(Last Updated on : 04/06/2013)
states that prakriti is the aggregate of shape, size, complexion, weight, energy levels, emotional reactions and health system. Type of diet and food-habits definitely decides the pattern of the Prakriti or the distinct essential constitution in every man. Hence, Ayurveda treats diet as not only food, but also the source of taste, smell and satisfaction.
According to ayurveda the tastes of food certainly affect the digestive and metabolic processes (Vipaka) of an individual. Digestion of heavy tastes needs more energy generation. While lighter tastes can be easily assimilated. According to Ayurveda, each of the food items contains a particular taste that is correlated to its digestive action. The different tastes have a connection with the balance of elements like fire, air, water, earth etc. This taste is not a mere coincidence but it is a direct manifestation of biochemical traits of the food and therefore also reveals its pharmaceutical properties. There are six types of tastes: Madhura Rasa
or the sweet taste, Amla Rasa or the sour taste, Lavaana Rasa or the salty taste , Katu Rasa or the pungent taste, Tikta Rasa or the bitter taste, Kashaava Rasa or the astringent Taste.
Madhura Rasa, Sweet Taste
The sweet taste consists primarily of water element and secondarily earth element. The foods with sweet taste help to build body tissue. The taste has a stabilizing, tonifying and calming effect. Sweets contribute in mucus formation, congestion and coughs. Sweets can be soothing where there is problem with fire elements. Madhura Taste or Sweet Taste is the mass` favourite. Consumption of sweets result in weight-accumulation, feeling of coldness and energetic exuberance. It facilitates purgation (bowel-clearance), neurological relaxation and diuretic therapy. Still, if lumps of sugar-based food are taken, obesity, diabetes, emotional immaturity, laziness etc. can bother a sugaraholic.
Amla Rasa, Sour Taste
The sour taste is hot in nature and elevates predominantly the fire elements and secondarily the earth elements. The sour taste enhances salivation, thereby promoting digestion. Amla Rasa or sour taste adds taste to food. It increases appetite. It remarkably lessens anorexia or lack of appetite. It gives relief by releasing gas from the system. It serves as an anti-coagulant also. However excess of sour taste can aggravate thirst and cause a burning sensation in the throat region. Too much of sour food invites diseases like anemia, hemorrhage, vertigo and myopic vision. Nevertheless, sour taste endows one with the mental-power of good intellect and sharp wit. Sour taste is found in fruits, fermented food or organic acid.
Lavaana Rasa, Salty Taste
According to Ayurveda salt has many beneficial effects. It elevates all types of element except the air element. Salts mainly assist in digestion and circulation. Salt enhances the fluid content of the body by increasing saliva and diluting the phlegm. Salty foods help to open up blocked channels. Lavaana or Salt Taste renders food as tasty. It stimulates the flow of gastric juices. Abundant salt -usage negatively precipitates premature aging, hair loss, heaviness, gastric disorders. Ayurveda considers it responsible for nurturing deep uncontrollable desires.
Katu Rasa, Pungent Taste
Pungent taste is present mainly in spices and herbs. These types of foods are light, hot and dry. Earth type of element is associated with the pungent food. Pungent foods also elevate air types and fire types of elements. Hot spices have many beneficial effects, which come from the pungent taste of the food. The burning sensation of pungent tastes makes one thirsty. It activates the bodily fluids like saliva, sweat, tears, mucus and blood. This inevitably accelerates digestion. Congested tissue fibres are detangled. Plenty of spice leaves one with swollen lips, burning skin, and frantic thirst.
Tikta Rasa , Bitter Taste
Bitter taste is the enhancer for the fire elements and reduces the excess of other elements. Bitter foods reduce fat, flesh and marrow and thereby have a slimming effect. These types of foods have a detoxifying property. It removes poison from blood and other body fluid. Bitter substances are also beneficial in skin problems or wounds. Tikta or Bitter Rasa reduces anorexia .It effectively elevates the digestive speed. Thus bitter dishes precede the intake of meal in many regions of India .It flushes out the toxins or "ama" from the body. Tikta cures itchy, eruptive skin problems. But bitterness in diet should be in proportion. Else it might lead to weight-loss, dry skin or headaches.
Kashaava Rasa, Astringent Taste
Astringent tastes are caused due to presence of tannin. The foods cause dryness. Such foods act on air and have slightly anabolic effect. Astringent foods have haemostatic and vulnerary properties. Kashaaya Rasa or Astringent taste acts as a perfect cooling agent. It stops the secretion of sweat and tears. The light taste induces fantastic sleep. It assists in granulation and absorption. But the awkward feeling of tastelessness and stiffness are its drawbacks. It subdues anxiety and stress. However one should carefully avoid excessively astringent diet .It will trouble one with constipation and internal dryness.
Ayurvedic dietary prescription calls for a proper proportion of every taste in food-preparations for getting a healthy diet.