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.