Thursday, September 10, 2020

The 6 Tastes of Ayurvedic Nutrition & Digestion

Taste transcends beyond the tongue's pallet to the flavor of our existence or our "zest for life".
Rasa is the Sanskrit word for taste and many others like enthusiasm, experience and essence, and also is the name for lymph that contains our ojas, or vital fluid, the building block of our immunity and ability to love and be loved. The various translations of the word "rasa" express its importance beyond palatability of how our food tastes to include its relationship to what our food becomes as it transforms into our essence and "juice for life.

In Ayurveda there are six defined tastes that impact digestion in the physical body and clarity of your mental state. All six are included in each meal to balance the effects each one contributes. The taste of the same thing can vary greatly depending on where it was grown, when it was harvested, the methods of production used, and how long it’s been sitting on the shelf. I’m sure you can agree not all the strawberries you have eaten tasted the same. Just as you want the best education and nutrition for yourself and your family you want to ensure you are enjoying your food in the best way for your body, mind, and spirit. 

Be intentional with what you are buying, how you prepare it, and where you sit down to enjoy it. I encourage you to practice one mindful meal a day, whether that be sitting in silence enjoying a cup of tea or eating lunch outside soaking up the sunshine. Now let’s learn how to be intentional on what foods you choose that work for you best!

Can you guess all six tastes? Take a moment to try!

In Ayurvedic teachings everything is composed of the five elements -- earth, fire, water, air, ether -- yet there are two elements that dominate and thus characterize the object or being, such as food or me and you! 

Six Tastes of Ayurveda

  1. Sweet: water + earth elements, cooling effect, increases kapha, decreases pitta and vata

  2. Sour: fire + earth, heating effect, increases pitta and kapha, decreases vata 

  3. Salty: water + fire, heating effect, increases pitta and kapha, decreases vata

  4. Pungent: air + fire, heating effect, increases vata and pitta, decreases kapha

  5. Bitter: air + ether, cooling effect, increases vata, decreases pitta and kapha

  6. Astringent: air + earth, cooling effect, increase vata, decreases pitta and kapha

Create An Ayurvedic Six-Taste Bowl

Choose from each category in quantities based on your dosha.Read about each taste below and complete ChayaVeda’s Doshic Questionnaire here: 

to see which tastes balance or aggravate your dosha

  • Sweet: Rice, beets, avocado, nuts, apple

  • Sour: lemon, apple cider vinegar, tomatoes, yogurt

  • Salty: sea vegetables, sea salt, celery, kelp noodles

  • Pungent: cumin, turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion

  • Bitter: kale, collards, spinach, broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini

  • Astringent: legumes, tahini, cilantro, dill, microgreens

Sweet is a taste that I’m sure we all can recall, but there is a subtle sweetness in things you may overlook like rice. The sweet taste is soothing for the body in mind, but when consumed in excess it weakens your digestive fire, immunity, and is associated with greed. For kapha dominant people sweetness is suggested to be consumed in small quantities. 

Sour is associated with acidic flavors. Just the sight of a sour lemon can pucker my mouth and generate saliva! Common sour tastes are lemons, grapefruits, raisins, alcohol, cheese, yogurt, pickles, tomatoes and garlic. The sour taste enhances secretion of digestion enzymes, fuels appetite, increases metabolism and liver health. Biting into a grapefruit can really excite your insides and your mood! Kapha and pitta dominant people should be conscious of their sour taste intake because it can be aggravating and be related to skin rashes, heartburn, hyperactivity, and even anger or jealousy.

Salty taste comes dominantly from salt in our diets, although seaweed and celery are great salty additions too! Like sour things salty foods increase salivation and aid in digestion, absorption, and elimination. Salt is energizing and can help combat the feeling of dullness or lack of creativity. Salt is added to almost everything and can become addictive, it can disrupt all of the doshas so it’s best to consume salt in small quantities especially if you are pitta or kapha dominant. 

Pungent tastes are known to have a feeling of dry heat, which relates to many spicy foods and herbs. The heat can positively impact you to feel more enthusiastic, curious, and concentrated. Heat in the body is known to be cleansing for the senses, digestion, and most notably to clear out excess kapha. Excess heat can cause dryness, inflammation, irritability and anger. The dry heat commonly aggravates pitta and vata dominant people.

Bitter brings to mind leafy greens like kale. Biting into bitter foods like kale, eggplant, dark chocolate, and turmeric boosts digestive fire clearing out heat, congestion, toxins and allows space for more clarity and self-awareness. In excess, bitterness can weaken the lungs and kidneys due to its dry quality. If your vata is out of balance reduce your intake of bitter foods.

Astringent is also known to be a dry taste so it’s best to complement it with sweet or sour tastes. The drying quality helps to compress the body (removing moisture) therefore helping with diarrhea, decongestion, aid in blood clotting, and excess sweat. Emotions that are associated with balanced astringency are grounded and unified. While too much of this taste evokes anxiety, fear, and rigidity. Excess in the body may induce constipation, thirst, stiffness, or bloating. If you tend to be vata dominant reduce this taste. 


ChayaVeda's Resource Page includes Doshic Questionnaire, Recipe and more

Chaya’s Ayurvedic Guide Book (available with Chaya’s Ayurvedic Health Consultation), Chaya’s Kitchen, Ayurvedic Nutrition and Food Fundamentals with Recipes for Daily Living (available with Chaya’s Ayurvedic Nutrition & Digestion Program)

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