The six tastes of Ayurveda

Much of the wisdom of Ayurvedic nutrition rests on the tip of your tongue, literally! According to Ayurveda, the sense of taste is a natural guidemap towards proper nutrition. For ages, humans relied largely upon taste to discover healthy foods in nature and avoid toxicity. Our tastebuds do much more than simply identify tastes; they unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process.

Food speaks to us directly through taste. A juicy pear may call out to us with a gentle message of delight, while the flaming chili pepper cries out in warning. As we tune into the tastes naturally desired by the body, we tap into the body’s innate wisdom regarding food and nutrition.

Ayurveda identifies 6 Tastes by which all foods can be categorized: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent, and Astringent. While the first four tastes are probably recognizable, the last two may not seem familiar. Pungent taste is hot and spicy as found in a chili pepper, while Astringent taste is dry and light as found in popcorn.

Taste Primary Actions Common Sources
Sweet
Builds tissues, calms nerves
Fruit, grains, natural sugars, milk
Sour
Cleanses tissues, increases absorption of minerals
Sour fruits, yogurt, fermented foods
Salty
Improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion
Natural salts, sea vegetables
Bitter
Detoxifies and lightens tissues
Dark leafy greens, herbs and spices
Pungent
Stimulates digestion and metabolism
Chili peppers, garlic, herbs and spices
Astringent
Absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats
Legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, herbs