Basic principles of Ayurveda, the six tastes According to Ayurveda, there are six tastes, each of which should be included in a balanced diet.
Each of these six tastes have specific actions upon the three biological humours, or doshas
- Pitta and
How much of each dosha our body produces depends largely on how much of each taste we include in our food. Once ingested, tastes do not disappear from the food after it has been digested, but continue to influence our physical and emotional balance.
The six tastes are
- Pungent (hot),
- Bitter and
Each of the taste is made of a combination of two of the five elements.
- Sweet (Madhura)- The sweet taste is found in sugar and carbohydrates. It increases Kapha and decreases Vata and Pitta. It is a cooling taste, which helps in building body tissues. In excess, it builds toxins and causes obesity. It promotes a sense of contentment and is associated with the emotion of love. It is made of the elements earth and water.
- Sour (Amla)- The sour taste is found in fermented food and acidic fruit. It increases Kapha and Pitta and decreases Vatta. It is a heating taste, which counters thirst, helps maintain acidity and improves appetite and digestion. In excess, it increases acidity. It is a stimulant and is associated with the emotion of envy (sour grapes). It is made of the elements earth and fire.
- Salty (Lavan)- The salty taste is found in table salt and sea weed. It increases Kapha and Pitta and decreases Vata. It is a slightly heating taste, which maintains proper metabolism, help cleanse the body and improves appetite and digestion. In excess is causes looseness. It is associated with the emotion of greed. It is made of the elements water and fire.
- Pungent / Hot (Katu)- The hot taste is found in hot spices, like red pepper or ginger. It increases Pitta and Vata and decreases Kapha. It is a heating taste, which improves metabolism, appetite and digestion. In excess it causes burning and increases irritability and anger. It is associated with the emotions of hatred. It is made of the elements air and fire.
- Bitter (Tikta)- The bitter taste is found in some herbs, like aloe vera or golden seal. It decreases Pitta and Kapha and increases Vata. It is a cooling and drying taste, which tones the organs, increases appetite and is detoxifying. In excess, it damages the heart and is anti-aphrodisiac. It is associated with the emotion of grief and disappointment (a bitter pill). It is made of the elements air and water.
- Astringent (Kashaya)- The astrigent taste is found in some herbs. Most green vegetables are also regarded as astringent. It decreases Kapha and Pitta and increases Vata. It is a cooling taste, which reduces secretions, particularly sweating. In excess, it causes dryness and thirst. It is associated with the emotion of fear. It is made of the elements air and earth.
The tastes should be eaten in the following order:
- First sweet,
- then salty,
- then sour and
- pungent, and
- finally bitter and
Include all 6 Tastes in each meal
The 6 Tastes offer us a user-friendly guide map for how to nourish ourselves. Rather than looking at nutritional labels for X amount of protein or Y amount of carbohydrates, the 6 Tastes naturally guide us towards our bodyâ€™s nutritional needs. Each taste feeds our mind, body, senses, and spirit in its own unique way. From a modern nutritional perspective, the 6 Tastes satisfy each of the major dietary building blocks. Sweet foods, for example, are rich in fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and water, whereas Bitter and Astringent foods are high in vitamins and minerals.
The brain sends the body signals when it requires energy in the form of food. By incorporating all 6 Tastes into each meal, we ensure that these signals are adequately met, thus avoiding food cravings or the over-consumption of certain foods..
Including the 6 tastes in each meal doesnâ€™t need to be a daunting task. Adding a squeeze of lemon to cooked dishes, for example, can quickly satisfy the Sour taste, while adding a side salad will fulfill the Bitter and Astringent tastes.
The body naturally desires tastes that balance its doshic makeup and shuns tastes of an aggravating nature. In this sense, things are made pretty easy for us: If we simply follow our natural inclinations, we are led to the proper foods. Vata individuals, for example, are naturally drawn to moist, grounding foods, while Kapha individuals favor light, drying foods.
Ayurvedic nutrition recommends including all 6 tastes in each meal, while favoring those tastes that bring greater balance to your particular constitution. A Pitta individual, for example, will favor cooling foods and spices such as dark leafy greens and fennel,which are high in Bitter and Astringent tastes, while requiring a smaller quantity of the Pungent taste.