Your Guide To Ayurveda's 6 Tastes

Ayurveda: Understanding the Six Tastes

Ayurveda emphasizes including six tastes in our daily food intake. Each taste is a combination of two of the Ayurvedic elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether). We all have an individual preference to some taste. Some love sweet foods; some love hot, spicy foods; some prefer to have more salt in their food. The choice of taste even varies according to the climate -- most of us would not prefer to have spicy, hot, burning foods during hot summer days.

The six tastes are Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent, and Astringent.

Formation of 6 Tastes from 5 Great Elements of Nature

Taste and Dosha Relation

 

“Increase” is understood as an aggravating factor for the dosha, while

"Decrease" can be referred to as a balancing factor for the dosha.

There are many factors in using taste to maintain a balance of all the three doshas. One of the factors is through usage of taste according to one's constitution and the season. For instance, if we feel more dryness of the body or if we feel giddy, our body instantaneously craves sweet taste. If we feel a burning sensation inside our stomach or near the chest region, we won't prefer consuming pungent or spicy taste; our body will crave a sweet or cooling food. These 6 tastes even work the same. If you consume a sweet taste, it will help you to balance  the vata dosha and pitta dosha, while aggravating the kapha dosha. Kapha is the heavy and stable dosha, so in case of obesity or persons who are trying to lose weight, sweet tasting foods should be avoided.

Ayurveda recommends taking sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent tasting foods in this order while eating. In other words, when we are hungry and are about to start eating, the digestion strength is at peak. Sweet, sour and salty are heavy in nature, and if they are consumed first, the digestion strength will be better utilized to digest these tastes. Bitter, pungent and astringent foods take a bit less strength to digest; hence, they are advised to be taken at the second half of meals.

Use of Taste as per Season

Ayurveda even speaks about taste according to the season. Below is the chart showing which taste should be extensively used as per the season.

For example, during Winter and the rainy season, sweet, salty and sour tastes should be used. During Spring, bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes should be used. During Summer, sweet tastes should be used. And during Autumn, sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes should be used.

Importance of Taste in Health and Dis-Ease:

Eating foods with only one taste will cause all the diseases, whereas incorporating foods with all the six tastes leads to good health.

Photo Credit: "Ayurveda (8)" by Radha Madhava is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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