Shada rasa – the six tastes
It is a fact that humans relied largely upon taste to discover healthy foods in nature and avoid toxicity. Our taste buds do not simply identify tastes; but also unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process.
According to Ayurveda, the sense of taste is a natural guide map towards proper nutrition.
Food speaks to us directly through taste. A juicy pear may call out to us with a gentle message of delight, while the flaming chili pepper cries out in warning.
Through this taste we actually tap into the body’s innate wisdom regarding food and nutrition.
Ayurveda identifies 6 Tastes by which all foods can be categorized: Madhura (Sweet), Amla (Sour), Lavana (Salty), Tikta (Bitter), Katu (Pungent), and Kashaya (Astringent).
The detailed description:
- Water and Earth
- Heavy, moist, Grounding, nourishing and cooling by.
- sugary foods
- milk and milk products (like butter, ghee, and cream)
- most grains (especially wheat, rice, corn , and barley)
- many legumes (like beans, black gram, green gram, and lentils)
- sweet fruits (such as bananas, fig, date, melon and mangos)
- certain cooked vegetables (such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets).
- Nuts (coconut, pumpkin seed, almond, cashew)
- increase bulk, moisture, and weight in the body.
- excellent for building the body’s seven vital tissues (dhatus viz. plasma, blood, fat, muscles, bones, marrow, and reproductive fluids).
- increase saliva.
- soothes mucous membranes and burning sensations,.
- relieves thirst.
- beneficial effects on the skin, hair, and voice.
- Earth and Fire
- hot, light, and moist by nature.
- Citrus fruits (such as lemon, grapefruit, unripe raisin, tmarind and limes)
- sour milk products (like yogurt, cheese, and sour cream)
- fermented substances (including wine, fermented bread, vinegar, pickles, and soy sauce).
- Stimulates digestion,
- helps circulation and elimination
- energizes the body
- strengthens the heart
- relieves thirst
- sharpens the senses
- Not good for rakta Dhatu(Blood)
- Fire and Water
- hot, heavy, and moist by nature.
- any salt (such as sea salt and rock salt)
- sea vegetables (like seaweed and kelp)
- foods with added salts (like nuts, chips, and pickles).
- water retaining quality.
- improves the flavor of food
- improves digestion
- lubricates tissues
- liquefies mucous membranes
- maintains mineral balance
- aids in the elimination of wastes
- calms the nerves.
- Due to its tendency to attract water, it also improves the radiance of the skin and promotes overall growth in the body.
- Fire and Air
- hot, dry, and light. It is the hottest of all the 6 Tastes
- vegetables (such as chili peppers, garlic, and onions)
- spices (like black pepper, ginger, mustard, clove and cayenne).
- In small amounts, Pungent taste stimulates digestion
- clears the sinuses
- promotes sweating
- and detoxification
- dispels gas
- aids circulation
- best deworming
- improves metabolism
- Relieves muscle pain.
- Air and Ether
- light, cooling, and dry by nature.
- green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, and green cabbage)
- vegetables (including zucchini and eggplant, bitter gourd)
- herbs and spices (like turmeric, fenugreek, neem and dandelion root)
- coffee, tea
- fruits ( olives, dandelion, egg plant and bitter melon).
- It stimulates the appetite and
- helps bring out the flavor of the other tastes
- powerful detoxifying agent
- antibiotic, anti-parasitic, and antiseptic qualities
- helps in reducing weight, water retention, skin rashes, fever, burning sensations and nausea.
- Blood purifier.
- Air and Earth
- dry, cooling, and heavy
- legumes (such as beans and lentils)
- fruits (including cranberries, pomegranates, pears, and dried fruit)
- vegetables (such as, broccoli, alfalfa, carrot, cauliflower, asparagus and turnip)
- grains (such as rye, buckwheat)
- spices and herbs (including turmeric)
- coffee, and tea.
- cooling effect on the body than Sweet taste
- Creates a puckering sensation in the mouth (such as cranberries) or a dry, chalky feeling (such as many beans).
- Arrests bleeding
- Decrease urine and sweating.
Ayurveda recommends including all 6 Tastes in each meal
As there is concept of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, trace elements, and water in balanced diet, Likewise Ayurveda, by going in more depth feels that each taste feeds our mind, body, senses, and spirit in its own unique way.
From a modern nutritional perspective, the 6 Tastes satisfy each of the major dietary building blocks. Sweet foods, for example, are rich in fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and water, whereas Bitter and Astringent foods are high in vitamins and minerals.
The brain sends the body signals when it requires energy in the form of food. By incorporating all 6 Tastes into each meal, we ensure that these signals are adequately met, thus avoiding food cravings or the over- consumption of certain foods.
Ayurveda also recommends following the unique constitution (Prakruti) to determine the proportion of tastes one should eat:
The body naturally desires tastes that balance its doshic (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) makeup and shuns tastes of an aggravating nature.
If we simply follow our natural inclinations, we are led to the proper foods.
Vata individuals, for example, are naturally drawn to moist, grounding foods, while Kapha individuals favor light, drying foods.
A Pitta individual, for example, will favor cooling foods and spices such as dark leafy greens and fennel, which are high in Bitter(which pacify pitta) and Astringent tastes, while requiring a smaller quantity of the Pungent taste(which aggravate pitta).
|Dosha||Balancing Tastes||Aggravating Tastes|
|Vata||Sweet, Sour, Salty||Pungent,Bitter,Astringent|
|Pitta||Sweet, Bitter, Astringent||Salty, Sour, Pungent|
|Kapha||Bitter, Pungent, Astringent||Sweet, Sour, Salty|