Ayurveda Nutrition: Understanding the 6 Tastes

The wisdom of Ayurvedic nutrition rests in your taste buds. Taste, or rasa in Sanskrit, is the keys to understanding Ayurvedic nutrition.  According to Ayurveda, the sense of taste is a natural guide towards proper nutrition. For ages, humans relied largely upon taste to discover healthy foods and avoid toxic ones. Our taste buds do much more than simply identify tastes; they unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process.

Balancing the 6 Tastes

Balancing the six tastes of food is a key concept in Ayurveda. Unlike the Western model of nutrition, concerned with balancing the quantities of fats, proteins and carbs in a meal, Ayurveda is focused on balancing the 5 elements. Each taste has properties of ether, air, fire, water and earth. By understanding the make-up of each we can balance our digestion and assure proper nutrition.

Each meal should include all 6 tastes. In our culture sweet, sour and salty tastes are over represented, causing imbalances, which lead to only more cravings for these tastes. Like most things in Ayurveda, balance is achieved though opposite qualities. If you have been craving or overeating sweet, sour and salty foods then emphasize bitter, pungent and astringent tastes in your meals. Below are the properties and examples of each taste.

Sweet – Earth/Water – Sweet tastes are calming, moistening and soothing, they build tissue but in excess they can cause weight gain. Examples include: honey, sugar, milk, butter, meat, grains, soy, almonds, avocado, sweet fruits (mango, bananas, grapes, pears), sweet veggies (yams, squash, fennel, beets) and sweet spices (cinnamon, anise, dill, nutmeg).  

Sour – Earth/Fire – Sour tastes stimulate digestion, increase metabolism, dispel gas, and build tissues, but in excess they can cause weight gain. Examples include: yogurt, sour cream, lemons and other citrus fruits, vinegar, pickles, unripe fruits, tomatoes and fermented cheeses and foods

Salty – Water/Fire – Salty tastes are warming, calming and drying. In small quantities they help to stimulate digestion but too much can cause water retention and cause weight gain. Always choose natural sea salts. Other examples include: olives, soy, kelp, and any food where salt is added. 

Pungent – Fire/Air – Pungent tastes are those we think of a spicy. They increase digestion, circulation and are drying and they help to eliminate excess weight. Examples include: chilies, peppers, garlic, radishes, onions, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, rosemary, cayenne

Bitter – Air/Ether – Bitter tastes are dry, cooling, reduce inflammation, and reduce weight. Examples include: all dark leafy greens, eggplant, rhubarb, bitter melon, sesame, licorice, chocolate (greater than 70% cocoa), coffee, green tea, turmeric and dandelion.

Astringent – Air/Earth – Astringent tastes are drying and cooling aiding in weight reduction. Examples include: lentils and most beans, pomegranate, cranberry, chard, cabbage, orange and lemon peels, thyme, basil, tarragon, bay leaf and aloe vera. 

Which tastes do you tend to eat? How can you bring more balance to your diet by tuning into the idea of the 6 tastes? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Wishing You Vibrant Living!

Kate