According to Ayurveda there are 6 tastes. These 6 tastes are defined by their relationship with 5 elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
Certain elements dominate each taste; for example, Earth and Water dominate the sweet taste. Saccharides generally produce a sweet taste and these are composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Through the medium of water the taste buds on the tongue and odour receptors in our noses perceive these elemental combinations and therefore, recognise the sweet taste.
The 6 Taste classification is based on tastes that directly interact with the tongue and tastes that interact with the sensory system to interpret a taste.
The primary reason for including pungent and astringent as tastes in Ayurveda is that they are broadly perceived in many key foods and play an important role in the digestive system. The astringent taste is mainly pronounced through tannins, the dry puckering feeling you get in your mouth, when you eat an unripe banana or drink red wine.
The pungent taste is promoted through stimulatory components such as capsaicin in chilli, this gives a feeling of heat and is important in boosting the digestive system.
The constituents within foods that give life to the different tastes all play essential roles in not just making food tasty but also in nourishing our bodies and preventing disease so that we can get on and enjoy life.
Quick Guide to the Essential Role of Each Taste
Taste is generally subjective and depends on your past memories and experiences of food. As a general of thumb try to:
- Become more aware of the individual tastes of foods.
- As you would try to incorporate a range of natural food colours for a range of vitamins and minerals, try to incorporate a range of tastes into your diet (my next post will cover lunch recipes with a range of tastes that can be cooked quickly).
- Analyse your diet and understand which tastes are lacking and become more mindful of how you could incorporate other tastes.
- Appreciate that there is an alchemy that goes on when you combine tastes and they all work synergistically in the body to nourish, heal and protect you.
- Bingeing on one taste and exclude the others you can cause damage to the body instead of benefit.