Long before the U.S. FDA issued recommended daily allowances for fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, we listened to our taste buds to determine which substances were edible, how much of each to consume, and how to create balance in our body and mind. A core concept in the ancient Ayurvedic healing system is the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.
Ayurveda teaches that we should include each of the six tastes in every meal to balance the body and ensure that we are ingesting all the nutrients we need.
At the Chopra Center we have found that eating all six tastes in each meal is a powerful tool for reaching our ideal weight. The combination of the tastes creates greater satisfaction and enjoyment, helping to eliminate food cravings and the overeating that makes it so hard to lose weight.
If we can’t build all six tastes into every meal, the next best thing is to make sure that we at least eat each of them every day.
Each taste has a specific effect on the mind-body physiology:
- Sweet is the taste of most carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is the main taste in starchy foods like breads, pasta, and rice. Meat and fats are also sweet, as are sugar, honey and molasses. Sweet has a soothing effect on the physiology. It brings about satisfaction and builds body mass.
- Sour is the taste of acid. The sour taste is found in citrus fruits, yogurt, cheese, tomatoes, pickles and vinegar. Because it stimulates the production of stomach acid, it is stimulating to the appetite and aids in digestion. The sour taste is beneficial for those trying to enhance a sluggish appetite but may be irritating to those suffering from heartburn.
- Salty is the taste of the ocean. The salty taste is found in sauces, cured meats, fish, and of course, table salt. It enhances appetite, stimulates digestive juices, and makes other tastes more delicious.
- Pungent or spicy taste is found in hot peppers, salsa, ginger, radishes, mustard, cloves, horseradish and most cooking spices. Pungent foods enhance the appetite and improve digestion. The pungent taste also promotes sweating, and clears sinus congestion. This taste can help increase the metabolism, but the heat may aggravate Pitta imbalances.
- The bitter taste is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, kale, sprouts, beets and celery. Bitter foods are depleting and detoxifying to the system. The bitter taste promotes weight loss, but if eaten in excess may cause some gas or indigestion.
- Astringent is the taste that puckers the mouth and has a drying effect on the body. Beans, tea, cranberries, tart apples, grape skins, and pomegranates are all examples of astringent foods.