The importance of the 6 tastes in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda it is very important to taste our food, our herbs, our spices and our lives. "Rasa" the sanskrit word for taste also means: experience, enthusiasm, essence, plasma and juice. So taste is more then just our tongue experience it is a full body-mind experience, it affect many aspects of our beings, physiological, physical, mental and emotional.
So our tastebuds on our tongue are like a guide-map to our health and wellbeing, they provide us with the introductory stage to our digestive process, absorption, energy, elimination etc.... As we become aware of the tastes in our food and the impact of the tastes on our body and mind, we become more in control of our food and nutrition. Only when we can harness the potential impact of the tastes on our body and minds, then we can have a use then as healing tools.
Ayurveda classifies food into 6 categories, which are very different from our contemporary categories of carbohydrates, protein, fat, macro nutrient and micronutrients. The 6 tastes are : Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent. The first 4 are probably familiar to us but still their content is different and I will explain it here.
This taste is the most nourishing, strengthening, energising and grounding or the six. When eaten in moderation it provides strength, health and longevity. It helps build tissues and calms the nerves. This taste is easy to understand but is more subtle then we really know it. It is not just the sugary taste but it is that soothing and grounding taste we find in carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, legumes, dairy, sugar and fats. So milk and rice are both in that categories.
However if eaten in excess this taste may affects many aspect of our lives. It increases mucous production, congestion, inflammation, breathing problems, obesity, diabetes etc... so becoming aware of the quantities we eat in this taste is key to balance.
This taste is mainly related to the acids such as the citric acids, lactic acids, malic acids, oxalic acid and ascorbic acid in our foods. When we encounter this sour taste we immediately feel a moisten in the mouth and an increase in the flow of saliva.
This taste is digestive, enhances the digestive enzymes and stimulates our metabolism. In addition to stimulating the liver function and the flow of bile.
Sour foods are : citrus family orange, lemons, lime, sour dough, pickles, tomatoes, yogurt, fermented foods, vinegar etc.. are some examples.
It is best eaten in moderation because an excess of sour taste can may cause acidity, mucous dryness, rash, dermatitis, fever and diarrhea etc..
This taste is related mainly to the salt in our foods. It helps us salivate, and support absorption, assimilation and elimination. In excess it may cause water retention, swelling, and increase in blood pressure... This taste is found in table salt, sea salts, seaweeds, black olives, soy sauces and celery .
This taste has a cleansing effect on the body and mind. It is extremely understated and needs more attention in our western diet. It is mainly found in dark green vegetables such as kale, collard green, mustard greens, artichokes, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, coffee, cumin, dill, saffron and turmeric.
You can check our full blog on bitter on www.utterwellness.com
Is mainly associated to the dry heat and found in spicy foods and many herbs. It is created by the aromatic oils, resins and mustard glycosides and helps stimulate the tissues and nerves by giving a heating sensation.
It is found in chilies, garlic, leeks, onions, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, raw spinach and in buckwheat, mustard seeds, and all spices.
This is the taste of dryness and is generally associate to tannins in the bark, leaves, rinds of fruits and trees. This taste help in the absorption of excess mucous, cleaning the membranes, improves elimination and helps absorption.
It is mainly found in apples, unriped banana, pomegranate, avocado, broccoli, peas, potato, cranberries, lettuce, all beans, lentils, coriander, parsley etc...
Overall it is extremely important to have all 6 tastes at every meal, however the proportion of each taste you need to incorporate, varies according to your dosha imbalances. In the US, our diet are mainly based on the Sweet, Sour and Salty taste and very weak on Bitter, Astringent and Pungent taste.
To find out your imbalances and what proportion of each taste you should have per day, you will need to consult with an Ayurvedic expert who will determine your imbalances, and give you a balancing diet which incorporates all the tastes. Check www.utterwellness.com or call for a consultation.