Why we reach for certain foods

Pungency refers to spicy foods, such as garlic, ginger, onions or chili pepper, which heat the body.

by Dr. Meghana Thanki — 

We all reach for certain foods when we feel hungry, but have you ever thought about why we choose certain foods over others? One of the reasons is taste. There are six different tastes that the tongue can distinguish — sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. These six tastes according to Ayurveda are a combination of the five elements in nature — just as the body is made of these five elements, as well.

Our bodies naturally try to seek balance through these tastes. For example, if someone is suffering from a vata disorder, such as insomnia or anxiety, they might naturally go for sweet or salty foods to balance the vata dosha. This is because the sweet taste is a combination of earth and water elements, which are grounding for air and ether predominant concerns.

Another example: When we talk of pungency, we are referring to spicy foods such as garlic, ginger, onions or chili pepper, which heat the body. Because of this property, a pitta individual would want to avoid these foods whereas a kapha person would benefit greatly.

Someone with obesity or mucous congestion would benefit from pungent foods because they are invigorating and help to flush out the tissues, whereas someone with an ulcer or any other pitta condition would be aggravated by these foods.

In this way it can be interesting to assess the diet and discover the imbalances that are created. What is most important to keep in mind is that all six tastes at each meal can be very balancing and leave one feeling very satisfied.

 

Dr. Meghana Thanki is a naturopathic doctor trained in Ayurveda and is co-creator of AyurZona — An Integrative Wellness Center in Old Town Scottsdale. www.ayurzona.com or 480-425-ZONA (9662).

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 2, April/May 2008.

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