Tasting Your Way to Better Health

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Ayurveda places a great emphasis on eating nutritious food and a balanced diet. From the Ayurvedic perspective, a balanced diet isn’t just about getting the right amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins – it is also about another extremely important quality: taste.

Ayurveda recognizes six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Including all six tastes in every meal not only ensures that all major food groups and nutrients are represented, but it also provides us with the feeling of satisfaction in eating. And when we finish a meal feeling satisfied, we are much less likely to find ourselves raiding the cupboards or refrigerator two hours later!

How It Works:

The human brain sends hunger signals when it becomes aware of the need for energy and information. As we eat, our taste buds send messages to the brain informing it if we have ingested foods that provide the energy and information we need. The six tastes are the codes that inform our nervous systems of a meal’s nutritional content. If we sample foods that correspond to each of these tastes throughout the day, our meals will provide awide assortment of health-promoting nutrients. If we do not have all flavors available, the brain is not satisfied and continues to send signals to eat more. As a result, we take in too many calories but remain malnourished.

Examples of the six tastes:

Sweet ~ whole grains, starchy vegetables, dairy, meat, chicken, fish, sugar, honey, molasses
Sour ~ citrus fruits, berries, plums, tomatoes, pickled foods, vinegar, alcohol, cheese, and yogurt
Salty ~ soy sauce, seaweed, salted meats, fish, and any food to which table salt has been added
Bitter ~ bitter greens, endive, chicory, spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leafy greens, celery, broccoli, sprouts, beets, tonic water
Pungent ~ peppers, chilies, onions, garlic, cayenne, black pepper, cloves, ginger, mustard, salsa
Astringent ~ lentils, dried beans, green apples, grape skins, cauliflower, figs, pomegranates, tea

In each category of taste, some foods are highly nutritious and others should be eaten more sparingly. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, cereals, breads and nuts are more favorable than red meats  cold-water fish and lean poultry is recommended for non-vegetarians. It is also encouraged to limit the intake of highly refined sugar.

So how do you include all six tastes in your meals? Experiment! Try favorite recipes with newnew spices and refer to the suggestions above. If you find it difficult to include all six tastes in a particular meal, at least experience each of them at some point during the day. Once you get started, you’ll find it easier and easier to incorporate all six. 

Sachi Doctor

Elemental Alchemy, 90 Rio Vista Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94611

Sachi Doctor is an Ayurvedic practitioner and holistic health coach who founded Elemental Alchemy with the mission to provide a resource for those navigating their way towards optimal mind-body health.

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age, Sachi has spent over twenty years exploring different health modalities, treatment plans, diets and mindfulness practices to help alleviate chronic pain and restore balance.

After years of looking to others for a model of health with no relief, Sachi realized that the answers she sought were not hidden in someone else’s prescription for wellness but unique to her, and that the first step towards discovery was actually tuning out what was right for others and tuning into herself.

As she tapped into the wisdom of her own body, she discovered that the elements foundational for health  — the blueprint she so fervently sought — was within her, within each of us. Since then Sachi has been passionate about helping others also cultivate clarity and inner wisdom for vibrant health.

In addition to her Ayurvedic and nutrition education, Sachi has completed over 800 hours of yoga teacher training and continues to study with her mother, her first yoga teacher, for whom these practices are a way of life.

Sachi is a board member of the Prison Yoga Project at San Quentin State Prison and serves as an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit that raises funds within the US yoga community to support microcredit programs for women in India. She holds a Msc in Development from the London School of Economics.