The Six Flavors Of Ayurveda

Photography by: David Prince
The Six Flavors Of Ayurveda

Although logic says your food choices should echo the element of your dominant dosha (e.g., a pitta picking fiery foods), the opposite is usually true. That's because a person's prevailing dosha often needs to be offset. "When we're out of balance,we're attracted to what keeps us that way," says Halpern. So, if you want to reduce a craving for sweets, try a bitter or pungent food at your next meal: The air and fire in a salad will offset the earth and water your sweet tooth desires.

Scrutinizing foods with an ayurvedic eye offers an enticing way to ponder the connection between diet and health."Taste is something we experience every day," says Ed Danaher, a director at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M."The problem is,we rarely think about it as having a cumulative effect."


The Six Rasas
SWEET
SOUR
SALTY
PUNGENT
BITTER
ASTRINGENT


SWEET
ELEMENTS: Earth and water.
QUALITIES: Of the six tastes, sweet is the most nourishing. Typically oily, heavy, and cooling, it's a good choice if you're feeling ungrounded or flighty. Eaten in moderation, sweet foods enhance strength, longevity, and stability. But overindulging in them leads to weight gain and diabetes.
BALANCE: Counters bitter and astringent tastes. Increases kapha dosha; decreases pitta and vata doshas.
FOODS: Sugar, milk, wheat, maple syrup. Try the Vermicelli Pudding with Cardamom and Saffron.

SOUR
ELEMENTS: Earth and fire.
QUALITIES: The most stabilizing taste, sour is light, heating, and oily, as well as nourishing, energizing, and enlightening. Sour gooses the appetite by revving up salivation and easing digestion--but an excess may result in indigestion.
BALANCE: Counters bitter. Increases pitta and kapha; decreases vata.
FOODS: Citrus, sour cream, yogurt, vinegar, cheese, and green grapes.

SALTY
ELEMENTS: Water and fire.
QUALITIES: With heavy, oily, and heating qualities, salty whets the appetite, maintains electrolytes, and aids digestion. The strong water element acts as a laxative. A surplus can result in premature aging of the skin.
BALANCE: Counters bitter and astringent. Increases pitta and kapha; decreases vata.
FOODS: Sea salt, rock salt, seaweed.

PUNGENT
ELEMENTS: Fire and air.
QUALITIES: Eases digestion, clears the sinuses, improves circulation, and brings clarity and perception. Overdo this rasa and you may suffer insomnia, giddiness, and muscle cramps.
BALANCE: Counters sweet. Increases vata and pitta; decreases kapha.
FOODS: Hot peppers, onions, radishes, garlic, mustard, ginger.

BITTER
ELEMENTS: Air and space.
QUALITIES: Of the six tastes, bitter is most absent from the typical Western diet. Naturally cool, light, and dry, bitter tones the skin and purifies the body. It's rarely savored on its own, yet it consistently enhances the flavors of other foods. A glut of bitter will leave you underweight and malnourished.
BALANCE: Counters sweet and salty. Increases vata; decreases pitta and kapha.

ASTRINGENT
ELEMENTS: Air and earth.