The 6 Tastes for Food Satisfaction
Food can be used as a powerful healing medicine when used in the right way. If you are someone who looks at food in terms of calories and other data on labels or through a general one size fits all approach, I think you will find the upcoming episodes about food insightful.
Ayurveda offers a unique and powerful perspective on food and a great starting point is to understand more about the 6 tastes. From here therapeutic meal planning can be created to bring each person back into balance and relieve ailments or imbalances from the inside out, including anxiety.
There’s a great Ayurvedic proverb - ‘if the diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. If the diet is correct, medicine is of no need’.
Do you ever find yourself feeling unsatisfied even if you’ve eaten a reasonable quantity of food? The dissatisfaction could come from not experiencing a range of the 6 tastes and eating more of the same tastes won’t typically help to relieve it. Including a range of the 6 tastes has helped me and my clients to feel more content and satisfied sure!
The 6 tastes are:
Often clients ask what the astringent taste is - I describe this as more of a sensation - a drying or parched feeling in the mouth. Think about how your mouth feels when you have cranberries, black tea, walnuts, and some legumes. Have you ever tried a green banana? You can likely imagine the dry furry sensation in your mouth - this is astringent! Have you noticed if you drink too much tea you actually feel dehydrated and thirsty?
The sweet taste when used in moderation can be very nourishing and gives strength and vitality to the tissues in the body (tissue layers are another fascinating topic to share here)! Sweet foods include milk, wheat, rice, honey, dates, and many fruit and veg. Ayurveda promotes natural sauces of sweetness over processed refined products.
A small amount of sour taste can help to refresh the body and mind. Sour foods include citrus fruits - things like biting on a lemon slice! Some cheeses, green grapes, unripe fruits, vinegar, and often fermented products like kombucha, miso, and tofu.
The salty taste is often used in bars and restaurants to increase appetite with salted nuts and snacks! The salty taste is found in foods such as; sea salt, celery, seaweed, black olives, and pickles. It is a mineral our body needs to support digestion, absorption, assimilation, and excretion of wastes but it can be easy to overdo it if you consume a lot of processed foods. Too much salt can cause the blood to thicken and blood vessels to narrow which can interestingly lead to high blood pressure and other blood-related disorders.
The spicy taste can help to boost the absorption of nutrients. Have you eaten a spicy curry or chili and your nose starts running? This is an example of how this taste affects the body and in this case, stimulates nasal secretions and unblocks the sinuses. It’s also helpful to remove clots as it thins the blood. Hot foods include garlic, onion chillis, pepper, and dried ginger. Fresh ginger can be less aggravating if you tolerate milder spices, along with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cumin fennel, and coriander.
The bitter taste has a cleansing effect. This anti-viral, anti-inflammatory taste can be found in foods such as turmeric root, aloe vera, broccoli, spinach, neem, coffee, dark chocolate, and in fact most leafy greens! In excess, it can have a depleting effect on the tissue layers, such as the reproductive tissue and sperm.
Eating the 6 tastes can help us to feel more nourished, and satisfied and support the body and mind in profound ways. When cooking for a family, including the 6 tastes can be an easy way to ensure that everyone is getting all the important nutrients, that each potential is stimulated, and that no one is put out of balance. A 6 tastes food bowl is a great option or including them all throughout the day is another option!
However, when it comes to a personalised approach and balancing the body and mind, you can focus on increasing 3 of the 6 tastes to help restore any imbalances. When you take an Ayurveda dosha quiz, this usually tells you which dosha is most dominant right now and this is therefore a good place to start is to look at the tastes that would reduce this.
For example, if you wanted to reduce a dosha you would focus on:
Tastes that reduce the dosha
(eat more of them)
Sweet, Sour, Salty
Sweet, Bitter, Astringent
Spicy, Bitter, Astringent
Taking this a step further, when I work with my 1:1 clients, I am looking at the bigger picture such as their health history and natural tendencies to create a nutrition plan that moves them towards their anxiety and health goals whilst taking into account areas that we don’t want to aggravate. There’s a bit of a myth that all Ayurveda food is Indian, this doesn’t have to be the case. From the examples of foods I have given, you can see that there are a range of different foods that can be utilised to create any style of cuisine that you wish and there really are some delicious recipes available. I’m looking forward to having one of my summer staples as the weather warms up here in the UK, which is a coconut lime quinoa side dish! Simple and easy but soo tasty!
To summarise, in this blog, we have looked at:
What the 6 tastes of Ayurveda are
An intro to the effects the tastes can have on us
Different foods that contain each taste
The combination of tastes that balance each dosha
Next, I will be diving further into Ayurveda nutrition, including the mental and emotional effects of foods. If you have a question about food - drop me a message and I shall answer it in one of my upcoming podcast episodes and blogs!