You may think that you’re diet is healthy because you eat a variety of foods, but what if the foods you eat aren’t as healthy as you thought?
That’s the realization that I had when I first started studying Ayurveda, and discovered the importance of the 6 tastes.
Did you know that chicken, rice, carrots and red peppers are all the same taste?
I was surprised to learn that every food listed above falls under sweet taste. To me sweet means sweet treats, not chicken! 🙂
The truth is that our Western diet is predominantly made up of sweet and salty tastes even though we think we’re eating a healthy diet of different foods. For example, we’re taught that all veggies are healthy, but if you’re only eating sweet tasting veggies then you’re missing out on important nutrients.
Too much sweet and salty taste can lead to cravings, overindulgence, weight gain, heaviness, and poor food choices.
Your taste buds become dull and you start overeating to get the same pleasure you could get with healthy taste buds and just a little food.
Luckily I can help you reset your taste buds and incorporate all 6 tastes into your diet so you’re actually eating the right foods to keep you healthy and vibrant! Let’s start by learning about the 6 tastes.
The 6 Tastes According to Ayurveda
Sweet Taste (Earth/Water)
The qualities of sweet taste are cool, heavy and oily. It’s comforting, and when eaten in moderation has a building and nourishing effect on the body.
In the mind sweet taste promotes satisfaction, love, compassion and contentment.
When consumed in excess, it increases congestion, heaviness, lethargy, weight gain, attachement, greed and possessiveness.
Foods that contain sweet taste are rice, wheat, most dairy, meat, veggies like carrots and red peppers, maple syrup, and honey.
Sour Taste (Earth/Fire)
The qualities of sour taste are heating, sharp, heavy and oily.
Sour taste helps to stimulate your digestion and elimination and is refreshing to your body. It helps to keep your mind alert, improves your attention span and discernment.
In excess sour taste can lead to hyper-acidity, heartburn, acid indigestion. Skin conditions such as acne, edema and boils and burning sensations in the body can also be a result of too much sour taste. Hyperactivity, irritability, anger, harsh judgment and resentment can manifest from eating too much sour tasting food.
Some examples of foods that contain sour taste are lemons, limes and fermented foods.
Salty Taste (Fire/Water)
The qualities of salty taste are heating, heavy and oily.
Salty taste helps to eliminate wastes, stimulate digestion, promote healthy muscle strength, and maintains electrolyte balance in the body. In the mind salty taste can promote confidence, courage and enthusiasm.
In excess, too much salt can lead to water retention, hypertension, edema, itching and inflammation. Too much salt promotes feelings of attachment, greed, anger and irritability in the mind.
Examples of food that contain salty taste are salt, nutritional yeast and tamari.
The qualities of pungent light, drying and heating.
Pungent taste increases circulation, helps with decongestion and stimulates digestion and elimination.
In the mind pungent taste promotes energy, vitality and enthusiasm.
Excess, pungent taste can lead to diarrhea, hearburn, gastritis, ulcers and inflammatory skin conditions. If you eat too much hot, spicy food it can increase feelings of jealousy, anger and aggressiveness in the mind.
Foods that contain pungent taste are hot chili peppers, black pepper, onions, garlic and ginger.
Bitter Taste (Air/Space)
The qualities of bitter taste are dry, rough, cold and light.
Bitter taste is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral and a powerful detoxifier. It supports the liver and cleanses the blood. Bitter taste also helps with skin disorders, and scrapes excess fat from the body. Not the best taste, but bitter does amazing things for your health!
In the mind it promotes feelings of self-awareness, mindfulness and going within.
When you eat too much bitter taste (hard to do because it tastes so bad 🙂 it can decrease digestive efficiency, lead to general weakness and drying of your tissues. Too much bitter can lead to mindlessness.
Dandelion greens, coffee, black tea, dark chocolate, bitter melon, turmeric and aloe are all examples of bitter tasting foods.
Astringent Taste (Earth/Space)
The qualities of astringent taste are cooling, drying and heavy.
Astringent taste has a constricting effect on the body and bodily tissues. This means it can help with clotting, healing ulcers, decongestion and reducing inflammation. It also promotes self reflection and going within.
Too much astringent taste can lead to constipation, bloating, gas, spasms and low sex drive.
An excess of astringent taste can lead to a scattered, anxious and fearful mind. It also increases rigidity of mind and an unwillingness to be flexible.
Foods that contain astringent taste include lentils/beans, pomegranate, bean sprouts, turmeric and some raw veggies like broccoli.
A Healthy Diet Includes All 6 Tastes
According to Ayurveda, a healthy diet includes all 6 Tastes. If you can incorporate as many of them in each meal your health, vitality and immunity will improve.
In addition to foods listed above, every kitchen spice is associated with one of the 6 tastes. That’s why Ayurvedic cooking incorporates so many spices. Your regular kitchen spices are medicine for your body and mind!
Get Started with Food as Medicine
The easiest way to start is by incorporating more bitter and astringent foods and spices into you diet. FYI – don’t take that to mean drinking more coffee and eating more chocolate! 🙂
To do this you’ll want to change how you think about taste. Your food doesn’t exist just to be pleasurable. That’s what we’ve been taught and that’s what we’ve learned to use as a coping mechanism, but it’s not healthy.
When you understand that each taste has medicinal properties that are good for you, it’s easier to train yourself to like bitter and astringent tastes. Just like we’ve been trained to use food to pacify difficult emotions, we can also train ourselves to use food as part of our health and wellness strategy.
Reset your Taste Buds for Better Health
When you’re ready to train yourself to eat all 6 tastes and experience food as medicine, I recommend doing a simple Ayurvedic cleanse. The simplest consists of eating a meal called kitchari that has all 6 tastes. You spend 3 – 5 days eating kitchari for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This cleanse, called a kitchari cleanse, helps re-vitalize your taste buds and retrain the brain so you crave the foods that actually benefit your body.
If you want to do a cleanse with support and guidance, I’m leading a kitchari cleanse from October 18th – 22nd. Click Here to learn more and register.