• 6 Tastes, A Balanced Palette Leads to a Satisfying Meal

    In Ayurveda we consider the relationship of the six tastes and the elements that relate to the doshas to create food and herbs as medicine. These tastes can create harmony or disharmony according to your imbalances, seasons and your doshic make up. Consider that Ayurveda treats through opposites. So if you're feeling heavy (Kapha) eat more astringent, pungent and bitter foods. If you're feeling cold (Vata) add more pungent, sour and salty foods to your diet avoiding raw cold foods too. If you're having problems with anger and frustration (Pitta) consider eating more sweet, astringent and bitter foods.

    The following is a list, including the elements, of the tastes:

    • Sweet is earth and water and has a direct relationship to Kapha. Too much of the sweet taste in your diet can make you overweight, lethargic and congested. It is a taste considered to be moist, cool and heavy. We think of sweet as candy, desserts, sodas and all the food that is filled with sugar. But, in Ayurveda the sweet taste also includes meat, grains and fresh dairy (as opposed to fermented dairy: keffir & yogurt. These are sour.) Considering that the elements are earth and water it is nourishing and grounding for Vata. They need a higher caloric and rich diet for the light and airy quality Vata has. Pitta benefits from the sweet taste because it is cooling. Kapha should consume much smaller amounts of "sweet" foods to avoid building more mass.
    • Sour is fire and earth. Sour has the element of moistness, heat and heaviness.  People with Pitta and/or Kapha in their constitution should consume sour in small amounts or avoid it. It is a preferred taste for Vata because it helps ground, moisturize and increase overall warmth throughout. Examples of sour foods are fermented foods such as yogurt & sauerkraut.
    • Salt is water and fire. It has the qualities of hot, moist and heavy. These qualities in excess can aggravate pitta and kapha but can help bring more moisture to Vata because of the hydrophilic nature of salt. We all need salts for electrolyte balance but a Pitta person may want to consider coconut milk to balance the electrolyte levels. It has a cooling nature. While the Kapha person can focus on vegetable broth for electrolyte supplementation. This will help warm the body and is a lighter alternative.  Foods that have a salty quality are seaweeds and seafood. 
    • Pungent is fire and air. With the nature of heat, dryness and lightness these can aggravate Pitta and Vata doshas in excess. Pungent is very good for Kapha and those that have a Kapha imbalance. The pungent tastes of ginger, chilis and pepper can be very stimulating thus breaking up the lethargy. 
    • Astringent is earth and air. It has the qualities of lightness, heat and dryness that can increase Vata's nature. Think about how your mouth feels when you eat a green banana. That is astringent. It is recommended for people of a Pitta or Kapha constitution.  Examples of astringent foods are green tea, cranberries, pomegranates, and a selection of beans.
    • Bitter is fire and air. It's light, dry and cool qualities can aggravate Vata but help bring balance to Pitta and Kapha. The bitter flavor can be found in leafy greens and many herbs such as gentian. Bitters help milk the gallbladder and cleanse the liver by stimulating the release of bile. They are a digestive aid and have a long history of being consumed with meals for this reason.

    I love the ancient Ayurvedic proverb, "When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need." Make food your medicine. Properly spice your food. Eat according to the seasons, your dosha and what is fresh and local. These simple things can help you fight the common cold, allergies, inflammation, et cetera.

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