The Six Tastes of Ayurveda
As is the food, so is the mind, so goes the Hindi proverb. Our lives are shaped by our diet. In many of the ancient scriptures of yoga we are directed to take proper care of our diet:
The following unhealthy food items should be avoided: stale and reheated, very dry and very sour food; also food that is very difficult to digest….. Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.60
The foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness, which are savoury and oleaginous, substantial and agreeable, are dear to the sattvic people. Bhagavad Gita XVII.9
In Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India, one way of assessing a balanced diet is through the six tastes. Each taste (rasa in Sanskrit) affects both the mind and body and a meal is only considered fully nutritional and satisfying when all six tastes are present. Rasa has many additional meanings—essence, enthusiasm, juice, among others—all conveying the sense of fullness and joy necessary for life; rasa has a deep significance for mental and physical health.
- in alkaloids or glycosides, Leafy greens, green and yellow vegetables, coffee, dark chocolate, cumin, dill, fenugreek, saffron, turmeric.
- Physical effects: Cleanses and detoxifies, reduces fat and water excess, antibiotic; in excess creates gas, upset stomach, tissue depletion.
- Mental effects: Diminishes food cravings, clears senses and emotions; in excess increases anxiety, fear and insomnia.
- in carbohydrates, protein, fats Grains, rice, all sweeteners, dairy, starchy vegetables, sweet fruits, coriander, fennel, mint, nutmeg, tarragon, vanilla, basil.
- Physical effects: Nourishes, builds and strengthens body tissues; in excess causes obesity, diabetes.
- Mental effects: Soothing, calming, satisfying; in excess causes lethargy and anxiety.
- in volatile oils All peppers, chilli, garlic, leek, onion, radish, mustard, cardamom, cloves, ginger.
- Physical effects: Warms body, stimulates metabolism and digestion, relieves nerve pain; in excess causes thirst, depletion of reproductive fluid, back pain.
- Mental effects: Opens the mind and senses; in excess causes irritability, anger and impatience.
- in tannins Apples, pears, pomegranate, cruciferous vegetables, potato, lentils, dried beans, tea, bay, caraway, coriander, dill, fennel, oregano, parsley, turmeric.
- Physical effects: Cleanses blood, maintains blood sugar levels, dries moisture and fat; in excess causes gas or constipation, heart pain and thirst.
- Mental effects: cools hot-headedness, clears senses and emotions, increases energy; in excess creates anxiety, fear and insomnia.
- in mineral salts Celery, sea vegetables, natural salts, soy sauce, tamari.
- Physical effects: Maintains mineral balance, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion; in excess causes wrinkles, baldness, loss of strength and thirst.
- Mental effects: Enthusiasm, calms nerves, stops anxiety; in excess generates cravings, anger, impatience and lethargy.
- in organic acids Citrus fruits, berries, tamarind, tomato, pickled and fermented food, yoghurt.
- Physical effects: Stimulates appetite and digestion, strengthens heart, relieves thirst; in excess engenders loss of strength, fever, thirst.
- Mental effects: Enhances intellectual activity; in excess creates resentment, jealousy, anger and impatience.