Want to know the secret to health, longevity and weight loss? It all comes down to taste. Just ask M.Tobin (melbourne) Once he started eating with the Six Ayurvedic Tastes, and giving his body the specific taste it needed, things quickly kicked into gear, and his body started moving the congested toxins (in his case, fat) and the weight just fell off.
Western diets get so caught up in counting calories they often overlook the basic fundamentals of food. In Ayurveda, based around 5000-years of knowledge, weight loss and health goes by tastes rather than numbers. According to this ancient practice there are six tastes (or rasas) – these are sweet, salt, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent.
The six tastes naturally guide us to our individual nutritional needs. To create a healthy, balanced meal you want to bring each of the six tastes into each meal. This doesn’t need to be copious amounts of each taste, just a hint can do the trick – adding a squeeze of lemon to cooked dishes gives it the sour taste and adding a side salad brings in the bitter and astringent.
Eating too much of any of the one taste throws your entire system out of balance. Here’s a guide of the six tastes:
- Sweet: Eating sweet foods increases kapha qualities in the body – coldness, heaviness, steadiness and physical energy. They can be calming but if eaten in excess can cause problems like weight gain, sluggishness, excess mucus and congestion. Sweet food examples include sugar, honey, rice, milk, butter, cream, meat and wheat bread.
- Salt: Eating salt increases pitta and kapha, but too much salt in your foods causes skin inflammation, acne and overeating. Salt isn’t necessarily the enemy of people with blood pressure issues, as it has been made out to be, but it still needs to be eaten in moderation or else there will be continual cravings and a tendency to overeat at meals. Salt is in the form of salt, celery, seaweed, tuna, cottage cheese.
- Sour: Sour is a pitta-kapha taste that helps with digestion and adds flavour to food. Sour is linked to the pitta dosha (fire) and too much sour can cause fluid retention. Typical sour foods are lemons, lime, cheese, yoghurt, tomatoes, grapefruit, vinegar, pickles, alcohol, raisins and tamarind.
- Bitter: A taste that is cold, light and dry. If eaten in balance bitter can add zest and speed up digestion as well as cool down the body in the hot months. If there’s too much bitter in the diet this can impact appetite, cause weight loss, headaches, dry skin and general weakness. Examples of bitter foods are chicory, romaine lettuce, tonic water, lemon rind, spinach, leafy greens, dark chocolate, bitter melon, dandelion, fenugreek, and cumin.
- Pungent: Hot and spicy tastes make pungent – that’s chilli peppers, radishes, ginger, onion, mustard, garlic, buckwheat and spicy foods in general. Primarily composed of fire and air elements, it’s qualities aggravate pitta. These foods heat up the body and make fluids flow out of it, clearing congestion as it opens and flushes out the tissues. You know the feeling when you rub chilli in your eyes? Eating too much pungent foods causes pain and irritation.
- Astringent: This is the taste that puckers your mouth – lentils, beans, apples, bananas pears, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes. It’s an alkaline taste – but one that’s opposite of sour. Made of air and earth elements these are cooling foods which relieve heat and inflammation (pacifying pitta): basil, bay leaf, caraway, coriander, dill, fennel, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, turmeric, and vanilla
For vata body types the most balancing tastes are sweet, sour, salty; bitter, pungent and astringent are aggravating. Pitta are balanced with sweet, bitter and astringent; sour, salty and pungent are aggravating. Kapha are balanced by pungent, bitter and astringent; aggravated by sweet, sour and salty.
Now you have a good overview of the six tastes, the key thing to remember is that you should try to incorporate each of these tastes in your meals, even just a hint. All our recipes are balanced with the six tastes, you can check out a few here for some inspiring, health and delicious meals.
If you’d like to learn more about cooking and eating with the six tastes, why not join us at our 7 Day Health Dynamics Detox and Retreat at the luxurious Komune Hotel and Spa in Bali. All meals will be prepared in this way.