The Six Flavors of Ayurveda: Sour Taste

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
October 21, 2016

Taste is assigned a much deeper significance in Ayurveda than we are accustomed to in the West. Taste, or rasa, is considered critically important in determining the effect that various foods, spices and therapeutic herbs will have on our state of balance – body, mind, and spirit. Ayurveda recognizes six tastes. Each of the six has a vital role to play in our health, wellbeing and nutritional satisfaction. They are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Today’s blog is all about the sour taste.

Sour is a taste found in sour fruits like lemons and limes and in sour dairy products like yogurt, cheese and sour cream. Fermented foods, like vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut and soy sauce also fall into Ayurveda’s sour category. You may be surprised to learn that fermented drinks, like wine, beer and liquor, are considered “sour,” too.

 

Effects of Sour

Sour foods have a cleansing effect, stimulating the appetite and sharpening the senses. For that reason, many folks start the day with a mug of hot lemon tea.
The sour taste also stimulates saliva production. The first step in the long process of digestion begins in the mouth. Sour helps relieve thirst, too. A sweet-and-sour Georgia peach can quench a thirst while helping the body absorb minerals like iron from our foods.

 

Sour and the Doshas

The sour taste is great for Vata body-mind types. They need lots of warmth and moisture. Sour may be balancing for Vatas, but can cause Pittas to spin out (with aggression) from the excess heat. Sour also needs to be eaten in moderation for Kaphas. Sour can increase the heaviness and wetness associated with Kapha dosha.
In Ayurveda, the sour found in lemon and limes is considered to be “hot.” Why? Because the sour found in citrus fruits (and pickled foods) produces heat — from acids.
Citrus fruits like lemons and limes are loaded with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). These acids are considered to be “hot” or heat producing.
What about less acidic fruits, like peaches, apricots and cherries? They are not as hot. Their water content cools them down. Because a food like the grapefruit contains a lot of moisture, its sour taste is also considered to be “wet.” A grapefruit is both hot and wet, qualities that affect all three doshas.

 

Summary of Sour Rasa

Sources: Citrus fruits like limes, lemons, grapefruits and oranges.
Sour dairy products like yogurt, cheese and sour cream
Fermented foods, like vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut and soy
Fermented drinks, like wine, beer and liquor
Physical effects: Sour taste increases the digestive power. It stimulates salivation and increases the appetite. It pacifies Vata but increases Pitta and Kapha. It promotes strength and stability in the tissues. It regulates downward movement of vata and helps in the digestion of food.
Psychological effects: Sour taste brings alertness to the mind and increases attention. Emotionally, it is responsible for bringing appreciation. However, if consumed in excess, it can bring out aggression or jealousy.
Adverse effects: If a person consumes excess food with sour taste it can lead to hyperacidity (heartburn) and skin rashes.

 

Want to learn more about the 6 flavors in Ayurveda? We’ve prepared a Cheat Sheet for finding greater satisfaction in eating & more harmony in the kitchen through Ayurveda:
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Review Question: Which dosha (body-mind type) benefits most from sour taste in the diet?

 

Comments: What is your favorite recipe for sour taste?

 

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , Ayurveda , cleanse , dosha , harrison graves md , six rasas , six tastes , sour , sour taste , sri sri ravi shankar , wellness
salty taste

The Six Flavors of Ayurveda: Salty Taste

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
October 12, 2016

bag-of-salt

In this week’s blog, we are going salty. Typical foods in the salty taste category include rock salt, sea salt, vegetables, soy sauce, tamari, black olives, hard cheeses, sea foods and many processed foods. Salt improves the taste of  many foods and makes the other five tastes (rasas) more delicious. A great example is the yummy organic chocolate bar, “enhanced with sea salt,” found at supermarket checkout counters. It is an enticing combo of sweet + salty.
The saying “all things in moderation” especially applies to the amount of salt found in the American diet. Many American meals (hamburger + fries + coke) are loaded with salty and sweet at the expense of the other four tastes. A little bit of salty taste may enhance the flavor of a soup, but being as intense as it is, salt can overpower the other flavors entirely.

 

Benefits of Salt

The salty taste increases salivation while improving food digestion and absorption. Salt supports muscle strength and helps provide essential minerals (sodium and chloride) for electrolyte balance. It helps the body hold water, keeping mucous membranes and other bodily tissues moist. However, salt is not very nutritive by itself. Salt is nourishing to the plasma — that part of the blood that contains the blood cells. It is a liquid quite similar to sea water. The human body itself is about 70% salt water.
Emotionally, salt is grounding and soothing to the nervous system — one reason that the salty taste can become an addiction. It can also help combat dullness, depression and lack of creativity.

 

Salt and the Doshas

Salt is needed in small amounts for all body-mind types — all doshas. However, Vatas benefit most. The salty taste is grounding, moistening and warming for Vata. However,  Kaphas beware. Watch out for excess water retention. Pittas have to watch for excessive heat.
Too much salt can also  thicken the blood and aggravate high blood pressure. In the extreme, it can even lead to skin conditions, intestinal inflammation, bleeding disorders and vomiting.

 

Rock Salt: Ayurveda Recommended

Natural mineral salt, or rock salt, is cooling rather than heating. It is far more balancing for Pitta than other forms of salt. It’s mildness and diverse mineral content helps to minimize the potential hazards of excess salt. For these reasons, rock salt is highly regarded in the Ayurvedic tradition and considered to be a superior salt.
When used externally, like in a salt rub, all types of salt help to draw moisture and toxins out of the body.. Salt can also be used medically to reduce swelling and inflammation, or help to heal wounds.

 

Summary

The benefits of salt include enhancing the appetite, stimulating digestion and maintaining proper electrolyte balance. One goal of Ayurvedic cooking is to keep one’s unique combination of doshas in continuous balance. Salt can be balancing (grounding and moistening)  for Vata, yet can aggravate Pitta with excess heat.  Kaphas should beware of excess fluid retention (edema) and high blood pressure.

Next time you sit down to a meal, ask yourself three questions:
“Am I getting all six tastes in my food?”
“Am I eating the right foods and tastes for my dosha.”
“Have I prepared for my food with gratitude and positive intention?”

 

Want to learn more about the 6 flavors in Ayurveda? We’ve prepared a Cheat Sheet for finding greater satisfaction in eating & more harmony in the kitchen through Ayurveda:

button(4)

 

Review Question: Which dosha benefits most from salt in the diet?
Comments: Please leave your comments on the six tastes in the comment box below.

 

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living spa , Ayurveda , Ayurvedic diet , dosha , harrison graves md , healthy lifestyle , six rasas , six tastes of ayurveda , sri sri ravi shankar , yoga

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