Once we understand our primary constitution (dosha) or the area where we most often get imbalanced, we can start tailoring our food choices according to some basic Ayurveda principles: the six tastes and the dosha qualities.
The Six Tastes
Ayurveda holds that there are six primary tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent. Examples of the sweet taste include such foods as rice, whole grains, milk, some root vegetables, sweet fruits, and sugars. Sour is found in foods such as citrus, fermented foods, and alcohol. Salty is anything that is naturally salty/briny. Pungent is found in spicy, "hot" foods. Bitter includes foods like green, leafy vegetables, coffee, and black tea. Astringent is found in foods like asparagus, pomegranates, some beans, and cranberries. Each dosha has tastes that aggravate and tastes that balance. More on that in a minute!
Basic Dosha Qualities
Each dosha also has some basic qualities (gunas) that give us clues as to optimal food choices we can make. The general qualities of Vata are: cold, dry, light, mobile, subtle, rough. The general qualities of Pitta are: hot, sharp, slightly oily, mobile, smooth. The general qualities of Kapha are: cold, wet, heavy, static, dense, dull. Knowing the qualities of each dosha can help us choose wisely when we are out of balance.
Two, Key Ayurvedic Axioms
So what do we do with this information about tastes and qualities? We apply the two, key Ayurvedic axioms: 1. Like increases like, and 2. Opposites balance. Once we understand the tastes that aggravate a dosha, we can focus on eating the opposite tastes in order to balance. Likewise, once we know the qualities of a particular dosha, we can work to bring in more of the opposite qualities, again for balance. If we choose food with like tastes and qualities, we can further the imbalance (like increases like). Here's the breakdown by dosha:
Aggravating Tastes: pungent, bitter, astringent
Balancing Tastes: sweet, sour, salty
General Qualities: cold, dry, light mobile, subtle, rough
Balancing Qualities: warm, wet/oily, heavy, stable, dense, smooth
Aggravating Tastes: sour, salty, pungent
Balancing Tastes: sweet, bitter, astringent
General Qualities: hot, sharp, slightly oily, mobile, smooth
Balancing Qualities: cool, dull, dry, stable rough
Aggravating Tastes: sweet, sour, salty
Balancing Tastes: pungent, bitter, astringent
General Qualities: cold, wet, heavy, static, dense, dull
Balancing Qualities: warm, dry, light, mobile, rough, sharp
Bringing It All Together
Knowing which foods contain what tastes and seeing food in terms of its qualities can go a long way in helping us to know what food choices will nurture or aggravate our natural constitution or imbalance. Start today by taking some small steps toward increasing opposite tastes and qualities in your food choices! And let me know if you have any questions: email@example.com
**If you don't know your particular dosha(s) yet, take this quick test for a basic introduction or contact me for a full assessment.