Rasa: Tastes and Cravings
When making the shift to healthier eating, many people may experience cravings, especially when you are removing sugar and empty carbs from your diet. Sugar and simple carbs create signals in your brain and become addictive, so that when you remove them, you feel as though you need them more. However, within 3 days, the cravings usually subside. But how do you prevent yourself from indulging in those difficult days when all you want to eat is a pastry or ice cream? To understand cravings, you must understand Rasa, which in Ayurveda means “juice, essence or taste.”
The experience of food touching your mouth is Rasa. The salivation created by the mouth and the flavor on the tongue creates this experience we know as taste. Tasting a delicious meal or treat initiates an experience for the eater, making it more than just a physical sensation; it is an emotional one as well. This is why cravings become difficult to resist. Sometimes people crave sweets, but some people may crave food that you wouldn’t necessarily think is normal, yet they crave it based on an experience they had. Identifying this root of a craving is important in combatting it.
Flavor is a huge factor in developing or deconstructing cravings. Ayurveda teaches about the six tastes; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent. We encourage you to read our articles on “The Six Tastes” if you are interested in gaining a better understanding of each of these qualities. These tastes all have qualities of the five elements; earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Finding ways to include these six tastes, as well as the five elements, are how you resist cravings.
The six tastes and their associated elements are:
Sweet: earth and water
Sour: earth and fire
Salty: water and fire
Pungent: air and fire
Bitter: air and ether
Astringent: air and earth
Ayurveda explains that cravings are caused by an imbalance in the doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, or air, fire, and earth. Certain cravings are important to satisfy because your body’s intelligence is telling you what you need, however in some cases it may not be in your best interest to satisfy it. So how do you identify if it is a good craving or a bad one?
Let’s look at a person with a low level of kapha, meaning low levels of water and earth. Developing a sweet craving would be a good, as this is probably stemming from low blood sugar. Sweet taste would increase levels of kapha because it holds elements of earth and water. However on the other hand, if a person has high levels of kapha, satisfying a sweet craving could lead to the creation of ama, or toxins, in the body. So instead of satisfying the sweet craving, they could eat something pungent, bitter, or astringent to lower kapha back to a normal level. Cravings are due to either biological need or psychological desire, and identifying the root is necessary.
Some examples of foods with these six tastes could be
Sweet: bananas, dates, beets, sweet potatoes, cooked carrots
Sour: lemon/limes, tomatoes, vinegar, dough bread, pickles
Salty: Celery, cottage cheese, tuna, soy sauce
Pungent: Onions, garlic, raw spinach, mustard, black pepper, ginger
Bitter: leafy greens, sesame seeds/oil, coffee, dark chocolate
Astringent: apples, sprouts, lettuce, beans, chicken, potatoes
The best Ayurvedic way to combat any potential cravings is to include all six tastes into your meals! This may sound intimidating, but we reassure it is not. Check out the recipe for this week in our newsletter for a dish that includes all six tastes! If you feel like you need any help in identifying your cravings and overcoming them, we are always available to help you.