Urge to have tasty food is a natural feeling. Tuning in our brains to accept healthy mix of food tastes through a simple and practical approach can ensure a nutritional variety. Ayurveda broadly classifies food tastes into six categories: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Our meals will provide a wide assortment of health promoting nutrients if food corresponding to all six tastes is sampled through the day. In every category of taste, there are foods that are highly nutritious and others that should be eaten sparingly.


Sweet is the taste of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These are derived from everyday foods like grains, rotis, rice, nuts, most fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy, oils and all animal products. These form majority of what we consume in a day and increase the body bulk.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, cereals and nuts are better choices among these. These also add dietary fiber in addition to supplying energy needs. If not a vegetarian, reducing intake of red meats is healthy. Highly refined sugar and wheat are better minimized, if can’t be dropped entirely. Low fat dairy products and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils are better than hydrogenated oils, to minimize cholesterol levels.


Mildly acidic food tastes sour. Oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, tomatoes are nutritious sources of sour food rather than pickled foods, alcohol, vinegar or citric acid based preparations. Low fat yoghurt and buttermilk aid in digestion. Aged, sour cheeses should be used sparingly as they are high in cholesterol and difficult to digest.


Salt is the flavour of ion-producing minerals and sodium carbonate is the main salt we all use in our daily diets. Naturally occurring salt that is derived from mines has more minerals than the one sourced from salty water. Either way, judicious usage of low dose of salt adds flavour and stimulates digestion and too much consumption can result in high blood pressure and fluid retention. Preserved food, fish and meat carry salt and these have to be discounted while cooking.


‘Hot’ is commonly used to describe the pungent flavour. The spiciness in chillies, pepper, ginger and other pungent sources comes from essential oils that interact with chemical receptors of our tongue. Most pungent foods contain natural antioxidants and infection fighting chemicals. Their anti spoiling properties have made pungent spices popular since ages and even attracted many explorers to spice lands. Pungent flavours stimulate digestion and help mobilize stagnant secretions. Recent studies have suggested that components of onion and garlic may help lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Horseradish, mustard, cloves, cinnamon, mint, cumin and many other spices are considered pungent. Adding spice to life serves the palate as well as health.


Most green and yellow vegetables are bitter, with bitter guard topping the list. So also some green leafy vegetables like kale and endive. Bitterness comes from natural plant chemical called phyto-chemicals. These have detoxifying, disease-preventing and healing chemicals that improve our chances of living healthy and long. Cauliflower and broccoli are rich in phyto-chemicals known as isothiocynates, which help fight cancer and heart disease. Capsicum, cabbage and asparagus are rich in falvonoids that help resist genetic injury, fight infections and may also even reduce risk of memory loss. Bitter foods are also known to counter excesses of sweet. So eat your vegetables-they are good for you in many ways.


The sixth taste is more of an effect than an actual flavour. Astringent foods have a drying, compacting, and puckering influence on your body. Beans, pulses and peas fall under this category and provide excellent sources of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber to the diet. Some fruits like tart apples, pomegranates are astringent. Green tea is also astringent and is a rich source of natural cancer-preventing chemicals. Astringent foods are an essential component of diets that promote renewal.

Ensure that all six tastes are available at every meal. Keeping these simple, basic thoughts in mind and considering healthy food as tasty food will help in leading a healthy lifestyle.


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