The six tastes in Ayurveda are these: Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter. We have discussed these in detail before, but we wanted to do a recap now that we are in this transitional season of autumn. Each of these flavors should find its way to be a main part of your daily diet. It plays a key role in digestion, supporting healthy agni (digestive fire), and pacifying each of the doshas. Let’s do a little recap.
The sweet taste balances pitta and vata. Sweetness can help to cool down and soothe the body, alleviate mental agitation, transform frustration into contentment, and fortify us physically and emotionally. The sweet taste aggravates kapha which means that it can cause us to feel extra tired or lethargic. However, eating a reasonable amount of sweet foods can help us feel joyful, blissful, and able to maintain a positive outlook on the world. Some examples of sweet foods are plums, peaches, melons, grapes, dates, dried fruits, maple sugar and syrups coconut, agave, stevia, licorice root, peppermint, slippery elm, fennel, ginseng root, beets, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, seeds, and nuts.
Sour makes us pucker our lips a bit, and activates the production of saliva. It is composed mainly of the Earth and Fire elements, which means, according to Ayurveda, it increases Kapha and Pitta and pacifies Vata. It is heating to the digestive system, and stimulates our appetitive and digestive fires. It is really good for alleviating symptoms of flatulence, nervousness, anxiety, circulatory issues, fear, anorexia, and overthinking. Sour (in balance) can activate feelings of gratitude and give rise to understanding, and the flexibility to be adventurous and spontaneous and to perceive, distinguish, and categorize information. Out of balance, sour can instigate feelings of criticism, jealousy, rejection, impatience, giddiness, selfishness, and hyperactivity.
Salty taste aggravates Pitta and Kapha, and balances Vata; that’s because it’s already comprised of Fire (Pitta) and Water (Kapha) elements. That means, adding a little extra salt for Vata-dominant people can be really grounding and important to keep them in balance. Authentic salty taste—not manmade table salt, is full of essential minerals and electrolytes that our bodies need to stay strong, hydrated, and balanced. Salty taste can give us confidence and courage, energy and a sense of being poised or well balanced. Salty taste strengthens our muscles, and supports detoxification and elimination from our intestines. Too much salty-tasting foods can make us feel dull and depressed, greedy and possessive, irritable and constricted. It can lead to water retention and swelling, hyperacidity, bleeding disorders, ulcers, fainting, wrinkles, hair loss, and vomiting. Some examples of sour foods are Citrus fruits, cultured seeds and nuts, green apples, cranberry, berries, pickles, tomatoes, dough breads, butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, alcohol, vinegar, most fermented foods, rosehips, raspberry leaves, sorrel, orange peel, cranberry, peony, juniper berries
The pungent taste can aggravate Pitta and Vata doshas, and balance Kapha, meaning it can cause irritation, agitation, hot-headedness, stubbornness, literal physical heat in the body, anger, frustration, anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, and competitiveness. It can, on the other end of the spectrum, bring us energy and enthusiasm when we’re feeling low or lethargic or depressed. It’s comprised of the elements Air and Fire and so it gives us specific qualities related to those elements like: movement, heat, changeability, mobility, and feeling/being stoked. Pungent can literally act as the “fire under our feet.” Some examples of pungent foods are chilies, all peppers, wormwood, ginger, clove, mustard seed, mustard greens, leeks, buckwheat, raw spinach, turnips, paprika, black and green tea.
Astringent-taste aggravates Vata, balances Pitta and Kapha, and is comprised of Air and Earth elements.Astringent is very grounding, and foods/herbs with an astringent taste can help us feel calm, cool, collected. This taste helps the mind organize information and put things into their proper place, and helps us compartmentalize our feelings and observations of the world. Physically, it helps heal wounds and stop bleeding quickly, acts as a diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory and decongestant. It sticks to the palate when you eat it, creating a roughened feeling; it is usually produced by tannins in the barks, leaves and outer rinds of fruits and trees, and often leaves us with a chalky, dry sensation in the mouth. Its main attributes are cooling, light and dry. Some examples of astringent foods are witch hazel, comfrey, plantain leaves, dandelion leaves, nettles, sumac, pomegranate, bay leaf, nutmeg, oregano, poppy seeds, saffron, turmeric, vanilla, chickpeas, parsley, beans, avocado, brussels sprouts, peas, raw carrots.
Bitter aggravates Vata and Pitta, balances Kapha, and is comprised of Air and Ether elements. Emotionally, bitter taste can promote a healthy detachment from the world and a focus on more spiritual pursuits, introversion, self-awareness, and freedom from temptation. We feel clear, cleansed, focused, and able to access our inner witness and not get easily sucked into other people’s drama or carried away by an experience. Physically, it scrapes fat and toxins from the body, improves other tastes, alleviates thirst, stimulates a healthy appetite, kills germs and parasites from the GI tract, clears congestion, and can help reduce tendencies of fainting, burning, or itching. It’s anti-inflammatory, cleansing to the liver, firms the skin and muscles, and works as a digestive tonic. It has immense regenerative properties, and its main attributes are: cooling, lightness, and dryness. Some examples of bitter foods are turmeric, dandelion root, aloe vera, fenugreek, sandalwood, neem, coffee, bitter melon, dill, cumin, saffron, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, artichokes, eggplant, dark leafy greens like kale and collards.
For a deeper breakdown of the Six Tastes, we have other articles that detail out which tissues each of the tastes affects as well as other information and a more comprehensive outline of each. Click here for a list of each of the articles.
What Tastes are Good for Vata Season?
You might be asking yourself, with this Vata season, are there certain tastes I should avoid or include more of in my diet? The answer is yes and no. All six tastes should be in your diet daily. However, some tastes hold aggravating qualities for vata, so if you are experiencing excess in Vata this season, here are the six tastes you should include more of, or decrease the amount of.
The tastes that aggravate vata are: Bitter, Astringent, and Pungent. These tastes are comprised of air, ether, earth, and in nature very cooling and drying. Decrease but don’t avoid entirely foods such as uncooked dark leafy greens and raw root vegetables. Cooking these foods in Vata pacifying oil such as sesame oil is a great way to create balance between all of the tastes.
Sour, sweet, and salty will bring in heat and moisture to the body. Maintain a balance of these tastes because it is easy to over it. This will lead to an imbalance of kapha once winter begins. In general, honey, warm teas, fermented foods, squash and dried fruits will be a great addition to your diet while also helping you to not over indulge. These tastes can be quite addicting, as they are the first tastes to hit your tongue. Keeping a balance of tastes is very subtle and doesn’t need to be thought about in tremendous effort. But if you are looking to take things farther in your diet and help with any aggravated dosha, this is where you can do it.
If you’re experiencing any of the out-of-balance symptoms, there are actions you can take to restore balance. For more information about what you can do, or to learn more about your own constitution and what a potential balanced nutrition plan would be for you, schedule a consultation with us here.
If you are curious about your dosha, take our free dosha quiz here!