FOOD is for the BodyTASTE is for the Soul
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Much of the wisdom of Ayurvedic nutrition rests on the tip of your tongue, literally!
According to Ayurveda, the sense of taste is a natural guide-map towards proper nutrition. For ages, humans relied largely upon taste to discover healthy foods in nature and avoid toxicity. Our taste-buds do much more than simply identify tastes; they unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process.
Taste is the very essence of what makes a meal wholesome and fulfilling. A little too much chili or a dash of salt less and your whole dinner can go for a toss!
In Ayurveda there are six essential tastes as categorized by Charaka. Each taste or ‘Rasa’ has its own elemental composition and unique properties that affect each Dosha differently.
Foods can have one of these tastes, or a combination of two or more of the tastes at the same time.
There is also considerations in Ayurveda whether a foods action is heating or cooling. The tastes of Sweet, Bitter, and Astringent are Cooling. The tastes of Sour, Salty, and Pungent are all Heating.
A Sweet taste is dominated by the elements of earth & water. These elements are characteristically foods with a sweet taste are unctuous, cooling and heavy. Sweet calms Vata and Pitta but aggravates Kapha. It is good for hair, skin and throat and increases strength and vitality.
In Excess: causes obesity, lethargy, lack of appetite, cough, cold and asthma, conjunctivitis, and diabetes.
Foods High in Sweet: sugar and sugary foods, milk and milk products, sweet fruits, rice, wheat, vegetables (such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets), almonds and spices like fennel, rose, saffron.
Predominantly composed of earth & fire elements, Sour tastes will feel light, hot and oily. While it is calming for Vata, it aggravates both Kapha and Pitta. When taken in moderation it kindles the digestive fire. Sour taste strengthens the heart, aids to pass accumulated gases in intestines, aids digestion and stimulates salivation.
In Excess: causes sensitive teeth, involuntary closure of eyelids, hyperacidity, heartburn, skin diseases like boils, eczema and dermatitis.
Foods High in Sour: citrus fruits, tomatoes, tamarind, raw mango, sour milk products (like yogurt, cheese, sour cream), grapes, lemon, fermented substances (vinegar, pickles, soy sauce), herbs such as caraway and coriander.
A Salty taste like sour is composed of water & fire elements and are usually a bit heavy, unctuous and hot. It calms Vata and aggravates Pitta and Kapha. It dominates the other 5 tastes and is the reason why food is more palatable!
In Excess: causes wrinkling, premature greying of hair, hair fall, excessive thirst, acidity, hypertension, herpetiform eruptions, gout and skin diseases.
Foods High in Salty: rock salt, sea solt, tofu, sea vegetables (like seaweed and kelp), black olives.
A Pungent taste is dominated by fire & air elements. It has properties of lightness, heat and dryness. Pungent tastes aggravate Vata and Pitta and calm Kapha. In moderation it aids circulation, clears blockages, helps sense organs perceive better and relieves severe flatulence!
In Excess: it can deplete and destroy the reproductive tissue causing ovulation failure, low sperm count and sexual debility. It also causes vertigo, fainting episodes, thirst, burning, giddiness and nausea.
Foods High in Sour: peppers, garlic, and onions, ginger, mustard, rye and asafetida, raddish, cloves.
Dominated by the elements of air & space, a Bitter taste is typically dry, cold and light by nature. It calms Pitta and Kapha but is very bad for Vata. While a bitter taste can be absolutely disgusting, it also has some amazing cures! Bitter is good for removing toxins, banishing skin diseases, bringing down fever and cutting down on excessive fat.
In Excess: it will produce dryness in the body, cause emaciation and weaken the heart.
Foods High in Salty: green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, and green cabbage), bitter gourd, bitter melon, neem, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, aloe vera and coffee.
Astringent taste is dominated by the air & earth elements and is cool, dry and heavy. It calms Kapha and Pitta but really antagonizes Vata. Astringent is incredible for healing wounds, promoting clotting and purifying the blood.
In Excess: may cause choking, absolute constipation, severe flatulence, and darkening of complexion.
Foods High in Sour: legumes (such as beans and lentils), broccoli and cauliflower, unripe banana, cranberries, pomegranates, pears, green apples, colocasia, black plum, basil, rosemary.
Food speaks to us directly through taste.
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 & Astringent foods are high in vitamins and minerals.
The best thing of all according to Ayurveda would be to use all six tastes in every meal to provide a balancing and soothing meal for each of your Doshas. But even if you can’t use all three keep your diet in sync with your dosha and see the amazing Changes!
Oh and if you have some dosha specific yummy meals drop me a line! I’m always curious to know how Ayurveda is used in our daily lives and what better way than with the joy of food right?