The Six Tastes Of Ayurvedic Nutrition & What Tastes Will Balance You

A contribution by Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, Lee Zinvanovic. 

The quality of our spiritual and physical nutrition is the essence of Ayurveda and understanding the properties of food and its affect on the body and mind is fundamental in developing our self-realisation. 

Our taste buds do so much more than simply identify tastes. They unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process, and this also balances our emotional condition. If the taste is not pleasing or simply over-processed or unwholesome, then the gastric fires (agni) may not ignite. It will then not provide proper nutrition and cause the dosha/s to be unbalanced and ultimately the formation of disease will begin to occur. 

Ayurveda divides food into six tastes, each having its own set of qualities. No food consists of only one taste. All five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth are present in all substances, even humans. So when we eat food it becomes part of us, human through the digestive and cellular renewal process. That's why it's so important to have some understanding of why food is our medicine and the benefits of Ayurvedic food and preparation of it. 

The six tastes, their elemental make-up and their qualities effect the balance of the three doshas: Vata (V), Pitta (P) and Kapha (K). 

The six tastes are:

+ (Plus) sign following a letter means the dosha will be increased or unbalanced by a substance.

- (Minus) sign following a letter means the dosha will be decreased or balanced by a substance.

1. Sweet V- P- K+

Builds tissues, calms nerves

Milk and milk products (butter, ghee, and cream), most grains (wheat, rice, and barley), legumes (beans and lentils), sweet fruits (bananas and mangoes), certain cooked vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets).

2. Sour V- P+ K+

Cleanses tissues, absorbs minerals

Citrus fruits (lemon and limes), sour milk products (yogurt, cheese, and sour cream), fermented foods (wine, vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, and soy sauce).

3. Salty V- P+ K+

Improves taste, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion

Salt (sea, rock salt), sea vegetables (seaweed and kelp) and substances where large amounts of salt are added (nuts, chips, pickles).

4. Pungent V+ P+ K-

Detoxifies and lightens tissues

Found in certain vegetables (chilli peppers, garlic and onions) and in spices (black pepper, ginger and cayenne).

5. Bitter V+ P- K-

Stimulates digestion and metabolism

Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and green cabbage), vegetables (zucchini and eggplant), herbs and spices (turmeric, fenugreek and dandelion root), coffee, tea and certain fruits (grapefruits, olives and bitter melon).

6. Astringent V+ P- K-

Absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats

Legumes (beans and lentils), fruits (cranberries, pomegranates, pears, and dried fruit), vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, asparagus and turnip), grains (rye, buckwheat and quinoa), spices and herbs (turmeric and marjoram), coffee and tea.

Three specific substances for balancing your dosha:

V: Sesame oil

P: Ghee (clarified butter)

K: Honey (min 6 months old)

Three specific substances that are most aggravating for the doshas:

V: Legumes/beans

P: Mustard/chillies

K: Cheese

How often to eat daily for each dosha:

V: 5 times per day

P: 3 times per day

K: 2 times per day

What times to eat for each dosha:

V: 7:00am, 10:00am, 1:00pm, 4:00pm, 7:00pm

P: 7:30am, 12:30pm, 6:30pm

K: Meals between 10.00am and 6.00pm

The most decreasing foods (-) of the six tastes to balance the doshas:

V: Sweet, Sour, Salty

P: Sweet, Bitter, Astringent

K: Pungent, Bitter, Astringent

The most increasing foods (+) of the six tastes to unbalance the doshas:

V: Pungent, Bitter, Astringent

P: Sour, Salty, Pungent

K: Sweet, Sour, Salty

Best food groups to balance the doshas:

V: Grains, milk, cheese, nuts, sour fruits, root vegetables, dark fowl meat, eggs, oils, fresh honey, raw sugar and spices.

P: Grains, milk, cheese, seeds, legumes, sweet fruits, root vegetables, leafy vegetables, white fowl meat, egg, maple sugar/maltose.

K: Seeds, leafy vegetables, old honey, hot spices.

Worst food groups to unbalance the doshas:

V: Leafy vegetables, white fowl meat, white sugar, maple sugar/maltose.

P: Yoghurt and fermented dairy, nuts, sour fruits, dark fowl meat, oils, white sugar, honey, molasses and raw sugar, hot spices.

K: Grains, milk, cheese, fermented dairy, nuts, sweet and sour fruits, root vegetables, white and dark fowl meat, oils and sugars.

ALL of the Six Tastes should be eaten at every meal to feel nourished and satisfied.