According to the ancient science of life, known as Ayurveda, consuming six tastes with each meal promotes health. Ayurveda is a traditional medical system which originated in India. According to Ayurveda, there are six distinctive categories of taste. They must be in balance with each other for the body to function properly.
Including all six tastes with each meal improves digestive health. Processes needed for breaking down of nutrients, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of wastes all benefit. By including six tastes in the diet, digestive problems such as excess gas, heartburn, and constipation are reduced.
I try to include six tastes in my meals whenever possible. When I include the six tastes, I find that I am satisfied with my food and do not overeat.
The benefits of including six tastes with each meal are not limited to digestive health. The entire body functions better.
The six tastes are: sweet, bitter, pungent, sour, salty and astringent. They are not eaten in the same proportions, as some of the tastes go a long way. Most foods contain more than one flavor. Eating fresh high quality foods is very important.
Including a sweet taste with each meal does not mean having a candy bar with each meal. Ayurvedic practitioners often do include small amounts of desserts with meals, however. Many foods are included in the “sweet “category which you may not recognize as sweet tasting. Dairy products, breads, grains, and fruits are sweet. Meat, nuts, pasta and oil are all considered to be sweet. These foods provide the body with the bulk of its caloric needs and provide energy. They are comfort foods. If you are restless or if you suffer from anxiety; including more sweet flavors in your diet may make you feel better. However, eating too many sweets may make you feel lethargic, overly full or congested,
Health practitioners from a wide array of healing traditions recognize the importance of consuming bitter foods. Green and yellow vegetables are considered to be bitter foods. Be sure to consume generous amounts of raw vegetables in the diet. Bitters balance the appetite and improve the health of the liver.
They help to rid the body of toxins and prevent illness. Many of the most important plant compounds which protect against serious illness are found in bitters. If you tend to be overweight, include large amounts of bitters in the diet. Beware of consuming too many bitter foods as they may deplete you of energy. Your skin may be dry and suffer from headaches and a vague sense of being dissatisfied.
Pungent foods are strong tasting. Hot and spicy foods such as garlic, onions and hot peppers are pungent. Most culinary herbs are pungent. Include herbs and spices regularly in your diet. In addition to providing adventures in flavor, herbs and spices are packed with antioxidants and many other potent plant compounds. They benefit the immune system and cardiovascular health. Pungent foods decrease congestion. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that pungent foods “light the digestive fire.” If you feel sluggish or depressed, include generous amounts of pungent foods. They also aid concentration and stamina. On the mother hand, if you are easily excitable, tend to be irritable, or have a quick temper; limit your consumption of pungent herbs, foods, and spices.
Sour foods include most fruits, yogurt and tomatoes. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals. They are generally low in calories. Sour foods help to cool the body and mind. Eaten in excess, sour foods may promote fluid retention. If you suffer from skin issues, such as itchiness, redness or acne, you may want to consider decreasing your intake of sour foods.
Salt adds flavor and stimulates the digestive process. Salt is often over consumed and combined with unhealthy fatty foods. Only small amounts of salt are needed. Most people get more than enough salt. An over abundance of salt may lead to heaviness, due to fluid retention. Cravings may be exacerbated when too much salt is eaten.
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Astringent tastes include potatoes, foods in the cabbage family, and dried peas and beans. Astringent foods are cooling and soothing. Too much astringency may produce excess dryness and gas.
Eat for your Constitutional Body Type
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that there are three primary body types. They are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each type is characterized by a variety of physical and emotional qualities. A person may be mostly a Pitta type or a combination, such as Vata- Kapha.
Learning about your body type may help you to fine tune your balance of the six tastes for optimal health. While this initially may sound complicated, with practice, it’s actually quite simple. Even if you do not know your body type, but are aware of the six tastes, you may be able to enhance your health. Pay attention to how you feel after eating. Try implementing some of the above suggestions if you suffer from imbalances. You may find that simply including the six tastes in your diet regularly results in increased energy, improved health, and a greater sense of well being.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that enjoying the food which we eat is an important part of wellness. Pick flavors which you enjoy from each taste group. Enjoy!