The human body is designed to experience six tastes or flavors in food: bitter, sweet, pungent, sour, astringent and sweet. Each taste is responsible for its own action and affects different organs of the body.
The flavor of sweet, for example, isn’t only refined sugar or fruit but grains, pasta, meat, dairy, nuts, oil and more. Sweet is anything that puts bulk on the body. Interestingly this taste of sweet is the first flavor a new baby experiences as it suckles the mother’s breast and is nurtured with mother’s milk. Society as a whole cannot seem to manage their sugar intake which is an interesting correlation between our desire to feel nurtured and loved.
The taste of sour like lemons, berries, pickles, tomatoes and condiments are responsible for an increase in bile, which is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. A taste believed to have originated in our human evolution to determine if food has gone bad by its sour taste.
Sour increases the fire element in the body and is responsible for much of the hyper acidity doctors prescribe antacids for. Decrease sour flavors and the nasty side effects go away. However, sour can be useful as well like in yogurts or buttermilk.
Salty is responsible for heating the body up internally fueling the concept of a heated body which creates a heated mind. Signs of this are anger, criticism and judgmental behaviors. Salt is found in just about all processed foods as well as fish, soy sauce and of course table salt.
The taste of pungent or spicy is generally found in spices like pepper, cayenne, ginger, garlic, radishes, salsa and basil. They have antibiotic properties as well as aid in digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Aside from promoting digestion, pungent taste helps aid the ability to sweat, it clears channels and releases toxins from the body as well as acting as a natural expectorant.
Bitter is found in green and yellow vegetables, leafy greens and even bittersweet chocolate. Bitter herbs would be considered Echinacea and goldenseal and are considered light, airy and cold. Bitters are anti-inflammatory, aid in reducing fever and are detoxifying. They are generally cooling to the body but are known to be depleting if taken in excess.
Lastly, astringent, which is found in beans, peas, pomegranates, apples and aloe Vera. Astringent tastes reduce sweating. They are drying and firming to the body, stops diarrhea and helps close wounds. Astringent seems to be more of an effect than a flavor and promotes absorption of bodily fluids. It can be considered a sedative.
Karen Barbarick-Collins is a Certified Ayurvedic Technician and Wellness Coach as well as a Registered Yoga Alliance Teacher. She is the founder of Bending Blade Healing Arts.