The six tastes in Ayurveda

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It has been said that the sense of taste rests on the tip of your tongue and according to Ayurveda the sense of taste is a natural guide map towards proper nutrition. Taste, referred to as rasain Sanskrit, is one of the major factors to understand Ayurvedic nutrition. In Ayurveda there are 6 tastes: astringent, salty, sweet, sour, bitter and pungent. These six tastes influence the digestion in a person.The basic principle of Ayurvedic nutrition is to include all these six tastes in your meal because these will help towards the nutritional needs too. Each of these tastes feeds our mind, body and our senses in its unique way.

Did you know that taste is made from the five elements dash; ether, fire, air, earth and water that comprise the doshas?

Each taste also has a lasting energy effect on the digestion and it creates a heating or a cooling sensation. This energy effect is known as virya and is felt either after immediately after tasting a food or after a while of tasting the food. Each taste leaves a long term effect on our metabolism long after the digestion is complete. This effect is known as vipak. The vipak can either be sweet, pungent or sour. Ayurveda mentions that while the vipak of sweet is highly deeply nutritive, the vipak of pungent allows the excess removal and the vipak of the sour improves the digestive fire in the body.

Let us learn more about these six tastes or the rasas.

Madhura or Sweet – This rasa is known to decreases vata and pitta and increase kapha

Of the six tastes described in Ayurveda, the sweet taste is known to be the most nourishing and grounding. The sweet taste is known to be balancing to the pitta and vata dosha when eaten in moderation. This taste is the result of the combination of Water and Earth. This taste can be found in dairy products like milk and milk products like butter, ghee or cream. It is also found in legumes like lentils (dals) and beans, and grains like barley, wheat or rice. Cooked veggies like carrots, potatoes and beetroots and fruits like mangoes and bananas also contain the sweet taste. This sweet taste is known to increase the moisture and bulk or weight in the body. The sweet taste is also known to increase saliva thus relieving thirst, soothes burning sensations and has beneficial effects on the hair and skin.

Salty or Lavana – This rasa is known to decreases vata, increase pitta and kapha

While the salty taste is known to keep the vata grounded, in some cases the heat can aggravate the pitta. The salty taste generally promotes weight gain and water retention. The taste of salt stimulates digestion helps to soften tissues and acts as a mild laxative when taken in moderation that helps to eliminate waste effectively. This taste is found in all salts (sea salt or rock salt) and food that has more than the required amounts of salt like olives, chips or pickles.

Sour or Amla – This rasa is known to decreases vata, increase pitta and kapha

The sour taste is commonly found in citrus fruits like lemons as well as sour milk products like cheese or yogurt. You need to eat sour food in moderation because an excess of the taste can cause infections in the body. The sour taste in food is known to boost the digestion process, helps circulation and elimination and also strengthen the heart. The right dose of sour food can help relieve thirst and keep a check on the acidity levels. It also helps to sharpen the senses and nourish the vital tissues.

Pungent or Katu – This rasa is known to increases vata and pitta and decrease kapha

This is known to be the hottest of all the tastes and is a combination of the air and fire. When eaten in moderation, this taste is known to improve the appetite, stimulate the blood circulation, motivate he senses and also clear sinuses. Since the pungent taste tends to taste hot from the start to finish, it can benefit the kapha more than the vata and in some cases can also aggravate the pitta. Fresh ginger, garlic, onions, pepper and whole spices are known to fall in the category of pungent foods.

Bitter or Tikta – This rasa is known to increases vata, decrease pitta and kapha

Ayurveda defines the bitter taste as the coolest and lightest. The air and ether comprise this rasa and the foods that fall in the bitter taste are all dark leafy green veggies that have a bitter taste. Turmeric and fenugreek are good foods that are a good source of bitterness and also have the cool and drying qualities.You need to eat this taste in moderation because an excess dose of the taste can lead to immediate coldness. Adding the bitter taste in moderation will not just enhance the flavour of your meal but will also help to cleanse and purify the body.

Astringent or Kasaya – This rasa is known to increases vata decreases pitta and kapha

The astringent taste consists of air and earth. Broccoli and cauliflower are excellent examples of foods that contain astringent, but these are also gas inducing foods that can aggravate people who have a predominant vata dosha. Foods with astringent flavours works similarly like the bitter foods and it will help to cleanse and purify the body.Other examples of food that contains the astringent taste are green grapes, pomegranates, cranberries, okra, cranberries and green beans.

If your doshas are known to be imbalanced, including these six tastes in your meal can help balance the doshas. Ayurveda has long emphasized on including these six tastes in the diet because these tastes will help you connect to the five elements of air, ether, fire, water and earth.

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