that, it's like, I don't realize how many different processes are going on as I'm eating, right?

Benay Dara-Abrams 09:46 Yes.

Pat: 09:55 It's like food is [crosstalk 00:09:56]. This idea that there's a smell in the front and a small in the back, it's like, "Wow, I can't even imagine that." Yet, it is crucial to understanding if we are looking to food for pleasure or entertainment and then being disappointed. I try and teach my clients not to use food as entertainment, but as you said to me and as you know from the research, people eat what they like. You don't want people to not necessarily think they're ... Although some coaches will say, "It shouldn't matter what you're eating." But let's fact it, we do enjoy our food and we want to enjoy our food and there's no reason why we shouldn't enjoy it. Not as a party, as a drug, but as an experience through which our senses are made to function in order to help us to want to eat and I think that's what you're talking about.

Yeah, let's hear about the disfunction of what happens when things go wrong.

Benay Dara-Abrams 10:57 There are different ways that things can go wrong with taste and one of them that is a real problem for some people is that they have a phantom taste perception. Everything tastes salty, but it's nothing that might be in their mouth. That can really disrupt what people want to eat, because this is like, they can't get rid of it or they could have a bitter taste. That is the actual most common taste disorder.

Another taste disorder that actually often comes with aging is just a reduced ability to taste. What people will do and you'll often see this, people put a lot of salt on or they'll go for a lot of sugar and that's hypogeusia. That's not necessarily what you want, especially nutritionally to have more salt or more sugar. We're going to talk a little bit later how you can increase the impact of the flavor without putting a lot of salt or adding a lot of sugar.

Then there are some people and this is, luckily, fairly infrequent who just really have no taste at all. They just were born with that.

Pat: 12:05 Wow.

Benay Dara-Abrams 12:06 That's usually if they lose their sense of smell. Like somebody fell down the stairs, I met this person that fell down the stairs in his 20's and he lost his sense of smell and lost his sense of taste because of that. A true taste loss is rare, but I have met people who actually were born without. I met one woman who had no smell, no taste. She said it was actually useful when she was changing her children's' diapers. But she just ate normally, but the other person I met who had no sense of taste actually was anorexic, because she had never learned to keep herself healthy and she was basically eating like a seven year old and she was in her 20's.

Her doctor told her, "You are going to need to eat more, because you don't have enough body fat." She really had to make herself eat, because she wasn't getting any pleasure from it. She was like, "Okay, I've got to make myself do this. This is part of my health." There's another kind of syndrome that actually is more common with women that some people might come across which is called burning mouth syndrome and that happens sometimes with middle aged or older women. What happens is it's a distorted sense of taste. Sometimes it feels like you have a burning sensation or kind of a metallic taste. This is called dysgeusia so it's a distorted taste, sense of taste.

As I said, a lot of the taste problems can come from smell problems and people are more likely to be aware of when they don't smell as well. The taste one isn't taken as seriously and people sort of go, "I don't know where this is coming from." Smell, people can usually see. They usually can put their finger on it. Oh, yeah, that doesn't smell and that can be a problem. I remember with my dad, he grew up in the depression so he would buy like a half gallon or gallon of milk even and it would go bad and he couldn't smell it. One time I was visiting with my kids and my dad was like, "Well, I'm going to drink that milk." I was like, "No, you aren't." And I could smell it, my daughter could smell it. He was like, "I'm not throwing it out." I said, "Yes, you are. It's bad." He literally couldn't smell it.

I was amazed that he couldn't smell it, but he was 93 and by then, his sense of smell had really decreased. I told my daughter, I said, "Take grandpa off." She took grandpa off, then I poured it down the sink, because he really couldn't smell it. It can be and that's called presbyosmia, which is a smell loss due to aging. He was still able to taste, which was good, but he really didn't smell that. With olfactory, or smell dysfunctions, there are both quantitative ones and qualitative. So quantitative, you might have a reduction in your ability. Qualitative could be that you might detect different odors in a different way. Then sometimes there are the ones that you think there's a smell that really isn't there.

The most common, as I said, is the presbyosmia, which is smell loss due to aging and that can then have an effect on your taste.

Pat: 15:39 What is the prevalence? How often does this happen to people? How come we don't know about it?

Benay Dara-Abrams 15:46 Well, there are two reasons we don't know about it. One, the biggest one is it's very under reported and the reason it's under reported is most people don't go to a doctor for it. They don't take it real seriously and especially if it's kind of gradual and if they do go to the doctor, a lot of times the doctors don't know what to do and this is what came up a lot in the conferences, especially the smell and taste disorder one. The doctors really didn't have good ways to treat it. They say there are at least two million Americans who suffer from some kind of smell or taste disorder, but they think it's way higher. They think it might be 15% of American adults.

Pat: 16:31 Wow.

Benay Dara-Abrams 16:32 They know that about 200,000 Americans go to the doctor to say they have a smell or taste disorder. They think that it's going to keep going up, because it increases exponentially with age. At least more than 40% of people who say they have a smell or taste problem are over 65. As our population ages, then we're probably going to have it more. As I said, a lot of people either don't tell the doctor or the doctor doesn't take it all that seriously, because they don't know what to do about it. Unless there's something really clear, okay, fine, you've got something here. You've got some polyps we can operate on. I heard that over and over from people who were very, very frustrated about not being taken seriously and the doctor saying, "We don't have good tools, so what can we do?"

Pat: 17:23 This would not be something that can be diagnosed from the body, it's by reporting? They'd have to rely on people's ... What they're saying as opposed to testing something.

Benay Dara-Abrams 17:34 They have some smell tests. They have the [inaudible 00:17:38] they've been working on for quite a while. Taste tests are harder. There is somebody I talked to actually in Florida, Linda Bartoshuk who came up with something that was a really good way you could taste a little piece of ... It was sort of like a little piece of paper, basically that had a chemical in it and her idea is that some people are super tasters, those who taste this really bitter taste and that's about 25% of American adults. Some don't taste this at all. They are kind of the non tasters and about half of the people, kind of somewhere in the middle. Her thinking about it is that those people who are super tasters and some of the middle ones actually are more sensitive and may then seek out food with more taste because of that.

There is some work being done to have a better sense of how do you it other than self reporting? Most of the research has been on self reporting and that is really tricky [crosstalk 00:18:41] because people start to doubt themselves, too.

Pat: 18:46 What's the big deal? So what if your taste goes? Tell us about the impact on the quality of life.

Benay Dara-Abrams 18:52 Right, so one of the groups that did some work on quality of life that I really like is in the UK and started by somebody, the person who fell down the stairs, lost his sense of smell and said, "How can I help other people, too?" He found in the study that they did, that 92% of the people that they studied said that they had a reduction in their appreciation of food and drink, 92%. That's quite a few. 57% said they felt alone and isolated. 43% suffer from depression and 54% had some difficulty in relationships which was very interesting. It's not just, I can't taste my food so well. This starts to impact their lives. 85% were afraid of not knowing that there was a danger, like maybe spoiled food, like I said with my dad or gas.

But really, when you look at those numbers, it's like affecting relationships, it's affecting the quality of their lives and people end up feeling isolated because other people go, "Well, what's your problem? Why don't you want to go out to dinner with us?" It is a social kind of thing.

Pat: 20:06 Actually having some more understanding of it, you could actually manage your mind around it, because obviously if you're thinking that you're going to stay home because of this idea you have that you can't enjoy your food, but if you can change your focus and look at ... It's almost like with people who are somewhat restricting their food, so they think they can't go out with people, but if you think about enjoying the company and not being so focused on that sense in your mouth and a sense, this might help people. It's really a sense of you could manage it much better if there was a bigger understanding of it.

Benay Dara-Abrams 20:45 Yeah, and I think one of the groups that just started this year that I think is addressing that is Alter Eating Network and that's what they're talking about. Again, that's in the UK and what they're talking about is instead of just saying, "Oh, this is a medical problem." They're looking at the physical, the social, emotional and saying, "What can we do to have some interventions that address this?" They're doing things like some smell and taste training to get people ... Okay, maybe you don't taste this one as much. How about [inaudible 00:21:19] and some cooking workshops and coping tips so people don't feel alone. They're looking at really how do you do something that accepts this problem, gets people to feel okay about it and then feel supported, unlike the people I was talking about who just were coming with tears in their eyes saying, "Nobody's taking this seriously." That's not a good feeling when people say, "Nobody takes my problem seriously."

Pat: 21:49 Right.

Benay Dara-Abrams 21:50 They're trying to take it seriously, but also say, "Let's give you some support. Let's give you some tools to deal with this. Yeah, maybe you do have it." I like the fact they talk about altered eating. This is like instead of saying you have a disorder. They're taking it out of the realm of there's something bad, there's something wrong and it's like okay, so maybe things are different. How can we work with that?

Pat: 22:13 I love that, yeah. How can they work with it?

Benay Dara-Abrams 22:18 Well, first of all I think part of it is understanding that people are different, okay? So genetically we're different. We taste things differently and a lot of the panels that do tasting have really treated everybody the same. You don't taste food the same as I do and that's the reality, so let's first start with that and that we have our preferences and instead of making it judgemental that there's something good or bad, we can be more or less sensitive to different tastes. How do we work with that? And how do we work with what we like? Like you said, people eat what they like.

One of the problems has been that flavor chemistry has been treated as a food industry issue. They've taken the lead and said, "Okay, we'll give people very salty, fatty, hyper, hyper seasoned kind of food that they'll get addicted to and won't want to stop eating." That's not what we want, right?

Pat: 22:18 No.

Benay Dara-Abrams 23:21 It's really a missed opportunity. How do we really expand people's palates? They did a study in Sweden that was really good about how do we introduce new foods? They found even with older people, even with older men who you would kind of think, oh, no, they're not going to change. They're set in their ways. If it was done in a fun, playful, social kind of way, people could try new foods and they would enjoy them and they might enjoy one better than another, but maybe they'd discover that they liked something that they had never tried before or in a different preparation. If you look at what underlies food choice, flavor is top. Cost is next and convenience is next.

We really do have to think about what's flavor, but that's going to be different for you and me. I really, honestly don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I like some real savory things. I don't like real spicy, though. Different from my husband who has much more of a sweet tooth. Really thinking about individual preferences helps, as well. The other thing, what I like to look at is really look at the whole ecosystem. Who can kind of give us some insight into what's going on with taste and flavor? You can information from the culinary arts. You can get it from their gastronomy. You can get it from gerontology and geriatrics, flavor chemistry, sensory science, and you can look at the chemosensory disorders.

If you look at it from all those different points of view, you get a much broader picture of how do you address issues and what I like, too, is what can we do with the culinary arts and sensory science, that combination? Because basically, you can adjust flavor. People don't really think about that so much, but chefs do that all the time and what they'll do is they'll turn up or down. Think about a knob on a stereo and what you want to do is you want to maybe make it a little more sour or a little more bitter or maybe you really want to have that umami taste, that savory taste. If you could, instead of this isn't really a way of creating the flavor, but really fine tuning it and you know when you have something that tastes really good, it's got the right balance.

One of the things that I really liked is the art of flavor. What they were talking about was using these dials. There's seven different dials. There's salt, sweet, sour, bitter, umami, fat, and heat. These are different from the basic tastes, but these are ... They overlap. What you can do is you can say, "If I add a little bit of umami, then that intensifies and so that'll make other tastes sort of come through more." When my husband was having trouble with some of the tastes, he could really get an umami taste, so put some soy sauce on and the other tastes will really come through. That's an umami taste, beef, chicken, those are kind of umami tastes, as well, so more savory.

We know fat can do things like kind of fix the taste or push it down. I was in a workshop and we were experimenting with something and it was kind of a spicy soup and we added a little bit of some dairy that kind of made it less spicy. It didn't have to be a lot. It could be nonfat Greek yogurt, which I really like. But it was very interesting what it did, how it fine-tuned it. How it brought out different flavors. We know that with sour, too. Sour can energize. You put a little lemon juice in and it can like make it really woo, it zings.

Pat: 23:21 Right.

Benay Dara-Abrams 27:23 That really, really tastes good. That's one of the things that I think is really promising is to get people to understand this way that you can kind of dial things up or down and you can say, "Hmm, I want to make that a little bit more to my taste and what does that mean? Oh, it needs a little bit." I remember my dad used to cook that way and I watched him. The first time I cooked for my whole family I was 12 and I didn't understand the dials. I just understood what my dad ... I had seen my dad take different seasonings out so I start throwing them in and throwing them in and it was way too hot, spicy hot, woo. Even my dad who likes spicy stuff couldn't eat it, but now I understand and I understand that interplay and it's kind of like a balancing act, a little dance between you add a little bit here, then you put a little there.

Pat: 28:23 It's interesting because I am not necessarily ... I don't really cook very much. I mean, I cook every day, but it's very kind of basic and simple and recently I was cooking out of a cookbook by Dr. Mark Hyman about metabolism and really, all it was combining ... It was fresh ginger, fresh garlic and some lemon juice and I'm not even sure what else, maybe a little bit of curry, but it was the combination that was amazing. I thought, "I don't even know how to cook, but I just obviously people follow recipes." I don't generally use even recipes, because I'm cooking very basic. But to understand that if you are willing to experiment with food and with flavors, that might help you to accept or to integrate more healthy foods into your life, right?

I think part of the problem is a lot of people don't want to be bothered. But in that sense, you have all these places that will cook for you, right? That will deliver foods and they have the flavor profiles. I don't know, do they use flavor profiles? Do you know? Any of those cooking delivery services, I wonder if they use flavor profiles.

Benay Dara-Abrams 29:34 That would be interesting. I haven't really seen that, but you will get a question like I was in San Francisco yesterday for a workshop and we went out to lunch and they asked me for the ... It was a Mediterranean place and I said I wanted a mezzo plate and they said, "Do you want it spicy?" I said, "No." So they will ask, you often get that at Italian restaurants.

Pat: 30:00 Right, right.

Benay Dara-Abrams 30:01 If you want it spicy or not. You know they're doing that. I find, personally, growing up we really didn't use salt. My dad had high blood pressure. He grew his own herbs and spices and liked to. Both my parents liked cooking and so I grew up really having all these different flavors like a rosemary or thyme, but not salt. We didn't have salt on the table. Fine. I go up to college, food was very, very bland and [inaudible 00:30:32] mystery meat, I would pull out the salt shaker and salt my food a lot. It was like, hoo, I'm trying to get some flavor into it, but I didn't really like it. Then when I started cooking for myself a couple years after I got out of the dorm, I got into an apartment and I was back to cooking and I wasn't using salt.

I noticed when I would go places where they had a lot of salted food, a lot of restaurants do, it was just too salty for me. I was like, "Ewww, this is too salty. Why are you doing that?" It's just like you're wiping out the natural taste, but I do remember picking up that salt shaker like is there some way to get some flavor into this food? But it didn't work. It really didn't. All I could do was taste salt, I could taste salt. I guess it tasted more, because it had salt, but it was like, what I really wanted was to taste something fresh. I really missed fresh vegetables and fruit in Michigan.

But I think people build a tolerance, too, and when you stop ... When I stopped using salt and other things were very salty and the same I found with sugar. When I stopped eating processed sugar kinds of things, I found a piece of fruit would be really sweet, in a really tasty, tasty way. I was like, "Oh, I can really taste this white nectarine and it has a burst of flavor." But when I ate more sugary things, the nectarine didn't taste as sweet.

Pat: 32:11 Absolutely true for people, especially for my clients who are going from giving up processed food and then I remember the first time when I had a carrot, I was like, "Wow, this carrot is sweet."

Benay Dara-Abrams 32:21 Yes, yes.

Pat: 32:22 Because I was used to eating such processed sugar that it just kind of killed your taste buds. That's an interesting thing, too. When you have a certain flavor, too much of one flavor, it actually decreases your ability to get the sensory pleasure out of another flavor.

Benay Dara-Abrams 32:39 Yeah, and that's part of the neuroscience of it is that what's happening in our brain and this is where really highly processed food isn't good for us, too, because we get used to this level of kind of this, hyper, hyper, it's like ewww.

Pat: 33:02 It's a dopamine reward is what it is.

Benay Dara-Abrams 33:04 It is.

Pat: 33:04 It's like a drug, yeah.

Benay Dara-Abrams 33:06 And it's interesting because when I travel like to Europe or Asia for work and we go out, they don't have as much sweet stuff. I really can taste the flavor and I really like it. Like in the Japanese restaurants, if they have anything that's dessert, it's much more ... It might be some fruit or salty plums or something like that, but it's not this like, wop hit of sugar or worse, high fructose corn syrup. Same in Europe, I mean, I was surprised when I was in Germany or France, I kind of thought, "Oh, yeah."

What's interesting to me, too, is growing up, and I do think this has been a change in the food industry, growing up, we did not have as hyper, hyper sweet stuff as we get now. I can actually taste the difference between some of the old kind of cookie kinds of things that we would have versus now where it just is like, to me, overpoweringly sweet.

Pat: 34:11 I think that's part of what you're saying is the flavors have been taken over by the food as opposed to nutrition, right?

Benay Dara-Abrams 34:17 Yes.

Pat: 34:18 And it's about cheap and it's about being available and that's what people go for. The cheaper it is, the more convenient it is and the more it tastes, it's a perfect combination of why we have fast food. The unfortunate part of it is now this fast food is killing us and we have to change our ways if we're going to have a healthy into our elder years especially. I think the fascinating thing about this whole topic is that if you can look at flavor and taste as a way to look at the joy of eating, right, where it's not about the quantity of food or even if you can enhance the smell and the look and make your table pretty. You can enhance your food and your experience by looking at all of the different elements that go into flavor.

If you feel this desire for sweet, you can actually maybe experiment and try and do that dialing you talked about, looking at the different levels where you can increase the flavor, but not so much in a non-nutritious way. I think it's fascinating and I think that there's a lot of cookbooks that are coming out that are helping us to create better foods and maybe it's like trying different recipes, trying a different ... Like when I had that recipe that was so delicious and it was just the combination of lemon, ginger, and garlic that was perfect, so really looking to enhance our experience of eating without necessarily seeking dopamine or seeking quantities kind of as a way where we suffer, right?

If we're just adding more food because we're not getting the right flavor, then we end up suffering if we're overweight and we're struggling with health issues related to diabetes and stuff.

Benay Dara-Abrams 36:15 One of the reasons that I think flavor has decreased is that if you look at what's happened with agriculture, the emphasis has been on getting the food everywhere across the country and getting it so that it's shelf stable, as they say, and have it last longer. We get the flavor bred out of a tomato and I remember the tomatoes my grandfather grew in his backyard and I would taste the tomato and the tomato juice would be coming down my face. It was so tasty and then I had regular store-bought tomatoes when I went to college and I was like, "What is this? This has no taste." Then I remembered getting an heirloom tomato and I was standing in this produce stand in Los Altos when I was living there and I said, "My God, this tastes exactly like my grandfather's tomatoes."

It was really interesting, because it was 50-year-old seeds and I realized that would have been when I was a kid eating that tomato. I said, "Oh, this is the kind of tomato he probably grew." The flavor was really there and it was good, ripe tomato and it was just a ... People would say, "Oh, it's just a plain tomato." It wasn't pretty and it wasn't going to last a real long time, but it tasted really good and the flavor was really there. One of the things is, and they did talk about this in the neuro gastronomy conference is just at the University of Kentucky they had the agriculture department involved, which was great, because the agriculture department was starting to bring back some of the old wheat.

They had us taste different items that were out on tables. They had a baguette out and they had the current kind of very processed wheat, baguette made out of that, not a whole lot of flavor. Then they had a baguette made out of this heirloom wheat and it was packed with flavor and it was healthier, too. It had B vitamins, I mean, you could see it. They had their charts up and we're like, "Well, great. Can you grow more of this?" And that's part of what they were doing research on was how they could bring back some of these crops and still make them viable economically for the farmers, but have this flavor rather than go with this where the flavor was bred out of it, basically.

They were breeding it out of it because they were putting the emphasis on having something that would be more shelf stable, but the emphasis was not on the flavor and everybody was like, "Oh, I want this one. I want the heirloom one." There are some real promising developments even on the agriculture side and I listened to a podcast recently, a brother of a friend of mine maintained the family farm in Half Moon Bay and he was talking about Brussels sprouts. I've always liked Brussels sprouts, but a lot of kids didn't like them, because they were quite bitter. Over time, they've been breeding them and actually making very healthy Brussels sprouts that don't have that bitter taste and more people are eating Brussels sprouts.

He said there had been a real move from his angle on the farming side for more fresh vegetables going into the stores, rather than at the beginning when he started farming, they just wanted frozen. But now, people are demanding fresh vegetables, great. And people who never would have eaten a Brussels sprout are going, "This is tasty." It seems like there are some promising developments even on the growing end. Way back in the food chain, to say, oh, we could have more flavorful fruits and vegetables if we look at how we're breeding these and what we're breeding.

Pat: 40:27 Right. I was listening to a podcast by, oh gosh, Seth Godin today and he talked about ... So as consumers, if we want, if we make that demand, he was talking about in terms of distribution that we are now the distributors of media and it's up to us to recommend to stop something from spreading or to spread something. It's our responsibility. In a sense, it's our responsibility as consumers to ask and use our dollars to buy fresh food, support local farms and to make it not such an elitist thing, but a big, big thing is that foods and vegetables are going to help us, help our children, help the next generation and so we have to demand that it is part of ... That continues to grow. What would you say the most important thing that you have learned from this or what the most not important, but maybe the most useful thing that ... If you could name one thing that has come of this research that you have done.

Benay Dara-Abrams 41:29 I think the most useful is that people can change and learn to eat different foods whenever and that it doesn't have to be a bad thing, it can actually open up their vista and expand their palette and that some of this, I think it's been seen as a big deal and I don't think it has to be when they talk about like the dials don't have to be a big deal, changing it a little bit, adding a couple new foods. It doesn't have to be, oh, you know, you have to change everything. It can be tweaks here and there and introduce this and I think if done in a fun, playful, social way rather than this negative judgmental way that I think a lot of ways that people talk about food, then I think there's a lot more activity going on where people are encouraging other people, oh, try this. Let's do this. Let's do this. That, to me, is a very promising development.

Pat: 42:35 Almost like a elevated potluck.

Benay Dara-Abrams 42:40 Yeah, exactly.

Pat: 42:41 Where people are bringing you foods that they share that they like, that are healthy, but maybe are a little bit different for other people. I love that idea these little circles, community circles where we're introducing healthier foods and different tastes for the palette. I know like this past year, I don't know where I decided to start using jicama and someone actually told me it has a lot of vitamin K and you know, I love jicama now. I never had really used it very much in my life, so now it becomes something that I look forward to and that I've added to my palette that is healthy and if it wasn't recommended somewhere, I never would have known about it.

It doesn't take much to make that, I think, right? It's like when you talked about the texture. Now I use pumpkin seeds, sprouted pumpkin seeds to put on my salad because I like that crunch. Well, I don't eat bread. I don't eat croutons, so a little bit of crunch is something that I do enjoy, so pumpkin seeds become my crunch, right? As well as the jicama. I think what you're saying is like understand how I'm reading it is understand your palette a little bit and see where you can get what it is that you desire without going for a potato chip, right? Without going for something you want to crunch, you want the salt, but maybe you can do it and get a little umami flavor, as opposed to reaching for whatever is not so good for you, right?

Well, thank you. I like to end my podcasts always with my favorite thing, so I just thought, I know I gave you a little bit of a heads up. What would you say these days is your favorite thing?

Benay Dara-Abrams 44:19 Is my sign.

Pat: 44:22 Okay, for those of you who can't see, it says the beach is my happy place and it's a little sign. What do you love about this?

Benay Dara-Abrams 44:30 Oh, I just get my feet in the sand and it's like, woo, I can just breathe. I love to hear the ocean and I recently discovered a new place that I had passed many times, but I hadn't been there and what's really funny is that it's Princeton by the sea and I grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. Not by the sea, but I used to spend summers at an island in New Jersey, and it just brings back really nice memories. I can smell the fish and it brings back all those memories, too and good memories and you can walk in the sand and I just find it like a really calm kind of place to be and it brings out the kind of kid in me, too. I was running down the sand dune and just kind of "Woo." You know? It's fun to me and it just kind of loosens up.

Pat: 45:24 Yeah, I have to say my favorite thing, too. The summer has just been so amazing. I love the heat, I love the beach, I agree. Well, thank you so, so much for giving us your time today and sharing your wisdom about this information. If someone wanted to get ... I know you have a presentation and so if someone wanted to get the presentation, do you want them to go through me or do you want them to contact you if they have questions?

Benay Dara-Abrams 45:50 How about go through you since they know you.

Pat: 45:52 All right. If you have any questions or you want a copy of a presentation you can send me an email, pat\@beauprecoaching.com and I'll be happy to send you Benay's presentation. Thank you so much and one thing we always want to remember that It's Never Too Late. Thank you Benay.

46:16 Thanks for listening to this episode of It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight. If you liked what you heard and want more, head over to never2late.info/guide to download your quick start guide to jumpstart your weight loss plan and begin creating an amazing life you love.