According to Ayurveda principles, there are six key elements of taste in every Indian dish. Each of these tastes has its own effect on the body and by understanding these effects, individuals can make better nutritional choices that can provide both nutrition a swell as healing to the body. These tastes can be listed as sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.
Sweet: This tastes has a cooling effect and when consumed in moderation can deliver energy, stability, grounding and vitality. Consuming sweet foods help nourish and build tissue in the body. However, when consumed in excess, the same can lead to inertia and complacency. This taste can be acquired from foods like honey, dates and licorice directly, and in a more subtle form from wheat, rice and milk.
Sour: This taste has a warming effect on the body and helps promote digestion. Sour taste can improve appetite but when taken in excess, it can also cause acid indigestion, ulcers and heartburn. To include this taste into the diet, foods like grapefruit, lemon, yogurt and vinegar can be considered.
Salty: The salty taste is heavy and heating and can also help promote growth while balancing electrolytes. It also helps stimulate water retention. However, too much salt in meals can trigger edema, hypertension, ulcers and hyperacidity. Good food sources include salted nuts, seaweed, and chips among others.
Bitter: The bitter taste is seen as being cool, light and dry. The taste is considered anti-viral and anti-bacterial in nature and is one that can enhance the flavor of other foods. Bitter tasting foods can assist in reducing toxins and fat from the body but when in excess, the same can also deplete tissues leading to feeling dizzy, causing fatigue and in some cases, extreme dryness. Excellent sources of acquiring this taste include leafy green vegetables like radicchio, arugula, dandelion and collards while others like turmeric, and coffee also deliver bitter flavor.
Pungent: When consumed in moderation, pungent foods aid in dissolving and eliminating fats from the body. When there are too many pungent foods in the diet, it can create ulceration, inflammation, heartburn, as well as some nausea and diarrhea. Pungent foods and spices can include options like ginger, garlic, black pepper, chillies and asafoetida among others.
Astringent: Astringent foods help improve absorption and have anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties. These foods also aid in constricting blood vessels that can help stop bleeding and promote clotting. However, when taken in excess, the same foods may also trigger constipation, and circulatory stagnation. Some examples of astringent foods include chickpeas, turmeric, green beans, asparagus and pomegranate.
Ayurvedic nutrition recommends that all six tastes are included in each meal, so that the body’s nutritional needs are met adequately. Since each taste feeds the mind, body, senses and spirit in its own way, a well-balanced combination of these will ensure that all major dietary building blocks are satisfied properly without the need for cravings or over eating. Including all six in every meal also ensures that all food groups as well as nutrients are replenished.
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