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Examples of the 6 tastes of Ayurveda and how to choose foods that will support balance in your life

In this post, we'll explore examples of the 6 tastes of Ayurveda and how to choose foods that will support balance in your life.


6 tastes of Ayurveda examples: cooked veggies on a plate

The 6 tastes of Ayurveda

The six tastes of Ayurveda are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. To learn more about these six tastes, read 6 Tastes of Ayurveda: A Key to Finding Balance.


In that post, I spoke about the effects of the 6 tastes on the doshas and the effects the tastes have on the body.


As a refresher, here's a handy chart.


Taste

Effect on vata dosha

Effect on pitta dosha

Effect on kapha dosha

Sweet

Decreases

Decreases

Increases

Sour

Decreases

Increases

Increases

Salty

Decreases

Increases

Increases

Pungent

Increases

Increases

Decreases

Bitter

Increases

Decreases

Decreases

Astringent

Increases

Decreases

Decreases


This chart means:


If you:

  • have a predominance of vata in your constitution

  • have a vata imbalance, are in the vata time of life (50 or 60 onward)

  • live in a vata-provoking environment (dry, windy, cold)

  • are in the vata time of year (fall/early winter),

then you should consider eating more sweet, sour, and salty foods, and less pungent, bitter, and astringent foods.


If you:

  • have a predominance of pitta in your constitution

  • have a pitta imbalance

  • are in the pitta time of life (puberty to 50 or 60)

  • live in a pitta-provoking environment (hot, wet)

  • in the pitta time of year (summer),

then you should consider eating more sweet, bitter, and astringent foods, and less sour, salty, and pungent foods.


If you:

  • have a predominance of kapha in your constitution

  • have a kapha imbalance

  • live in a kapha-provoking environment (cold, wet)

  • it's the kapha time of year (late winter/spring),

then you should consider eating more pungent, bitter, and astringent foods, and less sweet, sour, and salty foods.


6 tastes of Ayurveda examples: child getting ready to eat

The kapha time of life is from birth through puberty. This is the time of life when the body is growing and the tissues are building.


Sweet, sour, and salty tastes promote growth, so it's recommended that children consume these tastes even though they're in the kapha time of life. Children need less pungent, bitter, and astringent except perhaps in certain cases of a kapha imbalance.


Examples of the 6 tastes of Ayurveda


Okay, great, you may be thinking, but how do I know which foods contain these tastes?


Some foods or substances have just one taste, but many contain several tastes.


For example, amla (Indian gooseberry; Emblica officinalis) has 5 of the six tastes, sour, bitter, astringent, pungent, and sweet, all of the tastes except for salty.


6 tastes of Ayurveda examples: fresh fruit in a bowl

Here are some examples of different categories of foods with their predominant taste and, in some cases, their secondary tastes, as well as their effects on each dosha.


The information in these charts is from Dr. Vasant Lad's Textbook of Ayurveda: General Principles of Management and Treatment (Lad,562-66).


In the charts below, the ↓ means that this food pacifies/decreases/alleviates that dosha. This ↑ means that this particular food aggravates/increases/creates an imbalance in that dosha when used more than occasionally. When you see ↓↑, that means that the food should be used in moderation for that dosha, and an excess of that food will aggravate the dosha.


Sweet taste


Category of food

Food

Taste

Action on Doshas

Fruits

Cantaloupe

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Dates

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Figs

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Melons

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑

Vegetables

Carrot, cooked

Sweet

V↓ P↓↑ K↑


Cucumber

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Parsnip

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↑


Potato, sweet

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Squash, summer

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↑

Sweeteners

Barley malt

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Date sugar

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Fructose

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Maple syrup

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Rice syrup

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Turbinado

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑

Grains

Durum wheat

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↑


Oats, cooked

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Quinoa

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↑↓


Rice, Basmati

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↓


Rice, white

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Wheat

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑

Legumes

Mung beans

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↑↓

Dairy

Cow's milk

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Ghee

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↓


Goat's milk

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↓


Yogurt, fresh

Sweet, Sour

V↓ P↓ K↑

Animal foods

Buffalo

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Eggs, white

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↓


Fish, freshwater

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↑↓ K↑↓


Shrimp

Sweet

V↓ P↑↓ K↓

Nuts

Almond, soaked/peeled

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Coconut

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑

Seeds

Pumpkin

Sweet

V↓ P↓↑ K↓


Safflower

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↓


Sunflower

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↓

Oils

Avocado

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Castor oil

Sweet, Bitter

V↓ P↓ K↑


Coconut

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


Ghee

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑↓

Spices

Cardamom

Sweet, Pungent

V↓ P↓↑ K↓


Cinnamon

Sweet, Pungent

V↓ P↓↑ K↓


Coriander

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↓


Fennel

Sweet, Astringent

V↓ P↓ K↓


Mint

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↓


Terragon

Sweet

V↓ P↓ K↑


6 tastes of Ayurveda examples: citrus fruit

Sour taste


Category of food

Food

Taste

Action on Doshas

Fruits

Grapefruit

Sour

V↓ P↑ K↑


Lemon

Sour

V↓ P↑ K↑


Tamarind

Sour

V↓ P↑ K↑

Dairy

Cheese, hard

Sour

V↓ P↑ K↑


Yogurt, store-bought/old

Sour

V↓ P↑ K↑


Pungent taste


Category of food

Food

Taste

Action on Doshas

Vegetables

Onion, raw

Pungent

V↑ P↑ K↓


Radish

Pungent

V↑ P↑ K↓


Turnips

Pungent, Astringent

V↑ P↑ K↓

Spices

Ajwan

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Allspice

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Anise

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Black pepper

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Cayenne

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Clove

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Ginger, dry

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Ginger, fresh

Pungent

V↓ P↑↓ K↓


Hing (Asafoetida)

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Marjoram

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Mustard

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Paprika

Pungent

V↓ P↑ K↓


Bitter taste


Category of food

Food

Taste

Action on Doshas

Vegetables

Bitter melon

Bitter

V↑ P↓ K↓


Dandelion greens

Bitter

V↑ P↓ K↓


Kale

Bitter, Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓

Spices

Dill

Bitter, Astringent

V↑ P↓↑ K↓


Neem leaves

Bitter, Astringent

V↑↓ P↓ K↓


6 tastes of Ayurveda examples: bitter melon

Astringent taste

Category of food

Food

Taste

Action on Doshas

Fruit

Apple, ripe

Astringent, Sweet, Sour

V↑ P↓ K↓


Apple, unripe

Astringent, Sour

V↑ P↑ K↓


Banana, green

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓ 


Cranberries

Astringent, Sour

V↑ P↑ K↓


Persimmon

Astringent, Sour

V↑ P↑ K↓

Vegetables

Artichoke

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓ 


Artichoke, Jerusalem

Astringent, Bitter

V↑ P↓ K↓ 


Beet greens

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓ 


Broccoli

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓ 


Brussels Sprouts

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Cabbage

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Cauliflower

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Celery

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Lettuce

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Mushrooms

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓


Peas

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Potato, white

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Sprouts

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Squash, winter

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓

Grains

Oat bran

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓


Rice cakes

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓


Tapioca

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓

Legumes

Aduki

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Black-eyed peas

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


Pinto beans

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓

Animal foods

Chicken, white meat

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓


Venison

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓

Seeds

Popcorn

Astringent, Sweet

V↑ P↓ K↓

Oils

Canola oil

Astringent

V↑ P↓ K↓


You may have noticed that the list of sweet foods is quite extensive. Sweet is the taste that we all need to consume in greater quantity, but that doesn't mean sugar. This would include foods such as sweet fruits, sweet vegetables, some dairy, certain meats, and grains. And kapha dosha is best served by the sweet foods that are also astringent, light, dry, and rough.


Exploring a little deeper

In the charts above, I kept it simple so that you could see a pattern in the ways the tastes affect the doshas. However, there are more variables at play.


Determining the effects on the doshas also takes into account the elements, the qualities (gunas), the potency (hot or cold), and the post-digestive effect (the predominant taste after the food is digested).


Meat

For example, meat is generally considered sweet, which would normally be pacifying to pitta dosha. However many meats and other animal foods are hot in potency and are therefore not recommended for pitta dosha (Lad, 565).


Beef, the dark meat of chicken, the yolks of eggs, fish from the sea (except shrimp in moderation), lamb/mutton, and pork all have a heating potency and can be aggravating to pitta dosha (Lad, 565).


And while the sweet taste of meat is often aggravating for kapha dosha, there are a few options like the light meat of chicken, egg whites, the white meat of turkey, rabbit, shrimp, and venison which are balancing to kapha dosha. This is due to their heating, pungent, astringent, light, dry, and/or rough qualities (Lad, 565).



6 tastes of Ayurveda examples: assorted cheese plate

Dairy

Another example is dairy. Cow's milk is sweet and cooling with a sweet post-digestive effect and generally balances vata and pitta dosha and aggravates vata dosha (Lad, 564).


But once the cow's milk is converted to other substances, the properties of that milk change. Cheese, sour cream, and store-bought yogurt are considered sour and heating, making them generally inappropriate for pitta dosha (except for fresh soft cheese and cottage cheese) (Lad 564-65).


And kapha dosha can enjoy cottage cheese, ghee, and goat's milk due to their heating, pungent, digestion-promoting, and/or light qualities.


Grains

When we look at grains, as a general rule, they are considered sweet because they build tissue in the body (Kripalu, 7.19). However, upon closer inspection, certain grains aggravate vata dosha due to their specific properties.


Barley is sweet and cooling, but light and diuretic which can be aggravating for vata dosha. Corn is sweet, but also dry and light which is also vata aggravating. Millet, oat bran, and uncooked oats (like granola) are sweet, but too dry, rough, and/or light for vata dosha (Lad, 564).


And, while buckwheat is considered sweet, it is also astringent, pungent, and heating which makes it a good grain choice for kapha dosha who should eat less of the sweet taste. Corn, amaranth, and millet are other good choices of grains for kapha due to their light and dry qualities (Lad 564).


Legumes

Legumes are also building in nature and contain the sweet taste, however, because they also are considered astringent, they aggravate vata and pacify kapha dosha.


Mung beans and urad dal are two legumes that are pacifying for vata dosha (Lad 564).


Kapha dosha can enjoy most legumes as long as they are well-spiced to aid in kapha digestion.


Spices

Almost all culinary spices, no matter their taste, pacify vata even though they are often pungent. Vata needs to remember to use spices in moderation, avoiding anything that is too hot and spicy which may cause excess lightness and dryness.


The two spices listed by Dr. Vasant Lad that are not good for vata are chocolate (unfortunately he lists chocolate as aggravating for all 3 doshas!) and neem leaves (which are said to be vata pacifying in some instances) (Lad, 566).




Let me know in the comments section what you have discovered on your journey with the 6 tastes of Ayurveda. I would love to hear your experience.



Book an online consultation if you are interested in learning more.




LadLad, Vasant M.A.Sc. Textbook of Ayurveda: General Principles of Management and Treatment. 1st ed., vol. 3, The Ayurvedic Press, 2012. pp. 562-566.


Kripalu Center. "Foundations of Āyurveda." 2019. PDF. 7.19





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