The Six Tastes

posted in: Ayurveda Wisdom | 3

Ayurveda describes food based on the Six Tastes – or Rasa. These  reflect a combination of the five great elements – Sweet (Earth + Water), Sour (Fire + Earth), Salty (Water + Fire), Pungent (Fire + Air), Astringent (Air + Earth), and Bitter (Air + Ether). The action and function of each of the Six Tastes is because of its unique elemental composition. To maintain balance in the body and mind, all Six Tastes need to be consumed in the right proportion for your body-mind type.  In short – Vatas are best to maximize sweet, sour and salty tastes and minimize pungent, astringent and bitter.  Pittas are best to maximize sweet, astringent and bitter and minimize sour, salty and pungent. Kaphas are best to maximize pungent, astringent and bitter and to minimize sweet, sour and salty.  [For more on this concept see posting on The Five Elements – Balancing the Mind/Body with Food].

Sweet (Earth + Water)
Sweet foods include complex carbohydrates, sweet fruits, all grains (e.g. rice, pasta, oatmeal, wheat), root vegetables, sugar (avoid processed sugar), honey, milk, certain cheeses, and oils. They strengthen the tissues in the body, improve circulation, and strengthen the heart. Their qualities are heavy, oily, and cold. Sweet foods give the mind a sense of compassion and satisfaction. However, eating too many sweet foods can lead to lethargy and obesity.

Sour (Fire + Earth)
Sour foods include yogurt, lime, sour fruits, vinegar,  and some cheeses. They improve digestion, stimulate acid secretions in the stomach, reduce gas, and increase circulation. Their qualities are light, oily, and hot. Sour foods provide the mind a sense of stimulation and clarity in discernment. However, eating too many sour foods can lead to ulcers and infections.

Salty (Fire + Water)
Salty foods include sea salt and rock salt. They make food tasty, strengthen and improve digestion, calm the nerves, help the body retain water, and maintain electrolyte balance.  Their qualities are heavy, oily, and hot. Salty foods provide the mind a sense of confidence and zest for life. However, too many salty foods can cause physical ailments such as hypertension and kidney stones.

Pungent (Fire + Air)
Pungent foods include ginger, black pepper, chile peppers, jalapenos, cayenne, and garlic. Eating the right amount of pungent foods can help improve metabolism, help digestion and absorption, reduce congestion, improve circulation, and promote sweating. Pungent foods have light and dry qualities. Pungent foods can help one to be clear, outspoken, and bold with his or her thoughts. However, too many pungent foods can lead one to over-heat physically and mentally, and turn to anger and hatred.

Astringent (Air + Earth)
Astringent foods include cranberries, beans, soy, the peel of a fruit, cranberries, and turmeric. They promote healing, help constrict blood vessels, and stop bleeding. Their qualities are heavy, dry, and cold. Astringent foods can lead one to go inward with his or her thoughts. Too many astringent foods can cause insomnia, low blood pressure, and anemia.

Bitter (Air + Ether)
Bitter foods include green leafy vegetables (e.g. chard, collard greens, kale, arugula, spinach), aloe vera, and bitter melon. They help purify/detoxify the blood and improve the tissues in the body. Their qualities are light, dry, and cold. Too few bitter foods can cause an accumulation of toxins in the body, but too many bitter foods can cause constipation and tissue depletion.

3 Responses

  1. The Five Elements – Overview

    […] energies work within you and the food you eat. [See also the posts on Body/Mind Constitution , The Six Tastes , Ten Pairs of Opposites and The Five Elements – Balancing the Mind/Body with […]

  2. Mind/Body Constitution – The Doshas

    […] Kapha (Water + Earth) Kapha is reflected by the moon in nature. Kapha is comprised of primarily Earth, as well as Water. Kaphaʼs function in the body is to lubricate the joints and air passages, and to nourish and protect the bodyʼs organs, cells, and systems. The qualities of Kapha include moist, cold, heavy, dull, soft, sticky, and static. Kapha people are loving, nurturing, and caring. They tend to be well built, full-bodied, and have solid joints. They can have great endurance, but tend to gain weight and retain water easily. Thus, to be in balance a person with a Kapha body-mind type should limit sweet and heavy foods, and eat lighter foods with pungent, astringent, and bitter tastes. […]

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