The Six Tastes

Long before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provided us with recommended daily allowances for fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, we listened to our taste buds to determine which substances were edible and how much of them to consume. Ayurveda teaches that all six tastes should be eaten at every meal for us to feel satisfied and to ensure that all major food groups and nutrients are represented.

TasteFood SourcesBasis of TasteEffect on Mind-Body Physiology
SweetGrains, pasta, rice, bread, starchy vegetables, dairy, meat, chicken, fish, sugar, honey, molassesCarbohydrates, protein, fat
  • Soothing effect on the body.
  • Brings about satisfaction and also builds body mass.
  • Balances Vata and Pitta doshas
  • Excessive intake can aggravate Kapha dosha
SourCitrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, pickled foods, salad dressing, alcoholOrganic acids: ascorbic acid, citric acid, acetic acid
  • Stimulates the appetite and aids digestion (but can be irritating to those suffering from heartburn)
  • Balances Vata
  • Excessive intake aggravates Pitta and Kapha
SaltyTable salt, soy sauce, salted meats, fishMineral salts
  • Enhances the appetite and makes other tastes more delicious
  • Balances Vata
  • Too much salt increases Kapha and Pitta elements
PungentPeppers, chilies, onions, garlic, cayenne, black pepper, cloves, ginger, mustard, salsaEssential oils
  • Promotes sweating and clears the sinus passages
  • Balances Kapha dosha
  • Excessive intake irritates Vata and Pitta doshas
BitterGreen leafy vegetables, green and yellow vegetables, kale, celery, broccoli, sprouts, beetsAlkaloids or glycosides
  • Detoxifying to the system
  • Balances Kapha and Pitta
  • Excess intake increases Vata and may cause some gas or indigestion
AstringentLentils, dried beans, green apples, grape skins, cauliflower, pomegranates, tea.Tannins
  • Balances Kapha and Pitta
  • Excess intake increases Vata