Ayurveda believes that 'rasa' or the taste of our food is not incidental, rather an indication of the properties of the ingredients and the impact they have on our doshas.
First things first, here are the six tastes - madhura or sweet, amla or sour, lavana or salty, tiktaor bitter, katuor pungent and kashaya or astringent..
You may have read my last blog on the concept of tridoshas. Well, these six tastes also have an impact on balancing them: sweet, sour and salt mitigates Vata and increases Kapha; bitter, pungent and astringent tastes mitigate Kapha and increases Vata; astringent, bitter and sweet taste mitigates Pitta; sour, salt and pungent tastes increase Pitta.
Moreover, each of these six tastes signify the balance of the five elements of nature - earth and water (sweet), earth and fire (sour), water and fire (salty), fire and air (pungent), air and ether (bitter) and earth and air (astringent).
These rasas can also be associated with the therapeutic and healing impact of different ingredients. For instance, pungent foodscreate more heat or Agni and bitter foods help reduce fever. For this very reason, Ayurveda firmly believes that a balanced meal must be a sensory experience, an amalgamation of all five senses and a balance of all six tastes. This ancient science also emphasises on the right combination of spices, because without stimulating Agni, digestion is almost impossible.
Here are a few examples of ingredients and foods that are associated with each of the six tastes:
- Sweet - bananas, dates, figs, cucumbers, potatoes, wheat, corn, rice, mung dal, urad dal, tofu, almonds, cashews, coconut, ghee, basil, cardamom, mint, saffron, coriander
- Sour - cheese, lemon, tomato, butter, garlic, tamarind
- Lavana - Salt (table, rock, sea), celery
- Tikta - turmeric, sesame seeds, fenugreek, cumin, leafy green vegetables
- Katu - onion, ginger, chillies, mustard seeds, cloves, paprika, asafoetida
- Kasava - Apples, pomegranate, bay leaf, nutmeg, parsley, chickpeas
The right combination of tastes differs from individual to individual. Factors like age, body composition, health concerns, dosha imbalances, the environment you live in and more are some of the influences.
The cuisine at Naad is customised according to your individual body type and 'rasa' plays a huge role.
If you have any questions on the shadrasas,which the ones that are best for you and which should be avoided, feel free to write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be happy to address your queries.
About the author: Dr. Hrishikesh is an MS in ShalyaTantra (Ayurvedic Surgery) from SSR Ayurveda Medical College & Hospital and is a graduate of JSS Ayurveda Medical College & Hospital. He also holds a post graduate diploma in Yoga from Annamalai University. A fifth generation Ayurvedic doctor, his family owns and runs an Ayurvedic Hospital in Kerala which specialises in creating their own in-house medicines. Dr. Hrishikesh brings with him a clinical experience of nearly ten years and specialises in Panchakarma and sports rehabilitation.