Ayurveda and the six tastes

Ayurveda is based on the ancient Vedic understanding of the laws of nature.

by Ambaya Pilar Martin — 

Ayurveda, translated as the science of life, is an ancient science that can easily be adapted to modern life for the purpose of maintaining optimal health.

Ayurveda is based on the ancient Vedic understanding of the laws of nature. Our alignment to these basic laws, as well as our understanding of the qualities of the elements which make up the material world, allow us to keep our unique physical, mental and emotional bodies intact and free of disease. In other words, it offers us the possibility of being at ease with our own nature.

Ayurveda asserts that everything in nature, including ourselves, is made up of five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. What makes each individual different is the ratio of these elements with which we are born. To the extent that we keep our original elemental make-up (called prakruti) intact, we will experience optimal health.

Since everything in nature is made up of these elements, when we ingest them through our food, lifestyle and experiences, we digest and express their inherent elemental qualities. For example, if we eat hot spicy foods, we get hot. If we eat an excess of hot foods, we may experience detrimental effects due to excess heat (Pitta) in our bodies, such as ulcers, acne or quick temper.

Doshas consist of combined elements that cause specific effects. The different doshas, or metabolic body types, are:

Vata — a force that has a light, cold, dry, rough dispersing qualitative effect because it is made up of the elements of ether and air.

Pitta — a force that has a heating, oily, sharp, penetrating qualitative effect because it is made up of fire and water.

Kapha — a force that has a heavy, cold, dense, static, soft, wet qualitative effect because it is made up of water and earth.

The six tastes

According to Ayurveda, keeping a strong digestive fire is key to health. By ingesting all six tastes in every meal, we keep our digestive fire healthy.

Any time we ingest different tastes, they feed us different qualities, which produce different physical and emotional results. We should favor tastes that keep our constitutions in balance and decrease those in excess.

Sweet — (water and earth) Grains, dairy, sweet fruits and vegetables provide a nurturing, building and loving effect, with warm cool action.

Salty — (water and fire) Salt, seafood, soy sauce, etc., stimulate appetite, retain fluids, induce heating action and allow for enjoyment of the senses.

Sour — (earth and fire) Citrus fruits, vinegar, fermented and pickled foods gently aid digestion, promote curiosity and engender a warm heating action.

Pungent — (fire and air) Hot and spicy food aid digestion by cutting through mass, while inducing a passionate effect with strong heating action.

Bitter — (air and ether) Green and yellow vegetables reduce bulk and detoxify. They provide a discipline effect, with cooling energy.

Astringent — (earth and air) Beans, legumes, teas and unripened fruits promote wittiness and compact by absorbing liquids.

In time, if you favor foods that carry the elements your body needs and reduce those that may be in excess, you will find yourself energetic, focused, happy and relaxed.

Discover the joys and benefits of eating in alignment with nature, have fun and keep track of your results.


Ambaya Pilar Martin has a master’s degree in education and received her Ayurveda certification from The Ayurvedic Institute, The Chopra Center and Dr. Mishra’s Prana Centre. She integrates the science of Holodynamics into her teaching and healing practices. ambaya@vedicmagic.com or  928-282-1756.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 2, April/May 2006.

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