In Ayurveda there are six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each of these tastes has a distinct effect. Depending on your constitution and the season, these effects can either contribute to or disturb your state of balance. Too much or too little of these foods can cause impurities in the body which can lead to poor health. Ayurvedic food focuses on the combination of flavors and foods so that we enjoy greater satisfaction and energy.

An Ayurvedic Sample Platter

Each taste of the six with examples and benefits.

TASTEEXAMPLESEFFECT
SALTYSoy sauce, table salt, sea saltGrounding, moistening, promotes warmth, weight gain, water retention, promotes proper electrolyte balance
BITTERKale, romaine lettuce, beets, broccoliCooling, calming, drying, cleanses the body
SWEETGrains, starch, sugar, honey, fruitCooling, grounding, nourishing,strengthens, promotes longevity, great for gaining weight
SOURBerries, citrus, vinegar, cheese, yogurtWarming, stimulates appetite, grounding, improves digestions, improves elimination
PUNGENTChilies, cayenne, peppersImproves appetite, clears sinus, stimulates blood circulations, awakens the senses
ASTRINGENTGrape skins, green apples, dried beans, lentil, figs, teaCools, slows digestion, drying, lightens body

How Taste Affects Type

Depending on your constitution, each of these tastes in sufficient quantity can lead you to balance or imbalance. We’ve probably all noticed how different foods impact different people. The Ayurvedic diet is one of the few approaches to nutrition that goes into why different foods impact people in a variety of ways. It gives each type an approach to modify their diet for best health.

If you aren’t sure of your constitution, it’s a great practice to schedule a consultation with an expert at least once to determine your type. You can also reflect on your lifestyle, characteristics, and habits to gain some insight into your Ayurvedic constitution. You can also take our online dosha quiz for a general idea. 

VATA
Tastes to emphasize: sweet, sour, salty
Tastes to include in moderation: astringent, bitter, pungent

PITTA

Tastes to emphasize: sweet, bitter, astringent
Tastes to include in moderation: sour, salty, pungent

KAPHA

Tastes to emphasize: pungent, bitter, astringent
Tastes to include in moderation: sweet, sour, salty

Beyond Counting Calories: Involving all Six Flavors

Have you ever eaten a healthy meal only to feel completely unsatisfied at the end? How about a heavy meal that left you feeling tired and bloated? Part of the idea behind balancing the six flavors is that it will help our brain process food in such a way that we’ll eat just the right amount.

When we eat, our brain is constantly working on the biological and mental processes. When we are hungry, our brain sends a message to our body. As we eat, the taste buds inform the brain what type of foods we’re eating.

When we don’t eat all six flavors, our brain thinks that we haven’t received an adequate amount of nutrition—most likely because we haven’t!

If your brain doesn’t think you have enough types of food, it signals your body to continue eating. If you are only eating one type of food, this will result in you eating more and more of it until you are gorged. Due to the fact the meal is not well-balanced, when you are finished, you won’t feel satisfied. By eating all the six flavors, your body will signal you to eat the right amounts and you will actually feel full and satisfied.

It cannot be understated how important it is to actually combine all six flavors. Not only does this help signal our body to not overeat, but it also helps to ensure we’re getting a wide variety of foods in our diet. Given the differences in nutritional makeup of all foods, the higher variety we have in our diets, the better our health.

Easy and Quick Sample Menus with a Twist

With Ayurvedic food, incorporating all six flavors is a lot simpler than you may think. While you may need to put a little more thought into meal planning at first, you will see that a lot of staples naturally have all six flavors. Here are two samples menus—a lunch and a dinner with a Mediterranean twist—to give you an idea of what a meal with all six flavors could include. 

Lunch: Basil, Mozzarella & Tomato Sandwich

Sweet: Whole Grain Bread
Sour: Tomato
Salty: Sandwich Mustard
Pungent: Cheese
Astringent: Sprouts, Basil
Bitter: Lettuce

Dinner: Pasta with Tomato Sauce

Sweet: Pasta
Sour: Marinara Sauce
Salty: Table Salt
Pungent: Peppers
Astringent: Basil and Bay Leaf
Bitter: Spinach

Now that you have a general idea of how Ayurveda approaches the six flavors, you’re well on your way to healthier, more satisfying meals. Bon Appetit!

Ayurveda Culinary Retreat Online

Explore the dynamics of digestion, the power of plants, the strength of spices, and the greatness of grains with Master Ayurveda Chef Nalini Mehta!

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