Deepak Chopra Says Food Can Help Heal

Deepak Chopra has spent the past 15 years trying to make us feel better in mind, body, and spirit. Now, he's trying to make us feel even better in the one area that's the quickest way to our hearts: our stomachs.

The best-selling author and spiritual guru turns chef with the release of his 28th book, The Chopra Center Cookbook: Nourishing Body and Soul.

Chopra co-wrote the book with David Simon and Leanne Backer, the executive chef of the Chopra Center for Well Being in Carlsbad, Calif. Based on recipes served there, the book shows how nature provides us with all the nutrients we need to create meals that are delicious and nutritious.

Recipes for Moroccan Vegetables and Kabocha Squash or Pumpkin Pie.

Chopra, considered one of the great spiritual leaders of our time, acknowledged that his new role as cookbook author might seem a bit unusual. But he said that food is indeed an important part of our health and our spiritual lives and that good food can be the best medicine.

"If we just listen to our bodies and what they're telling us about food, we're the best judges of our needs," Chopra told Good Morning America. Food has a lot of guiding principles that can help us decide which are the best for healing. The more color and texture a food has, the more indicative of what it can offer us in terms of healing.

Every taste in nature boils down to just six tastes, and if we have each of them in our diet, we're covered, Chopra said. His "Moroccan Vegetables with Couscous" recipe contains all of the flavors.

"We need them each to make up a well-balanced diet," Chopra said. "Otherwise, you don't get the chemicals you need, which lead to addictive cravings and obesity."

The Six Tastes

Chopra writes in his book about the six basic tastes, and says if we include each of them in our diets, we will be eating properly. Here are the tastes:

Sweet Flavor: Foods that carry sweet taste increase your body bulk. They include carbohydrates, protein and fat, including breads, grains, nuts, pasta, most fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy, oils and all animal products are considered sweet. These sweet foods supply the bulk of what we consume each day.

From the sweet group, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole gains, cereals, breads and nuts, Chopra said. Though he favors a vegetarian diet, Chopra suggests eating chicken, and avoiding red meat if you do eat meat at all.

Sour Flavor: Anything that is mildly acidic, such as feta cheese, is part of the sour taste group. Favor oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and tomatoes, but reduce your intake of pickled foods, green olives, alcohol and vinegar. Small helpings of low-fat yogurt and buttermilk can aid in digestion. Use aged sour cheeses judiciously because they are usually high in cholesterol and hard to digest.

Salty: Salt is the flavor of ion-producing minerals on the tongue. One example is tamari, which is similar to but thicker than soy sauce, and is also made from soybeans. Others include seaweed, fish and salted meats. In the right dosages, salty foods stimulate digestion, but too much can contribute to high blood pressure and fluid retention.

Pungent: Most pungent foods, such as leeks, pepper and ginger contain natural antioxidants and infection-fighting chemicals. Pungent flavors stimulate digestion and help mobilize stagnant secretions. Some like garlic and onions may help lower cholesterol.

Bitter: The taste of most green and yellow vegetables is bitter, but they hold a lot of natural plant chemicals called phytochemicals, which have detoxifying, disease-preventing healing properties. Broccoli and cauliflower are rich in phytochemicals known as isothiocyanates, which have been shown to help fight cancer and heart disease. Asparagus, green peppers and cabbage are rich in flavonoids, which help resist genetic injury, fight infections, and may even reduce your risk for memory loss, Chopra says.

Astringent: Foods like beans, legumes and peas fall within the astringent category, and provide a good source of vegetable protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber to your diet. They have a drying, compacting, puckering influence on your body. Several fruits are astringent, including cranberries, tart apples, persimmons and pomegranates. Green tea is also astringent and has been found to be a good source of natural, cancer-preventing chemicals.

Some ingredients can have more than one different taste, at the same time, Chopra said. For instance, tomatoes are sour, pungent and astringent all at the same time.

Rainbow of Fruits

Chopra also says that the wide variety of fruits found in nature are different colors for a reason. We should try to incorporate each color into our diets as animals do.

"Do you think that a wild animal living in the forest cares what the U.S. Surgeon General says about our diet," Chopra asked. "Yet that animal does not have any problem with its diet or its nutritional intake. It knows what to eat."

Animals do not get vitamin deficiencies because they listen to their "inner receptors" and know that plants and fruits have the colors of their particular phytochemical. Here are the seven colors of fruits that we should incorporate into our diets.

Red: raspberries, apples, cherries, strawberry Green: kiwi, apples, lime, green grapes Yellow: lemon, banana, pineapple, peaches Purple: grapes Indigo: figs, pomegranate, blackberries Orange: oranges, melons, papaya, mango, apricots White: pears, coconut Blue: bueberries