In Ayurveda every food is put into one of six taste categories: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent (spicy) and astringent (synonym). It is said that if a person has all six tastes in a meal, that person will lose their cravings and leave the table satisfied without overeating. Each taste feeds our mind, body and spirit in its own way.
The six tastes are combinations of the five elements of nature. For instance, sweet results from the combination of water and earth. Sour is composed of earth and fire; salty taste is fire and water; bitter taste is air and ether. The pungent taste is fire and air, while the astringent taste is air and earth.
In the US we have three major tastes: sweet, sour and salty. We often have meals that are much too salty. Or we eat too many sweets after the meal, which leaves us unbalanced, and very soon we will be craving one of the tastes that was left out of the meal. Nutritional imbalance is a primary cause of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
Balance and proper nourishment coming from nature are our key to overall good health and well-being.
Here is a brief summary of the six tastes:
- Sweet—Rice, milk, cream, butter, natural sugar, honey, most vegetables, oils, most grains, nuts
- Astringent—apples, pears, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tannin in tea, mealy taste of beans
- Bitter—greens like endive, romaine, chicory, lemons, spinach, turmeric, fenugreek
- Sour—lemons, yogurt, vinegar, tomatoes, some grapes and plums
- Pungent—cayenne, chili peppers, radishes, ginger, spicy foods
Each body type has tastes that balance or aggravate that system. Here is a table of those relationships:
VATA: Balanced by sweet, sour, salty; heavy, oily, hot foods. Aggravated by pungent, bitter, astringent; light, dry, cold foods.
PITTA: Balanced by sweet, bitter, astringent; cold, heavy, dry foods. Aggravated by pungent, sour, salty; hot, light, oily foods.
KAPHA: Balanced by pungent, bitter, astringent; light, dry, hot foods. Aggravated by sweet, sour, salty; heavy, oily, cold foods.
I recommend Dr. Deepak Chopra’s book, Perfect Health and Eat Taste Heal by Dr. Thomas Yarema.