The six tastes of food and how they affect the Doshas

The six tastes or Rasas that are distinguished in the Ayurvedic diet are Sweet, Salty, Sour, Pungent, Astringent and Bitter. These tastes originate from the five elements and transmit their properties. For a balanced diet Ayurveda recommends getting all of these flavors with every meal and adjust the amounts of each to your personal constitution.

The six tastes of food

  1. Sweet: The sweet taste is found in foods such as sweet potatoes, table sugar, peaches, honey, rice, melons, pasta, milk, carrots, beets, cream, butter, wheat and bread. The sweet taste increases kapha, but decreases pitta and vata.
  2. Sour: The sour taste is found in foods such as green grapes, lemons, limes, pickles, vinegar, yogurt, miso, cheese, and plums. The sour taste increases kapha and pitta, but decreases vata.
  3. Salty: The salty taste is found in any food to which salt has been added also kelp and seaweed. The salty taste increases kapha and pitta, but decreases vata.
  4. Pungent: The pungent taste is found in foods such as radish, chili peppers, black pepper, cayenne, ginger, and other hot-tasting spices.  The pungent taste decreases kapha, but increases pitta and vata
  5. Bitter: The bitter taste is found in foods such as rhubarb, bitter melon, romaine lettuce, endive, chicory, spinach, chard, kale, turmeric root and tonic water. The bitter taste decreases both kapha and pitta, but increases vata.
  6. Astringent: The astringent taste is found in foods such as parsley, cranberries, beans, lentils, pomegranate, cabbage, apples and pears. The astringent taste decreases kapha and pitta, but increases vata.

As with most things in Ayurveda, the combination of tastes that’s right for you depends a lot on, well… you—your constitution, your imbalances, your age, your environment. In other words, while each of the tastes is necessary for all of us, the specifics are determined by the context of each individual, and may change over time. A balanced diet will include an appropriate quantity of each of the six tastes, according to one’s constitution (prakriti), imbalances (vikriti), and season.