Alliums in Summer: Nutrition

With summer fully at its peak, there are so many wonderful members of the allium family that we can incorporate into our daily diet to take full advantage of both their intense flavors as well as many of the 6 classified tastes of Ayruveda – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent.

In our recipes this time, you’ll see chives, garlic, shallots and onion, which are perfect examples of pungent tasting foods. Pungent foods can be challenging and off-putting to some people due to the intense flavor. However, these foods are so medicinal, that it is worth challenging yourself to receive their health benefits. Incorporating all the flavor profiles in each meal, or at the very least throughout the day is ideal. Salty and sweet tend to be the bodies default craving mechanism, of which the anecdote is bitter and pungent. Therefore, if you find yourself craving sweet or salty, it might mean that you are missing some of the other flavor profiles that promote balance.

Choosing a bitter or pungent food, when you are craving a sweet food, can actually quell the craving. Pungent foods create heat in the body, increase metabolism, help burn fat, and can help eliminate excess kapha and clear mucous and congestion. They are also good for people who tend to run cold, as they stimulate agni –or digestive fire, and sluggish digestion is common in people that run cold.

Due to the strong flavor, we don’t need much, as fire in excess can be drying, and too much fire can cause inflammation. Other pungent foods besides chives, garlic, and onion include: ginger, clove, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, thyme, turmeric, wasabi, horseradish, mustard seeds and greens, radishes and black pepper. You will see we have coupled many of these additional items to round out the fire side of the dish flavor profile. We then counter those flavors with complimentary opposites like honey, lemon and creme fraiche to build balance in each dish.

Garlic, onion and chives have flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione –the body’s premier antioxidant. Glutathione enhances the elimination of toxins and carcinogens, putting the allium family at the top of the list in terms of cancer fighting foods. In addition to its detoxification benefits, garlic is an antimicrobial, it lowers total cholesterol, raises good cholesterol, and helps the body produce more “natural killer’ cells to fight infection and tumors.