Welcome back to The Ayurveda Glow Podcast, a place to discuss how the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda can be applied to your modern, everyday life to help you feel vibrant in mind, bodyand spirit, enjoy optimal health, and glow from the inside out.
I’m your host, Katrina, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor & plant-based nutrition advocate based in Santa Monica, California. Through this podcast, I’ll be sharing with you what I’m learning in the areas of plant-based nutrition, sleep, yoga, meditation and a variety of holistic mind-body approaches to optimal health. I aim to explore each of these areas through the lens of Ayurveda.
In this episode, you’ll learn how the six tastes of Ayurveda can balance your nutrition and help you to curb food cravings. Specifically, you’ll learn how each of these six tastes impacts your mind and body. And, I’ll also share with you two genius food hacks to ensure you’re getting all six tastes in every meal.
Let’s dive in!
First up, let’s start with the basics.
Did you know?
A well-balanced meal includes all six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter, and pungent.
The reason for this is because taste is more than just a sensation of flavor that you experience when you eat or drink something. Different tastes activate chemicals in the mouth, triggering a series of messages to nerve cells and stimulating organs. Everything you eat has a specific taste and that taste has specific actions on the mind and body.
In addition, if you don’t have all six tastes represented in a meal, your body responds to this lack with cravings, usually for the most satisfying taste – the sweet taste. To stay healthy, a well-balanced meal which includes the full spectrum of the six tastes is essential.
To curb your cravings, especially cravings for sweet or salty foods, it’s even more important to make sure that the 6 tastes are represented in your everyday meals so that you feel nourished and fully satisfied.
Let’s take a look at how each taste impacts your mind and body.
The Sweet Taste
First up is the Sweet taste, which Ayurveda teaches is made up of the earth and water elements. For many of us, the sweet taste is considered to be the most pleasant taste.
In our modern culture, we love our sweets, whether they come in the form of a juicy watermelon, a breakfast scone, an artisan gelato, dark chocolate, baked goods or just about any other sweet variation under the sun. There’s absolutely no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to enjoying something sweet.
Many of us associate the sweet taste with sugar. However, it’s important to note that the sweet taste of sugar has an unusual intensity of sweet flavor that is not usually found in nature.
So, I want to be clear that when I share this foundational principle that Ayurveda teaches – which is that a well-balanced diet includes all six tastes, I’m not suggesting to go out and load up on foods that have a sweet taste resulting from refined sugars. Sorry friends, Ayurveda does not give a green light to devour a pint of gelato or a bag of Girl Scout Cookies to satisfy the need for including the sweet taste in your diet!
On the contrary – the sweet taste that makes up a well-balanced meal needs to be from real food or herbs provided directly from Mother Nature – not from refined, processed sugar.
Specifically, Ayurveda advocates a diet made up of whole foods that are abundant in prana or life force energy. In Ayurveda, we call food that’s abundant in life force energy Sattvic Food.
Processed food in packages, boxes, cans or jars, often has sugar and a bunch of other additives and the prana or life force of the food has been lost. Modern science is now revealing that these processed foods, especially processed foods with refined sugar added, are contributing big time to our global epidemic of chronic illness.
We now know that sugar is at the root of many chronic illnesses and I’ll go into this in more depth in a future episode.
So where can we find the Sweet taste?
We can find the sweet taste in starches and complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Foods with a sweet taste profile include fresh fruit, flaxseeds, almonds, grains like rice, pasta or oatmeal, legumes like beans and lentils, root veggies like sweet potatoes or carrots and dairy products like ghee, milk or eggs.
A number of tasty herbs and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, basil, mint, nutmeg, and vanilla also have a sweet taste.
So now that we’ve identified some foods with the sweet taste, you may be asking, “what does the sweet taste actually do for your mind and body?”
How does the sweet taste support a healthy, balanced mind and body?
This is a great question.
Of all the tastes, the sweet taste is the heaviest and the moistest, making it the most nourishing and tonifying of the tastes. A sweet taste is often a sign of nutrient-rich foods.
The heavy quality of the sweet taste helps build tissues. The moist quality of the sweet taste hydrates the body. The sweet taste enhances our energy, immunity and strength. In the mind, the sweet taste enhances mental clarity.
Ayurveda is all about balance. That’s why all six tastes are needed for a well-balanced meal and diet.
The sweet taste is especially important for people who experience weakness or dehydration or for those who need to gain weight. Too much of the sweet taste though can damage the pancreas and spleen, leading to diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
Again, it’s all about balance. That’s why it helps to include the six tastes in each meal so that you feel nourished and satisfied.
So that’s the Sweet taste.
Next up is …
The Sour Taste.
The Sour taste is made up of the fire and earth elements and has a hot, light and oily/moist quality. Examples of sour foods include lemons, tomatoes, and fermented foods like yogurt or tempe.
Here’s how the sour taste has an impact on the mind and body:
In the body, the sour taste increases circulation and boosts our digestive ability. This is why it’s so helpful to sip on a cup of hot water with sour lemon before a meal. The sour taste fuels the appetite, increases salivation, and activates the secretion of digestive enzymes.
To start your morning off with a healthy, nourishing practice, it’s a good idea to make time for a cup of hot water with lemon at least a half hour before your first meal of the day.
In addition to aiding digestions, sour foods can also help move stagnation in the liver and encourage the liver to work effectively.
In the mind, it’s said that the sour taste awakens the mind and improves our ability to exercise good judgment. Too much sour taste though may make a person overly critical. Whereas, too little sour taste can make a person gullible.
The Salty Taste
Next up is the Salty taste.
Ayurveda teaches that the Salty taste is made up of water and fire elements and has moist, warm and heavy qualities. The most common go-to for a salty taste is salt itself – but not refined, processed white table salt which is devoid of minerals and laced with aluminum based anti-caking agents.
Instead, in Ayurveda the best salt is unrefined mineral salt like Celtic Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan Salt. Other foods with a salty taste include celery, seaweed, and tamari.
So what impact does the salty taste have on our body and mind?
The salty taste enhances the flavor of food, that’s #1. But equally important, the salty taste increases salivation and improves digestion. The salty taste also helps the body to retain water, lubricate tissues and maintain electrolyte balance. And, because the salty taste is moist, it hydrates the body and nourishes the tissues.
Another important action of the salty taste is that it has a unique ability to calm the nervous system. In the mind, salty foods provide a sense of confidence and zest for life.
For people with weak digestion or who have anxiety, the salty taste is important. Too much of the salty taste though will weaken the kidneys, increase swelling or water retention and aggravate skin conditions.
As always, balance is everything. For optimal health, a nourishing meal will include the salty taste. Just be sure, the salty taste comes in the form of a high-quality source like Pink Himalayan Salt or from salty whole foods like celery, artichoke, seaweed or kelp. Salty spices like oregano, soy sauce or chutneys are also a great option.
The Pungent Taste
Next up is the pungent taste which is made up of fire and air elements and has the dominant qualities of being hot, light, mobile and dry.
Most of us are familiar with sweet, salty and sour foods. But what is the pungent taste?
The pungent taste is found in all hot, spicy foods and many herbs and spices. Healthy pungent foods include ginger, garlic, cayenne, black pepper, cardamom, chili peppers, jalapenos, mustard, and onions.
Here’s how the pungent taste acts in the body and mind:
Healthy foods, herbs and spices with the pungent taste can help improve metabolism, aid in digestion and absorption, and dispel gas. Because the pungent taste is stimulating and invigorating, it also helps reduce congestion, clear the sinuses and improve circulation.
And – the pungent taste encourages sweating and detoxification and helps kill germs and parasites.
Ayurveda teaches that in the mind, pungent foods can help one to be more extroverted, outspoken, and bold.
The Astringent Taste
Next, we have the astringent taste.
The astringent taste is made up of earth and air elements.
Healthy astringent foods include apples, unripe bananas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, raw carrots, most raw veggies, most beans and legumes, cranberries, pomegranate and pears. Grains like wheat, rye and quinoa also have an astringent taste.
Some well-known herbs and spices with an astringent taste include basil, coriander, dill, fennel, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, rosemary, turmeric, and vanilla.
Here’s how the astringent taste acts in the body and mind:
The astringent taste is dry, so absorbs excess moisture. Internally, dry astringent herbs are very useful for reducing diarrhea and excess sweating and absorbing mucus. The astringent taste is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and aids in the healing of the joints and wounds.
In excess, too much astringent taste damages the colon, resulting in gas, bloating, and constipation. Excess astringent taste can also reduce digestion, cause stiffness, and clotting in the blood.
Emotionally, the astringent taste helps someone cool off and collect scattered thoughts.
The Bitter Taste
Last but not least, there’s the Bitter taste, made up of air and ether elements. The bitter taste is the coldest of all the tastes, so it’s known to reduce the digestive fire or, digestive agni as it’s called in Ayurveda.
Healthy bitter foods include dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, green cabbage, zucchini and eggplant. Some common bitter herbs and spices are turmeric, dill, fenugreek, and dandelion root. Coffee, tea, dark chocolate, bitter melon, grapefruits, and olives are also bitter in taste.
With these healthy bitter tasting foods in mind, here’s how does the bitter taste act on the body and mind:
First, in the body, the bitter taste is as a powerful detoxifier, acting as an antidote to many poisons. The bitter taste which is found in dark leafy greens is deeply cleansing to the body because it scrapes fat and toxins.
The bitter taste also stimulates digestion, kills germs, and clears parasites from the GI tract. It’s also known for its ability to reduce blood sugar levels and support weight loss.
If that’s not all, the dry and cool qualities of the bitter taste also help to clear congestion, purify the blood, and cleanse and support the liver. It also benefits the skin, relieving burning, itching and swelling.
Last but not least, the bitter taste is best known for its ability to tonify the muscles and skin, help relieve gas, and enhance the release of digestive enzymes to aid in digestion.
If you struggle with food cravings, healthy bitter foods are an excellent go-to option. Healthy bitter foods reset the taste buds and destroys food cravings.
That said, once again it’s all about balance.
Too much of the bitter taste can dry out the tissues and result in weight loss, insomnia, poor circulation and constipation. Meanwhile, too little of the bitter taste can result in a body that is filled with toxins or “ama”, as it’s called in Ayurveda.
In the mind, the bitter taste supports clarity, introspection, self-awareness, healthy detachment from worldly things and spiritual growth. Too much bitter taste, however, is said to result in a feeling of being ungrounded and dissatisfied in life.
How To Ensure You Create A Well-Balanced Meal With All Six Tastes
You may be asking at this point, “but how do you fit in all six tastes in one meal?!
Recipe Hack #1: Spices, Herbs, Garnishes
This is where Recipe Hack #1 comes in:
- Spices, herbs and garnishes provide a great way to pack in all six tastes to create a well-balanced, nourishing meal.
- For pungent, black pepper and garlic are my go-to spices.
- For astringent, I often add basil, oregano or turmeric.
- For bitter taste, I’ll add fresh cilantro – which, by the way, I learned is also called coriander in different places, and parsley.
- For salty, Pink Himalayan Salt is my go-to.
- For sour, a squeeze of fresh lemon adds wonderful flavor with all the added benefits of the sour taste.
- And, last but not least is the sweet taste. I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet with fresh veggies or rice or quinoa as some of the main staples in my diet. Each of these already have the sweet taste so I don’t need to add additional herbs or spices for sweetness. Remember that the sweet taste can be found in most carbs, fats and proteins. So, if you’re preparing a meal that includes carbs, fat or proteins, you likely have the sweet taste already covered as well. In the event you do need to add the sweet taste though, cinnamon, cardamom, basil or mint are some great options to consider.
So that’s Recipe Hack #1: you can add spices, herbs and garnishes with different taste qualities to ensure your meal has the full spectrum of tastes and nutrients represented. Adding spices and fresh herbs will help ensure your dish is flavorful, more enjoyable and also well-balanced.
Recipe Hack #2: A Rainbow Diet
Another quick tip or Recipe Hack to ensure you are creating a well-balanced, nourishing meal, is to be aware of the colors on your plate.
Mother Nature has designed a genius way to identify a diversity of nutrients in food by color coding the food. So brilliant! Every color found in food, whether it’s green, purple, red, blue, yellow, and even white, reveals something nutritionally quite unique.
So – along with the six tastes, filling your plate with the colors of the rainbow can ensure you’re enjoying a rich and varied spectrum of nutrients. Foods that are deep blue, purple, red, green, or orange are leaders in antioxidants and contain many nutrients that boost immunity and enhance health.
So this brings us to the end of this podcast. Here are the key takeaways:
First, a well-balanced meal includes all six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter, and pungent. The reason for this is because taste is more than just the sensation of flavor you experience when you eat or drink something. The various taste buds on the tongue correspond to different internal organs. So, a meal with all six tastes activates chemicals and nerve cells in the mouth that stimulate your internal organs.
Second, each of the six tastes also has specific energetic actions on the mind and body.
Also – if you don’t have all six tastes represented in a meal, your body responds to this lack with cravings, usually for the most satisfying taste – the sweet taste. So, when you create a meal with all six tastes, the dish will feel more satisfying and will help you to curb your food cravings.
Finally, a dish with six tastes supports optimal digestion, the key to optimal health.
To make sure you pack in all 6 tastes in each meal, a proven cooking hack is to lean into the magical power of spices and fresh herbs. Spices and herbs will transform any dish you prepare, giving your food more flavor and nutrients, as well as activating digestive enzymes, stimulating internal organs, and aiding digestion.
Okay! So this brings us to the end of this episode.
Thank you for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed this episode and that it gives you an even deeper awareness of the powerful impact that food can have on our mind and body. With every well-balanced, nourishing meal we prepare for ourselves, our families and our community, we empower ourselves to take health and well-being back into our own hands.
I’m so excited to share more in future episodes.
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Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate you so much. Wishing you a beautiful day. xx