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Finding Healthy Balance with the Six Tastes

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health



Ayurveda recognizes six tastes that are needed for optimal digestion, metabolism, and assimilation: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Each taste offers particular health benefits. You can choose your food according to which tastes are best for your dosha—your unique Ayurvedic constitution. Most foods are sweet, sour, or salty—flavors considered building, grounding, and nourishing. Most spices are pungent, bitter, or astringent—flavors considered cleansing as well as supportive for digesting heavier foods.

Here’s an easy guide:

Sweet: Carbohydrates, sweet fruits, grains, root vegetables, beets, sugar, licorice

Benefits: stimulates salivation, strengthens the heart, builds all the tissues, relieves thirst, relieves heartburn

Sour: limes, sour fruit, alcohol, vinegar

Benefits: Helps digestion, reduces gas, increases circulation, and sharpens senses.

Salty: any food containing salt

Benefits: calming to the nerves, improves digestion, maintains electrolyte balance in the body

Pungent: jalapeños, ginger, black pepper, cloves, cayenne pepper, garlic and wasabi, horseradish

Benefits: Improves metabolism, helps digestion and absorption, reduces congestion, improves circulation, relieves pain and muscle tension

Bitter: Fenugreek, black tea, green leafy vegetables, bitter melon

Benefits: Constricts blood vessels, stops bleeding, promotes healing, antibacterial

Astringent: Turmeric, pomegranate, leafy green vegetables, blueberries, cranberries, beans

Benefits: Purifies blood, detoxifies body, antibiotic, antiseptic

Choosing the Right Tastes for Your Dosha

Vata: Favor sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Avoid bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes.

Pitta: Favor sweet, astringent, and bitter tastes. Avoid pungent, sour, and salty tastes.

Kapha: Favor pungent, astringent, and bitter tastes. Avoid sweet, sour, and salty tastes.

Balancing Your Constitution with Spices

Sprinkle a warming mix of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom on sweet dishes like breakfast cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, and desserts, or in black tea. Cardamom aids in the absorption of nutrients, cinnamon increases digestive strength without overheating, and ginger helps prevent bloating. Sprinkle a mix of cumin, coriander, and turmeric on savory dishes such as cooked vegetables, salads, grains, and soups. These three spices are anti-inflammatory and support healthy digestion.

Have a cup of tea: Fennel, licorice, ginger, and peppermint tea are all balancing for the digestive system. According to Ayurveda, strong digestive health is all about skillfully choosing appropriate foods for each meal. Being aware of what’s happening inside can guide you in making balanced choices.

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