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Rasa, Taste

8 Jul 2017   Shanti Gowans

The 6 Taste Groups of Ayurveda 

Sweet, sour, salty, and bitter are tastes that most of our palates are familiar with. However, Ayurveda outlines six tastes, or rasas, and recommends including each of the tastes with every meal. These are: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each of these six tastes feeds the body, mind and spirit in a unique way.
 
Incorporating all six tastes judiciously in your meals and adjusting the amounts to your personal constitution will help you maintain balanced nutrition and good health (which means that all your tissue systems, body channels and doshas are in balane) and feel satisfied overall (which means that you avoid food cravings or over consumption).
 

The 6 Rasas

Taste is made from the same five elements that make up the doshas, namely space, air, fire, water and earth. And each taste has an effect on Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. When your doshas are out of balance, these six tastes can help you repair this imbalance.

Sweet (decreases Vata and Pitta, increases Kapha)

The sweet taste is comprised of water and earth, and is beneficial for balancing Vata and Pitta. Of the six tastes, sweet is known to be the most grounding and nourishing. When eaten in moderation, it promotes longevity, strength, and healthy bodily fluids and tissues.

If you’re trying to gain weight, sweet is the taste to emphasise. It's heavy, oily, and moist attributes slows digestion.

The sweet taste is prominent in food groups such as:
• grains and cereals such as wheat, rice and bread
• dairy, such as milk, cream, unsalted butter, ghee
• sweet fruits such as dates, figs, avacadoes, coconut, mangoes
• cooked root vegetanbles, such as pumpkin, potato
• sugar, maple syrup
• licorice root.

Sour (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha)

The sour taste consists of water and fire. It stimulates appetite and saliva production, and is balancing in its light, heating, and oily properties. The sour taste awakens the thoughts and emotions, and can improve appetite, digestion, and elimination. It needs to be eaten in moderation because if you eat it in excess, it can quickly lead to aggression in your mind-body system.

The sour taste group can be found in foods such as:
• fermented milk products such as yoghurt, cheese
• wine, vinegar, pickled and fermented foods.
• citrus fruits, such as lemon, orange, grapefruit
• stone fruits, berries, mangoes
• sour vegerables, such as tamarind, tomatoes

Salty (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha)

The salty taste consists of earth and fire. It’s best for Vata because of its grounding and hydrating nature. Its heat may aggravate Pitta and Kapha. It also adds taste to foods, stimulates digestion, helps electrolyte balance, cleanses tissues and increases the absorption of minerals. However, too much salt can have a negative impact on your blood and skin.

Examples of salty foods are found in food groups such as:
• sea vegetables
• sea salt, celtic salt, Himalayan salt, rock salt,
• tamari, soya sauce, black olives, and
• snack and processed foods (crisps, potato chips) that contain salt, although processed foods are not an ideal or recommended source of salt.  

Pungent (increases Vata and Pitta, decreases Kapha)

Fire and air make up the pungent taste. Pungent food is the hottest of all the rasas, and therefore stimulates digestion, improves appetite, clears sinuses, stimulates blood circulation, and heightens the senses. Pungent food may help you think quickly and clearly, and understand complicated matters more easily. Too much pungent food, however, can make you overly critical. Pungent foods will aggravate Pitta quickly and balance Kapha. Vata handles pungent tastes best when they are combined with sour, sweet, or salty foods.

Some examples of pungent taste can be found in food groups such as:
• spices such as pepper, mustard, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom
• herbs such as mint, perppermint, spearmint, watercress, nasterium
• spicy vegetables such as onions, ginger, garlic, chillis, capsicum, radish, horseradish
• spicy dressings such as wasabi, chilli sauce

Bitter (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha)

Bitter taste consists of air and space. It’s considered the coolest and lightest of all the tastes. Because of its cool qualities, it is highly detoxifying and can help remove waste products from the body. Bitter foods also help mental purification by freeing you from passions and sultry emotions. It’s best for Pitta, good for Kapha, and least beneficial for Vata.

Among bitter foods groups are
• raw (salad greens) and cooked green leafy vegetables
• spices such as turmeric, olive
• green, black and most herbal teas
• coffee and chocolate

Astringent (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha)

The astringent taste is made up of air and earth. It is cool, dry and firm. Many beans and legumes are astringent and can cause gas, which is why it is a taste Vata should eat in moderation. Pitta benefits most from astringent taste’s coolness, and its dry, light attributes balance Kapha. Like bitter food, astringent food will help mentally purify and strengthen you.

The astringent taste can be found in food groups such as:

• Unripe fruits, such as unripe bananas
• Fruits such as green grapes, pomegranates, cranberries, apples
• Raw vegetables, green beans, alfalfa sprouts, okra
• Nuts
• Honey
 
Foods to favour for your doshic type:
 
Vata
Qualities to favour: warm, oily, heavy food, with sweet, sour and salty tastes.
Qualities to reduce: cold, dry, light and bitter and astringent tastes
 
Pitta
Qualities to favour: cool, heavy food having sweet, bitter and astringent taste
Qualities to reduce: light, excvessively oily, acidic foods, and pungent, salty and sour tastes.
 
Kapha
Qualities to favour: light, dry, warm food, with spicy, bitter and astringent tastes.
Qualities to reduce: heavy, oily, cold food with sweet, salty and sour tastes.
 
 

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Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

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