How This Helps

According to the principles of Ayurveda, six primary tastes make up our diet. These six tastes not only serve the purpose of providing different flavors in our food, but they also help unlock the nutritional value of various foods and also enhance the digestion process.

The Six Tastes of Ayurveda

Ayurveda recommends that we include the following six tastes in our diet: [1]

●       Sweet

●       Sour

●       Salty

●       Bitter

●       Astringent

●       Pungent (spicy)

 

Each taste is associated with certain chemicals/nutrients that your body needs. For example:

●       Sour taste is associated with organic acids

●       The sweet taste is associated with sugars, fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids

●       Salty is related to salts

●       Pungent is related to volatile oils

●       Astringent is linked with tannin [2]

●       The bitter taste is related to glycosides and alkaloids

We examine the importance of each of these tastes, with an in-depth focus on the sour taste. 

See: Ayurvedic Diet

Sour Taste

The sour taste is believed to be made from the principles of earth and fire. It is considered to be light, hot, and oily. Sour tasting foods are known for boosting digestion and for clearing up the dryness in the body. The sour taste buds are present on both sides of the tongue. [3]

Everyone is familiar with the sour taste of citrus fruits. [4] The taste results from the presence of acids in the food, including lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, ascorbic acid, and oxalic acid. [5,6] The natural reactions of the human brain are to pucker up when we taste something sour. This immediately moistens our mouth, increasing the flow of saliva in the mouth. 

The sour taste is known to balance the Vata dosha while aggravating Kapha and Pitta. [7]

However, if we have excess sour foods, then the negative feelings become predominant, such as hate, criticism, jealousy, agitation, hyperactivity, and selfishness. 

Foods that illustrate the sour taste include:

●       Vegetables: Tomatoes and pickles

●       Fruits: Lemon, oranges, grapefruit, raisins, lime, tamarind

●       Dairy and eggs: Yogurt, Butter, cheese, and sour cream

●       Grains: Dough bread

●       Spices and Flavors: Lemon juice, savory, garlic, lime juice

●       Other items: Vinegar, alcohol, most fermented foods

Some of the benefits associated with the sour taste are that it enhances digestion, increases the appetite, boosts the secretion of saliva in the mouth, in turn, increases the flow of other digestive enzymes. Sour taste is also known to stimulate the body's metabolism. [7]

Sour taste helps balance excess Vata in the body, kick starts the flow of bile, removes stagnation that develops in the liver due to excess Vata, and also ensures proper functioning of the liver.[8] For example, we all know that sour or citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and helps rejuvenate the entire body. [9]

However, if you indulge excessively on the sour taste in your diet, then it can increase sensitivity in your eyes, ears, and teeth. It can also dry out the body's mucous membranes, destroy semen, and lead to congestion, acne, eczema, and heartburn, ulcers, and fever.

Going overboard on sour foods can also destroy the balance of the blood, cause dermatitis, psoriasis, itching, make you feel thirsty all the time, and can even lead to wet coughs or moisture in the lungs. It is best to avoid having sour-tasting foods if you any type of skin condition or if you live in hot and wet weather conditions.

See: Ayurvedic herbs for constipation relief

Sweet Taste

The sweet taste is known to help build the tissues. It strengthens Kapha, and the benefits include strengthening of the mind, the reproductive system, the urinary tract, and the gastrointestinal system. [10]

Foods associated with sweet taste include bananas, mangoes, rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, cashews, coconut, milk, salmon, beef, and many others.

See: Buttermilk as Ayurvedic medicine

Salty Taste

The salty taste balances Vata and aggravates Kapha and Pitta in the body. It helps increase the production of saliva, aids in digestion, and also maintain water-electrolyte balance in the body. However, an excess of salty foods can lead to water retention. [11] Excessive intake of salt also worsens skin conditions and may lead to wrinkles and grey hair. 

Foods that are associated with the salty taste include tuna, cottage cheese, sea salt, rock salt, table salt, soy sauce, seaweed, celery, and others.

See: Probiotics benefits for digestive health

Bitter Taste

The bitter tastes balance Kapha and Pitta while aggravating Vata. Bitter tasting foods are associated with a deep cleansing of the body as they scrape off toxins and fat. They also help clear up congestion and purify the blood. However, when you go overboard with the bitter taste, it can lead to nausea, weaken the lungs and kidneys, and also cause bone loss and osteoporosis. 

Foods associated with this taste include eggplant, leafy green vegetables such as kale and collards, bitter melon, sesame seeds and oil, dark chocolate, fenugreek, turmeric, and others.

See: How To Lower High Cortisol Levels Naturally

Astringent Taste

Astringent taste helps keep Kapha and Pitta in balance. This taste helps promote clotting, decongests the mucous membranes, improves absorption of nutrients, and also helps in the healing of wounds. On the other hand, if you overuse the astringent taste, it can lead to difficulty in speaking, choking, dry mouth, gas, bloating, and constipation. It can also reduce your libido.

Astringent foods include apples, pomegranate, lettuce, avocado, venison, popcorn, basil, bay leaf, turmeric, vanilla, oregano, and others.

See: Ayurvedic herbs for constipation relief

Pungent (Spicy) Taste

The pungent taste is for warming the body. It enhances the sense of organs and improves digestion. It is essential for balancing excess Kapha dosha. Overuse of the pungent taste, though, leads to muscle pain, insomnia, giddiness, and can lead to sexual debility in both women and men. 

Foods associated with this taste include onions, garlic, turnips, mustard seeds, and most spices such as black pepper, cardamom, and cayenne pepper.

See: Acupuncture for sleep disorders

Summary

The sense of taste can help you achieve balanced and proper nutrition. Try to include all six tastes in each meal as much as possible. Each flavor is vital to our body and mind. These six tastes also balance the three doshas in our body, Vata, Kapha, and Pitta. Each of these six tastes plays an essential role in ensuring your overall health, wellbeing, and nutrition.

See: Ayurvedic Treatment for Prediabetes & Diabetes Type 2

References

1. Guha, A., 2006. Ayurvedic concept of food and nutrition.

2. Ashok, P. K., & Upadhyaya, K. (2012). Tannins are astringent. Journal of pharmacognosy & Phytochemistry, 1(3), 45-50.

3. Ugawa, S., Minami, Y., Guo, W., Saishin, Y., Takatsuji, K., Yamamoto, T., ... & Shimada, S. (1998). Receptors that leaves a sour taste in the mouth, Nature, 395(6702), 555-556.

4. Ting, S. V. (1980). Nutrients and nutrition of citrus fruits.

5. CLEMENTS, R. L. (1964). Organic acids in citrus fruits. I. Varietal differences a. Journal of Food Science, 29(3), 276-280.

6. Rekha, C., Poornima, G., Manasa, M., Abhipsa, V., Devi, J. P., Kumar, H. T. V., & Kekuda, T. R. P. (2012). Ascorbic acid, total phenol content & antioxidant activity of fresh juices of four ripe and unripe citrus fruits. Chemical Science Transactions, 1(2), 303-310.

7. Shivaji, G. N., & Pundlik, G. M. (2019). BALANCE VATA DOSHA WITH LIFESTYLE PRACTICES. Paripex-Indian Journal Of Research, 8(9).

7. Lad, V. (2002). Textbook of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic Press.

8. Pole, S. (2006). Ayurvedic medicine: The principles of traditional practice. Elsevier Health Sciences.

9. Zou, Z., Xi, W., Hu, Y., Nie, C., & Zhou, Z. (2016). Antioxidant activity of Citrus fruits. Food Chemistry, 196, 885-896.

10. Mace, O. J., Affleck, J., Patel, N., & Kellett, G. L. (2007). Sweet taste receptors in rat's small intestine stimulate glucose absorption through apical GLUT2, The Journal of physiology, 582(1), 379-392.

11. Dahl, L. K. (1961). Effects of chronic excess salt feeding: Induction of self-sustaining hypertension in rats. Journal of Experimental Medicine, 114(2), 231-236.

See: Prakruti & Vikruti in Ayurveda

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