My goal is to get you back into your kitchen enthusiastically cooking really flavorful meals. One stumbling block that my clients often share with me is that they have no clue how to actually make meals taste delicious. They are often reluctant to use spices for fear of ruining a dish.
If you happen to be experiencing the loss of taste as a result of the chemotherapy treatments, read on as these tips can greatly enhance your chances of squeezing some taste out of the food you should eat to ensure you stay nourished, so you can withstand the rigors of treatment better.
Let me be clear on one important point.
”Spicy” does not mean eye-watering and nose-running hot, rather simply tasty past the rather bland salt and pepper flavor point.– Tweet this!
Using spices can enhance the flavor of the actual ingredient used, it can fuse and work in synergy with other spices to create a mouth-watering combination of aromas that please your olfactory senses as well as your taste buds.
Successful spicing balances the 5 flavor points
Sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami
Umani is Japanese for “yummy tasty”. About 100 years ago, Japanese Scientist, Ikeda Kikunae, discovered umami receptors on our tongue triggered by aged, dried or fermented foods such as aged cheese, dried tomatoes, mushrooms, fried meats and soy sauce. 
7 TIPS ON BEST WAYS TO USE SPICES
- Buy them ground or powdered. Ground spices generally keep their freshness for about six months. I personally like to be economical, if I have a spice that extends beyond this time frame, I use this little test: Open up the bottle and sniff. If you still have an incredible aroma coming out, keep it, up to the point of having to inhale deeply to get any whiff of the spice at all. Then it’s time to replace.
- Use whole spices. These can easily last you a few years, as they are usually protected by a strong membrane, bark or shell that locks in their aroma and flavor. I use cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, mustard seeds, anise stars, juniper berries, whole nutmeg balls and whole cloves on a regular basis when I make my own soup broth, including bone broth, or even whole in soups and curries or chilis. You just have to fish them out afterwards, as you do not actually want to eat them whole, only use them for flavoring. The goal is to have them leech their flavor into your food. They leave a much stronger taste of that spice so a little goes a long way. For example, I use only 3 small cardamom pods for a whole stock pot of nourishing vegetable broth.
- Use liquid spices. Liquid spices add moisture as well as flavoring to your salad dressings, roasted vegetables, soups, or casseroles. My 3 favorites are Coconut Aminos made from coconut tree sap, as well as Tamari, a gluten free soy sauce, and Liquid Aminos made from non-GMO soy protein.
- Use herbs. Parsley, Rosemary and Thyme (any Simon and Garfunkel fans out there will smile now…), Chives, Cilantro, Basil, Mint, Oregano, Marjoram are your most standard ones you can find almost anywhere, fresh or dried, and are excellent ways to include these in your dishes. If using dried, they are more potent, so you need to use less compared to fresh herbs. A typical rule of thumb is 3 times the amount of fresh to dried herbs.
Fresh herbs can of course be grown by yourself in little containers indoors or outside, you can buy them fresh. When I buy them fresh and they don’t have their roots attached I wrap them in paper towels and keep them in my fridge drawer.
Best if added at the end of cooking as their flavor is a lot more delicate. You can sprinkle chopped herbs on almost just before serving. The hardy rosemary herb best unfolds its flavor if added during the cooking process.
- Use Acids. Sometimes a little acidic touch is the final touch that makes a dish burst with flavor. I use freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, as well as boldly include a spritz of Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut Vinegar or Ume Plum Vinegar, all available at most supermarkets in the organic sections, or online at Thrive Market.
- Use Fats. Fats are to spices what an airplane is to modern traveling. It allows the flavors to amalgamate in your mouth and be carried to all the obvious and hidden places your taste buds reside. If you think they just await excitement on your tongue alone, think again. The days where we thought we can taste sweet on the front, bitter in the back and sour and salty on the sides of our tongue are long gone. Researchers studying how the tongue responds to chemical stimuli discovered that receptors for the different flavor sensations are spread throughout the entire mouth .
- Use a Touch of Sweet. Yes, here I am giving you official permission to include a tad, and I mean a tiny amount, of sweet to round off the flavor of a dish, if you feel there is still a little kick missing. I use Grade B Maple Syrup or Raw Honey to achieve this, as well as the liquid spice Coconut Aminoes mentioned above. This can work wonders when serving a more astringent vegetable or salad dish for example, like a warm steamed kale salad or an arugula, radicchio, endive salad, as well as with daikon and other radishes or turnips. These are naturally more bitter tasting vegetables and become really scrumptious with just a tad of sweet, enhancing all the other flavors we have added to a dressing.
By the way, keep spice bottles away from direct sunlight.
Best not to display them on that typical spice rack, as you want to keep them away from bright light. Even if they are in transparent glass jars make sure that you store them in darkness inside a cabinet by keeping the door closed.
SHOULD I BUY ORGANIC SPICES?
Conventional herbs and spices are usually irradiated. This is a rather controversial subject as there is a long-standing debate on whether it makes food radioactive or simply diminishes nutrient content. – Tweet this!
Spices are on the list of foods approved for irradiation by the US based FDA (Food and Drug Administration). In their book “Zapped! Irradiation & the Death of Food”, Wenonah Hauter and Mark Worth illustrate how evidence exists that irradiated foods can lead to abnormal cell formation . Personally, I am on a long-term conquering cancer path, and I choose to reduce possible toxic exposures that are within my control. Buying organic spices is part of my plan.
If you are at the point where everything tastes like cardboard, leaves a metallic taste behind, and you need to be dragged to the food table as your sense of smell is non-existent, don’t despair! The above tips REALLY help, especially the use of acid, fats and sweet, as well as using the fresh herb mint.
Here are 3 more Tips to help you survive this challenging time.
- Rinse your mouth frequently with a solution of ½ teaspoon of sea salt, ½ teaspoon of baking soda and 1 heaped teaspoon L-Glutamine powder (an amino acid obtainable as a supplement in most health stores), this can neutralize any bad tastes as well as soothe any mouth sores.
- A deficiency in the trace mineral Zinc may also affect your taste buds, if you are in the middle of active cancer treatment, please check first with you provider if using a Zinc supplement may be an option for you. 
- Remember you need to stay nourished during this very challenging time, I encourage you to explore the above to make meals a little more enticing again. Your taste buds will recover after chemotherapy is completed, and that will truly be celebratory moment for you!
Take care for now.
Related Article: The Secret of Liquid Spices!
Kirstin Nussgruber, CNC, EMB
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P.P.S. Start the right way after a cancer diagnosis –5 things you need to know BEFORE making any decisionsMy FREE webinar gives you all the details on how to make the best . decisions after receiving your cancer diagnosis.
REFERENCES  Vierich, T.A. und Vilgis, T.A. “Aroma – Die Kunst des Würzens”, Stiftung Warentest Berlin, 2013  http://cst.ufl.edu/that-neat-and-tidy-map-of-tastes-on-the-tongue-you-learned-in-school-is-all-wrong.html  Hauter Wenonah, Worth Mark “Zapped! Irradiation and the Death of Food” (2008), Food and Water Watch Press  https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/side-effects/taste-changes