Six Tastes of Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, there are six tastes. These tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. It’s important to include all six tastes with every meal. This is because each taste corresponds to different elements. Ayurveda is focused on balancing the 5 elements. Each taste has properties of ether, air, fire, water and earth. Our Doshas are made up of these elements.  Constantly only eating two or three of the tastes can lead to a dosha imbalance. Dosha imbalances can lead to a variety of unpleasant consequences in the body and in the mind.

Six Tastes and Their Doshic Effects:

Sweet – Earth/Water
These foods are calming and soothing.
Excess can cause weight gain.

Sour – Earth/Fire
Increases pitta and decreases vata and kapha.
These foods can stimulate digestion, release gas,  increase metabolism.
Excess can cause weight gain.

Salty – Water/Fire 
Increases the pitta and kapha doshas and decreases vata.
These foods are warming, calming and drying.
Excess salt can cause water retention and cause weight gain.

Pungent – Fire/Air
Increases pitta and decreases vata and kapha.
(Because it can cause dryness, excess amounts actually  increase vata.)
These foods increase digestion, circulation and are drying. 
They can help in weight reduction.

Bitter – Air/Ether 
Increases vata, decreases pitta and kapha.
These foods are dry, cooling and reduce inflammation.
May help in weight reduction.

Astringent – Air/Earth 
Increases vata, decreases pitta, decreases kapha
These foods are drying and cooling and can help in weight reduction.

Examples of the Six Tastes:

Sweet Taste
Fruits like ripe bananas, mangos, melons, prunes, cantaloupe, dates, figs, 
Vegetables like golden beets, carrots, cucumber, olives, sweet potatoes
Grains like corn, rice, wheat
Legumes like garbanzo beans, lentils, mung beans, navy beans, soybeans/tofu

Sour Taste
Fruits like lime, lemon,  grapefruit,raisins, tamarind
Vegetables that are pickled and tomatoes
Grains like doughy breads
Dairy like butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt 
Other things like eggs , alcohol, vinegar, most fermented foods

Salty Taste
Vegetables like celery, seaweed
Dairy like cottage cheese
Soy sauce, tamari, table salt, sea salt, rock salt, 

Astringent Taste
Fruits like granny smith apples, green plantains, cranberries, pomegranate
Vegetables like avocado, green beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, peas, potatoes, cauliflower
Grains like pasta and wheat
Legumes/beans (of all kinds)
Nuts & Seeds, popcorn

Bitter Taste
Vegetables like kale, collards, dandelion greens, eggplant, sunchokes
Other foods like sesame seeds, sesame oil, coffee, dark chocolate

Pungent Taste
Vegetables like  radishes, kohlrabi, mustard greens,turnips, raw spinach, chilies, garlic, leeks, onions
Grains like buckwheat, spelt
Other foods like Nuts & Seeds, mustard seeds

An very simple example of how to create an ayurvedic meal with all six taste would be a simple stir-fry over rice. Gentle Reminder that you don’t have to just eat kitchari and other Indian food to eat in a modern ayurvedic way!
Tofu (Sweet)
Cabbage (Astringent)
Broccoli (Astringent)
Kale (Bitter)
Carrots (Sweet)
Garlic (Pungent)
Onion (Pungent)
Soy Sauce (Salty)
Rice Vinegar (Sour)

Then depending on your Dosha imbalance, or the season, you would increase certain taste and decrease others. For example, if you have a Kapha imbalance, you would decrease the amount of sweet tastes (rice, tofu, carrots) and increase the amount of bitter, pungent and astringent ( cabbage, kale, garlic, broccoli).

Building these well-rounded meals that incorporate all six tastes can be tricky at first. You can always start slow and just begin with making sure you begin to incorporate a little of each taste in your overall diet daily. Your body and your mind will thank you.

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