by Bob Grawey
Jane Bunting has been involved in developing spices for 14 years. But in 2001 after people kept coming to her with questions about what to do when their doctor removed salt from their diet, she began developing a tool that is now being used in some hospitals.
What Bunting came up with is her Flavor Profile. It is a tool she uses with groups to help people learn to eat healthier, without giving up the flavors they love.
“I studied research which shows the tongue has particular flavor receptors that pick up sour, salty, sweet and bitter flavors,” Bunting explains. “I added spicy hot because though it isn’t an actual flavor, it is something the tongue definitely picks up. I want people to be aware of these five flavor areas so they can understand what they like about food.”
In Bunting’s Flavor Profile, of which she has a copyright, she asks questions such as what a person’s favorite foods are and what they eat when they have a food craving.
Some other questions include which foods a person likes for breakfast, lunch and supper, and what single food would be the hardest to give up.
The Rogers woman asks additional questions based on the answers she receives, and each answer gets a ranking of either bitter, sweet, sour, hot spicy or salty. Sometimes a question warrants two flavor marks like sweet and sour.
When all questions are answered and have received a flavor ranking, the results are scored. It indicates which flavor center(s) an individual gravitates toward and can be a big help in that person’s dietary choices.
For instance, if someone finds their dominant flavor is sweet but they have diabetes and cannot have sugars any more, they can find substitute sweet flavors from Bunting’s Flavor Profile Map.
“Take our apple pie spice. Its primary flavor is sweet, so for that sweet craving, a diabetic can cut up an apple and dip it in the apple pie spice,” Bunting says.
Along with the apple pie spice, the list of substitute spices from the Flavor Profile Map lists other spices and herbs with a sweet flavor that can be used in many recipes to meet that diabetic’s natural bend toward sweet flavors.
Different spices can be a healthier substitute for other reasons, too.
Bunting recalls one obese woman who walked into her spice shop searching for something new. She had recently been to her doctor and been told she was going to die if she did not drop a considerable amount of weight. The woman told Bunting she had tried every known diet and none had worked for her.
The woman found a spice she really liked and bought the bottle of Northern Lights spice.
Several weeks later the woman returned 50 pounds lighter. She told Bunting she liked the spice so much she was using it in various recipes and she wanted four more bottles of Northern Lights.
“I hadn’t even profiled her,” Bunting says, “but this is exactly how my profile works. You find which flavors you like the most and use spices with those primary flavors in them with healthier recipes. That woman is no longer in danger of losing her life from being obese.”
Fried foods, for example, have a high fat content and are a big part of many people’s diets. Fat also has a certain sweetness to it, she claims. A lot of people dip their fried foods into sauces, which are mostly sweet as well.
Under Bunting’s Flavor Profile, a person with this pull toward the sweet taste in fried foods could get that same flavoring simply by using spices with those primary flavors, and eat more healthfully in the process.
“This whole exercise (the Flavor Profile tool) is never about what you can’t have,” Bunting says, “but what you can have. I’m not disputing the importance of a doctor’s ‘you can’t,’ but if you get that edict, what do you do if you don’t have a ‘go-to’?”
If people just take away things like salt, food can become bland and it can become quite a struggle for a lot of people to stick to that strict diet, she adds.
For these reasons, hospitals and dieticians have used Bunting’s Flavor Profile. At Methodist Hospital’s Cardiac Care Club, Bunting has served as the featured presenter to teach cardiac patients how to transition into more healthful food choices through the use of various spices.
More recently, the Rogers woman has begun work with Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, Minn., which had already been using Bunting’s spices. She will be involved in nutrition and dietary needs among patients.
The Flavor Profile can be quite useful for couples as well, if they are aware of what flavor(s) each other likes best.
Bunting has worked with various senior groups around the Twin City metro area to help them understand what they can still do when their doctor says no more salt or they are diagnosed with diabetes.
Knowing where their flavor centers are can help them expand their food choices and lead to better nutrition.
“Eating is habitual,” Bunting says, “and this tool just helps people learn more about themselves so they can make better choices in their diets.”
Bunting does not give individual Flavor Profiles due to the time involved, but says she would consider group profiling venues.
For more information on Jane Bunting’s Flavor Profile and her profiling rates, call 763-428-5851.