Taste Your Way to Health!
Long before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued recommended daily allowances for fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, we listened to our taste buds to determine which substances were edible, how much of each to consume, and how to create balance in our body and mind. A core concept in the ancient Ayurvedic healing system is the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.
Ayurveda teaches that ideally, we should include each of the six tastes in every meal to balance the body and ensure that we are ingesting all the nutrients we need. Including all six tastes in each meal also helps eliminate cravings, so that we won't find ourselves snacking on chips or sweets a couple of hours after a meal.
Each taste has specific effect on the physiology and works with all of the other tastes to create balance in the mind-body system:
- Sweet is the taste of most carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is the main taste in starchy foods like breads, pasta, and rice. Meat and fats are also sweet, as are sugar, honey, and molasses. The sweet taste has a soothing effect on the physiology. It brings about satisfaction and builds body mass.
- Sour is the taste of acid. The sour taste is found in citrus fruits, yogurt, cheese, tomatoes, pickles, and vinegar. Because it stimulates the production of stomach acid, it is stimulating to the appetite and aids in digestion. The sour taste is beneficial for those trying to enhance a sluggish appetite but may be irritating to those suffering from heartburn.
- Salty is the taste of the ocean. The salty taste is found in sauces, cured meats, fish, and of course, table salt. It enhances appetite, stimulates digestive juices, and makes other tastes more delicious.
- Pungent or spicy taste is found in hot peppers, salsa, ginger, radishes, mustard, cloves, horseradish, and most cooking spices. Pungent foods enhance the appetite and improve digestion. The pungent taste also promotes sweating and clears sinus congestion. This taste can help increase the metabolism, but the heat can aggravate the Pitta dosha.
- Bitter taste is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, kale, sprouts, beets, and celery. Bitter foods are depleting and detoxifying to the system. The bitter taste promotes weight loss, but if eaten in excess may cause some gas or indigestion.
- Astringent is the taste that puckers the mouth and has a drying effect on the body. Beans, tea, cranberries, tart apples, grape skins, and pomegranates are all examples of astringent foods.
In each of the six categories, certain foods are highly nutritious and others should be eaten more sparingly. Favor fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, while minimizing refined carbohydrates and processed foods.
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