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The Six Flavors of Ayurveda: Sour Taste

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:


Review Question: Which dosha (body-mind type) benefits most from sour taste in the diet?


Comments: What is your favorite recipe for sour taste?


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