The 6 Tastes: A Guide to Ayurvedic Nutrition

Much of the wisdom of Ayurvedic nutrition rests on the tip of your tongue, literally!

According to Ayurveda, the sense of taste is a guide map towards proper nutrition as food speaks to us directly through taste.

a means ‘to relish, praise or taste;’ sa means ‘juice, sap or secretion.” Rasa is the taste associated with secretions in the mouth. The moment a substance (food, medicine, or herb) touches the tongue, the first experience is taste, or rasa. Any substance, be it chilli or milk, creates salivation and thereby taste.

Ayurveda identifies 6 Tastes by which all foods can be categorised: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent, and Astringent.

While the first four tastes are easily recognisable, the last two may not seem familiar. Pungent taste is hot and spicy as found in a chili, while Astringent taste is dry and light as found in an unripe banana, popcorn and legumes.

Ayurveda recommends including each of the tastes in every meal. The belief is that incorporating all six tastes in your meals and adjusting the amounts to your personal constitution will help you maintain balanced nutrition and good health, and feel satisfied overall. The knowledge of the 6 tastes is key to self healing because as we tune into the tastes desired by the body, we tap into the body innate wisdoms regarding food and nutrition.

The 6 tastes and the Doshas

According to Ayurveda, every substance found in nature is made up of some combination of the 5 basic elements; space, air, fire, water and earth. The same elements that make up the Doshas. Therefore each taste has an effect on Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

When your dosas are out of balance which is seen as ill health in Ayurveda and manifests as symptoms or disease, these 6 tastes can help your restore inner harmony.

The fire, air and ether elements are light and tend to move upward, producing lightness. Conversely, earth and water elements are heavy and move downward, producing heaviness.

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