Ayurveda advocates the maintaining of good health by eating healthy and good food. It also has a unique way of distinguishing the ‘healthy’ qualities in different foods through the broad taste categories that they fall into. Ayurveda maintains that there are six clearly defined and distinct taste categories that go to work on three distinct ‘humours’ in the human body. Foods that have a certain taste either increase or decrease one of the following three humours:
- Kapha, which is basically the bodily water or phlegm,
- Pitta, which related to fire or bile, and
- Vata, which stands for the air or wind within our bodies
These three humours are nothing but the waste products of the digestive processes of our bodies and hence an imbalanced diet that is too biased towards a certain humour can lead to health problems and illnesses. Ayurveda thus stresses on the benefits of a well balanced diet that has a balanced mixture of all the six taste categories, in order to stay fit and healthy. The science of Ayurveda is so heavily reliant on healthy food intake in the form of a diet that has foods that balance tastes, that it even advocates the use of herbal pills the contain all 6 tastes for the growth and development of children. Following are the six taste categories and the influence that they have on your health and fitness:
Sweet potatoes, rice and cashew nuts are some foods that fall under this category. Foods with sweet or madhura taste are known to increase secretion of bodily fluids such as semen or milk. They are essential to aid in the reductions of pitta related problems. Those who are prone to kapha problems such as chills, colds and rheumatic complaints should avoid sweet tastes as much as possible.
Foods such as lemons, spinach and cranberries fall under this category and sour foods are particularly useful in controlling vata related problems as they stimulate digestion. Unfortunately, sour foods aggravate the problems related to kapha and pitta. Too much of sour foods in your daily diets can cause muscle weakness, ulcers and liver disorders.
Mineral salts and seaweed are examples of foods that fall under this category. Salty or lavana taste is known to increase pitta and kapha. They help in detoxifying the body by flushing out the toxins. Salty foods aid in water retention but excess of them can cause premature ageing, skin problems and impotence.
Bitter gourd, chicory, globe artichokes and turmeric are some foods that fall under the bitter category. Bitter or tikta taste is associated with air and ether, both of which are essential to reduce pitta and kapha. People with vata problems must avoid such foods. These foods stimulate digestion, aid in the absorption of phlegm and cleanse the body of all the ‘fire’ toxins. These foods are great to cure fevers and skin diseases.
Horseradishes, cloves and basil are some food examples that fall under this taste category. Foods that are pungent or katu reduce pitta but increase vata and kapha. Pungent foods are warming and stimulating and hence they help against lethargy, chills and even depression. Though they also help against obesity, an excess of them can cause excessive thirst, burning sensations and nervous exhaustion.
Sage, dried strawberry leaves and bilberries fall under this taste category. Foods that are astringent or kasaya are light, drying and cold. These thus help with pitta and kapha problems but aggravate vata problems. These foods can be used to treat diarrhea or even heavy menstruation flow. Excess of astringent foods can cause over-drying in the body, which may lead to stiff joints and constipation.
Having complete meals that balance out the different tastes will indeed keep you fit and healthy. Also, if you have any particular problems, for example, those associated with pitta, you can easily cure them by increasing the quantities of food items astringent, pungent, bitter or sweet foods items in your daily diet without going excessively overboard. You will definitely see an improvement in the state of your health and you will notice a reduction in your vulnerability to problems that you had initially been quite prone to.