Learn the importance of the six tastes for determining the right diet according to your constitution.
'Shad rasa', in Ayurveda, are the six different tastes that are known to human taste buds. They are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent which are mentioned as Madhura,
Amla, Lavana, Katu, Tikta and Kashaya respectively in the Ayurvedic texts. These not only render the differentiation of tastes but also provide a good contribution to basic health.
The primary actions, in general, of each taste are explained as follows:
- Sweet (madhura rasa) builds tissues, calms nerves and has a soothing effect on mind.
- Salt (lavana rasa) improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, has a penetrating effect, maintains electrolytic balance, stimulates digestion, and enhances enthusiasm.
- Sour (amla rasa) stimulates appetite and digestion, strengthens heart, relieves thirst, satiates hunger and enhances intellectual activities.
- Bitter (tikta rasa) cleanses and detoxifies, reduces fat and water excess, relieves thirst and fever, is antibiotic in nature, helpful in managing food cravings, and clears senses and emotions.
- Pungent (katu rasa) Stimulates digestion and metabolism, warms up the body and promotes sweating, relieves nerve pain, removes blockages in channels, and clears the mind and sense organs.
- Astringent (Kashaya rasa) absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats, cleanses blood and helps in maintaining healthy blood sugar level. It calms agitation, clears senses and emotions, and removes lethargy.
For a virtuous and sustained healthy living, it is important to cultivate the habit of using all the six tastes in daily diet (the concept of balanced diet).
The knowledge of their actions on the body systems can prove helpful so as to supplement the desired taste, in accordance to the body requirements and the timely curb on the tastes more extensively used,
can help to keep the disease at a distance. A balanced intake of all the six tastes ensures good health.
As per the basic fundamentals of Ayurveda, all the six rasas are primarily composed of the five basic elements (pancha mahabhutas) but the manifestation
of the various rasas depends on the predominance or otherwise of the qualities of one or more of the pancha mahabhutas.
- Sweet taste – Predominance of earth and water elements
- Sour taste – Predominance of earth and fire
- Salt taste – Predominance of water and fire
- Pungent taste – Predominance of fire and air
- Bitter taste – Predominance of air and space
The relationship between rasas and tridoshas
Based on the qualities and actions these rasas manifest in the body, they show profound significance in the balance of the three doshas of the body. This can be well understood in the following table:
|Sweet, sour and salty taste||Pungent, bitter and astringent taste||Pungent, sour and salty taste||Sweet, bitter and astringent taste|
|Increases kapha||Increases vata||Increases pitta|| |
|Reduces vata||Reduces kapha|| ||Reduces pitta|
For example, if you are a vata constitution person then you are advised to take diet predominant in sweet, sour and salty food.
This is because naturally you have predominance of vata in your body that renders you susceptible to aggravation of vata.
By taking food that has reducing effect on the qualities of vata, you would be able to maintain equilibrium and prevent vata aggravation.
In case you have a dual constitution, for example, vata pitta constitution, then you must take sweet, sour, salty, bitter and astringent tastes in moderation and keeping in account the seasonal and diurnal variations,
and according to your agni or digestive fire.
Refer to the food chart which categorises different food items based on the predominant rasa. This will help you in general, to identify the best diet according to your natural constitution.
However, all food items have vipaka (taste after digestion) that eventually describes their action on the body and consequentially, their effect on the tridoshas.
Therefore, for disease specific diet, please consult an Ayurvedic physician.