Six Tastes In The Ayurvedic Diet
How This Helps
According to Ayurveda, each
taste used collectively or individually in the appropriate dose brings about
balance of all the bodily systems and yields happiness and good health to all
living beings. But if used improperly, much harm can result. So one should
learn the normal and abnormal effects of these six tastes and make use of them
properly in daily routine.
Science and Research
Sweet (madhura), Sour (amla), Salty (lavana), Bitter (tikta), Astringent (Kashāya), Pungent (katu)
The combination of tastes that’s right for you depends a lot on YOU - your constitution, your imbalances, your age & your environment. A balanced diet will include an appropriate quantity of each of the six tastes, according to one’s constitution (Prakriti), one’s current state (vikriti), the season, one’s environment & one’s age and your diet should change accordingly over time.
Six tastes in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, it is said that digestion begins the moment food hits your mouth. There are roughly 10,000 taste buds in the mouth, and only about 8,000 of these are on the tongue. The rest of the taste buds are in your lips, cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and throat. These taste buds help signal your body to release the right enzymes required to break down the specified food.
The six tastes of Ayurveda are needed in your daily diet to keep nutritional balance. Taste has a powerful pull for humans. We've got emotional connections to tastes; your mother's chocolate chip cookies she made for your birthday, the flavor of the Brussels sprouts your grandma made you consume against your will. And we have powerful biological connections to taste also. Taste indicates to the body what type of nutritional value a food has; candy will comfort us, spicy will warm us up.
The six tastes of Ayurveda are:
- Amla (Sour)
Amla is a sour flavor, composed of fire and earth elements. Spicy foods can aid digestion and help nourish the blood and organs. Amla is very balancing to Vatas, who typically have a weak digestive fire. Pittas should prevent sour foods whenever they believe that they have excessive heat in the body. Kaphas must moderate the amount of sour food in their diets. The top sources of sour flavor are lemons, limes, grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, fermented foods, and dairy products like sour cream and yogurt. Sour foods help the digestive processes in your body, allowing your body to break down food better. Sour foods also help to energize the body and can improve your circulation. Too much sour in the diet may result in hyperacidity, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and eczema flare-ups.
- Lavana (Salty)
Lavana is the salty flavor found in food and composed of fire and water. Salt brings out the hidden taste of food and will help to energize digestion and assist with nutrient absorption in the body. Salty taste can be quite balancing for Vata, but excess salt could be bothersome to Pitta and Kapha Doshas.
Excellent sources of salt are available, of course, in salt and celery, olives, tamari, sea vegetables, soy sauce, and miso. Excessive sodium, primarily found in processed foods, should be prevented. Too much salt in the diet may result in hypertension, dehydration, intestinal inflammation, and bloating.
- Madhura (Sweet)
Madhura is the sweet flavor found in food, which can be reassuring and fulfilling in smallish doses. Madhura is high from the elements of water and earth and is balancing to Vata and Pitta Doshas. Too much candy can send Kaphas off-kilter.
While there are many distinct sources to receive the sugar taste, the best healthy sources are starchy vegetables, grains, wheat products, sweet fruits, dairy products such as milk and cheese, and natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey. Sweet foods prevent dehydration by increasing moisture from the human body and can help with constipation. Sugary foods may also help balance hormones, neutralize mucous membranes, and bring about unique, glowing skin. But consume in moderation, as sweet foods in excess can result in weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
- Katu (Pungent)
Katu is the pungent flavor found in spicy foods, garlic, onions, ginger, and radishes. The pungent taste consists of air and fire and is ideal for Kaphas. Vatas can benefit from a moderate quantity of pungent food moderation as it can be drying. Pittas need the least amount of pungent food because of its capacity to overheat. Warming foods with this pungent taste comes from foods such as chilies, ginger, black pepper, chili powder, and mustard are also excellent sources. Pungent foods also help aid the digestive fire and in detoxification. Pungent tastes can assist with weight reduction, and eating pungent foods might help clear the sinuses.
- Kashaya (Astringent)
Kashaya is the astringent taste, known for inducing a dry feeling in the mouth or inducing one to pucker your mouth. This taste is made up of air and ground elements, with preference to Pitta and Kapha Doshas.
Astringent tastes are found in cranberries, unripe bananas, pomegranates, green beans, legumes, turnips, and artichokes. Astringent foods are cooling and grounding. Astringent foods can help fight nausea, and water retention can help assist the process of lekhana (scratching fat from the machine ) and are anti-inflammatory.
- Tikta (Bitter)
Tikta is a bitter flavor composed of air and ether elements. Bitter tastes are balancing for Pitta and Kapha Doshas. Bitter foods help detoxify the body and assist with a cleansing mechanism of the body called lekhana. That's the scraping of fat and toxins from the body.
Excellent sources of sour flavors are raw kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, fenugreek, dill, turmeric, cacao, coffee, many teas, zucchini, and eggplant.
Ayurvedic diet with six tastes ideas
Developing a deepened connection with taste can unravel your unique strengths, vulnerabilities & needs. Notice which foods you combine together. Notice which meals are difficult to digest and see what foods you combined in that meal, and maybe try changing it up. How often do you indulge in combinations of foods? Become aware of how you feel afterward. Do these choices affect your energy level, digestion, elimination, and the coating on your tongue? These are all important pieces of information. By doing this you will begin to identify the importance of diet & proper food combining.
Remember; Ease into it, the first step is being aware of what, when, how, and why you eat and how it affects you.
More information on Rasa;
Rasa is one of the 24 principles of creation according to Sankhya; which is a philosophy developed in India to discover & understand the truth of life. Rasa (taste) is an object of sensory perception. It forms part of the 5 Tanmātrās; which is the word used in Sanskrit for objects of sensory perception. The other objects being sound (shabda), touch (sparsha), form (rupa) & odor (gandha). Rasa is closely related to the tongue, due to the tongue having all your taste buds.
Mung Dal Kitchari Recipe - Tridoshic meal
· 1 cup/200g yellow mung dal*
· ½ cup/100g white basmati rice**
· 2 tbs ghee (or coconut oil) ***
· 4 cardamom pods, cracked (just bite between your teeth!)
· 2 cloves
· 2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of:
· Black pepper
· Ground coriander
· Ground cumin
· Fennel seeds
· Ground ginger
· Sea salt
2 teaspoons of:
· Black mustard seeds
· Cumin seeds
1. Rinse the mung dal and rice until the water runs clear.
2. Measure out all of the spices into a cup — this makes it less likely that you'll burn your spices while searching for the others.
3. Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot. Add all of the spices and sauté together on medium heat for a minute until fragrant. Be careful not to overdo this stage — it's better to err on the side of caution on your first attempt than risk frazzling the spices and making them bitter or burnt.
4. Stir in the mung dal and rice. Add 5 cups of water and any chopped vegetables. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, lid on.
5. Cook for at least 40 minutes (longer if using whole green mung beans), or until the dal and rice are completely soft (easily squashed between finger and thumb), the kitchari has a porridge-like consistency and the ghee has risen to the top, adding more water if necessary. Adjust the seasoning and garnish with fresh chopped herbs if you like.
1. Lad, Vasant. The Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume One. The Ayurvedic press: Albuquerque, 2002.
2. http//www.botanicals.com/info/blog-the-banya-insight/details/what-is-kitchari-why-we-eat-it-for-cleansing/ [Accessed 26 May 2019]
3. Jasmine Hemsley. (2019). KITCHARI - EVERY WHICH WAY. [online] Available at: https://www.jasminehemsley.com/food-blog/2017/12/30/kitchari-every-which-way [Accessed 26 May 2019].
See: Ayurveda Kapha Diet