Ayurveda 101 // Eat for your body type

Tastes of Ayurveda neon tongue

"Tastes of Ayurveda"

The Sanskrit word for taste, 'rasa', means elixir, sap and essence. Our taste buds do more than just identify foods – they provide the road map to nourishment. 

There are six tastes in Ayurveda which determine the energetics and healing properties of herbs, foods and even minerals.

Each dosha is reduced by three tastes and increased by the remaining three. It is important to incorporate all tastes in your diet as they feed our body, mind and spirit in unique ways.

Do you want to know the key to reducing those crazy cravings?! Include ALL six tastes in your diet, preferably in every meal. 

Psst. I’ll let you in on a little Ayurvedic secret. JK, there are no secrets in Ayurveda. It is well known that Triphala reduces cravings and improves satiety. How? It possesses five of the six tastes. The only one missing is salty, which is the most readily available in our modern Australian diet.

So how do the tastes relate to the doshas? Let’s recap Ayurveda 101.

Vata // Ether + Air

Pitta // Fire + Water

Kapha // Water + Earth

In general sweet, sour and salty tastes balance Vata, pungent, bitter and astringent tastes balance Kapha, and sweet, bitter and astringent tastes balance Pitta. 

To understand it more deeply, we need to break it down to the elemental level.  

balances increases (can imbalance)
sweet water + earth pitta + vata kapha
sour earth + fire vata pitta + kapha
salty water + fire vata pitta + kapha
pungent  air + fire kapha pitta + vata
bitter air + ether kapha + pitta vata
astringent earth + air kapha + pitta vata

Working out who balances who can be confusing, especially in table form. If your brain is anything like ours, you'll prefer symbolism.

Ether // all encompassing circle
Air // ascends + spreads across the horizon (upwards arrow, horizontal line)
Fire // rises (upwards arrow)
Water // falls (downwards arrow)
Earth // downward pull + covers surface below (downwards arrow, horizontal line)

Now lets look at that all together.

Roadmap to the Six Tastes of Ayurveda

This little roadmap shows what we said before. Like increases like, and opposites attract.

So the air and/or ether containing tastes increase Vata, the most provoking being the bitter taste. The tastes containing heavier elements (water and earth) balance Vata. You know Vata needs grounding.

Any taste with the fire element (salty, sour or pungent) gives Pitta the cranks. The worst of these is salty, because the elemental make up is exactly the same. Pitta needs the sweet taste as it is more fuel to occupy the flame. The bitter taste is especially nourishing to Pitta because it supports the liver, spleen and blood purification. These are the sites that Pitta naturally dominates.

Finally we have Kapha, sitting in exact opposition to Vata. Kapha is increased by the heavier elements and balanced by the tastes composed of lighter elements (air, fire and ether). Kapha even benefits from an intermittent fast.

The best Ayurvedic Practitioner's know that Ayurveda is much more interested in energetic balancing than food lists and diet charts. Why? Your body changes, minute to minute, and day to day, with fluxes in your environment and emotional state. There is no fixed, so no fixed chart can possibly apply.

Want more why? It is not just about the food that you eat. It is about how you prepare it, pair it (food combining) and the state of mind you are in when you eat it. There are many aspects of healing diets.

But we know you still love your diet charts. You can download the lists of foods that are best for each dosha here. We also have tips on the food principles of eating to balance Kapha, Pitta and Vata doshas.

Here's your breakdown to the energetics and healing properties in the six tastes of Ayurveda.

SWEET     Water + Earth // V- P- K+

Anabolic: heavy, softening (lubricating), dense, stabilising, cooling

Delivers stability, energy, vitality + vigour

Promotes growth, nourishes + renews the body’s vital tissues

Increases saliva and mucosal secretions

  • improves taste
  • relieves thirst
  • soothes ‘tubes’
  • reduces burning sensations

Softens + strengthens skin, hair + voice

Fosters love + compassion

Macros (fats, protein + carbs)

Sugar, honey, dates, maple syrup

Milk + milk products (butter, ghee, yoghurt, cheese, cream)

Grains (especially wheat, rice + barley)

Meat (fish, chicken, beef, lamb – especially red meat)

Legumes (beans, lentils, soy)

Sweet fruits (banana, mango)

Cooked root vegetables (pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, carrot, beetroot)

↓ agni (metabolism), ↑ ama (obstructs microcirculation + cellular intelligence)

Causes Kapha disorders

  • weight gain, water retention
  • heaviness, lethargy
  • slow digestion, loss of appetite
  • respiratory congestion
  • poor thermoregulation

Alters micro-ecology (parasites, bacteria + fungi/mould)

Fosters gluttony + possessiveness

SOUR     Fire + Earth // V- P+ K+

Metabolic: Heating, lightening + liquidifying

Stimulates digestion, assimilation, metabolism + elimination

Energises the body + sharpens the senses

Strengthens circulation + the heart

Relieves thirst + maintains acid balance

Fosters comprehension, discernment + mental agility

Organic acids + Fermented foods

Citrus fruits (lemon, limes)

Sour milk products (yoghurt, cheese + sour cream)

Aged or fermented foods (vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, soy sauce, aged cheeses)

Fermented beverages (kombucha, alcohol)

Causes hyperacidity, heart burn, acid indigestion + other inflammatory gastric conditions

Shrinks + excessively dries GI tract/‘tubes’

Alters pH balance in blood >> skin conditions (eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, boils)

Erodes enamel + leads to sensitive teeth

Fosters volatility, judgement, criticism + agitation

 

SALTY     Fire + Water // V- P+ K+

Anabolic: Heating, heavy + liquefying

Promotes satiation

Breaks down + softens accumulations

Stimulates elimination (laxative) + reduces gas

Calms nervous system

Normalises blood pressure

Makes skin + tissues more supple

Fosters vibrancy, confidence, courage + enthusiasm

Electrolytes / Salts

Salt (sea salt, rock salt, pink salt)

Sea vegetables (seaweed + kelp)

Mineral supplements

Pre-packaged foods (nuts, chips, muesli bars)

Causes water retention + swelling

Increases heat + burning sensations

Worsens skin conditions (dry, rough, flaky + inflamed)

Promotes bleeding disorders

Worsens hyperacidity, heart burn, acid indigestion + other inflammatory gastric conditions

Fosters attachment + greed

PUNGENT     Fire + Air // V+ P+ K-

Catabolic: Heating, drying + lightening

Stimulates digestion + circulation

Reduces gas

Promotes clearance of excess water via sweating

Enhances metabolism

Relieves muscle pain

Fosters mental sharpness, attention to detail + focus

Aromatic compounds + Mast cell activators

Nightshades (chili, capsicum, eggplant, tomato)

Onions + leeks

Garlic

Spices (cayenne pepper > other peppers + ginger > cumin, caraway etc)

Peanuts

 

Reduces fertility

Induces burning, fainting, hiccups + fatigues

Creates excessive thirst

Worsens hyperacidity, heart burn, acid indigestion + other inflammatory gastric conditions, especially ulcerations

Fosters anger, violence + aggression


BITTER     Air + Ether // V+ P- K-     Catabolic: Lightening, cooling + drying

↑agni (metabolism), ↓ama

Stimulates appetite, detoxifies the senses (improves taste); cleanses liver, blood + improves skin

Reduces weight (fat), water retention + burning sensations

Restores micro-ecology (kills parasites, bacteria +fungi/mould)

Fosters withdrawal from attachment + introspection

Alkaloids + Glycosides

Bitter greens (spinach, kale, brussel sprouts + green cabbage)

Other green vegetables (broccoli, zucchini)

Spices (dandeloin root tea, turmeric, fenugreek)

Fruits (grapefruit, bitter melon, citrus peel, cranberries)

Beverages (cocoa, green tea, coffee)

Causes depletion + tiredness (weakness)

Causes light-headedness, dizziness + headaches

Creates blood + nervous system disorders that originate in the bone marrow (ashti)

Reduces libido + sexual potency

Fosters cynical thoughts,  fanatical behaviour, aversion, isolation + loneliness 

ASTRINGENT     Air + Earth // V+ P- K-

Catabolic: Drying, cooling + heavy

Improves absorption + stool binding

De-congests

Promotes wound healing

Scrapes accumulations from micro-channels

Fosters sense of grounding + ability to be systematic

Tannins

Unripe fruits (especially bananas)

Raw vegetables

Legumes (beans, chickpeas, yellow split peas)

Spices (turmeric, goldenseal)

Constricts micro-circulation

Causes griping sensations + spasms

Worsens blood coagulation + blood clotting disorders

Causes constipation + gas retention

Fosters rigidity, harshness, fear + emotional stagnation

What are the signs of an elemental imbalance? Check our guide on learning to read the language of the doshas here.

MA // Modern Ayurvedic TM

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