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The 6 Tastes & Their Impact on Digestion
According to Ayurvedic medicine there are 6 tastes present in food. We taste each of the tastes in different places on our tongue (cool, huh?) and each of the tastes has a different action on our organs and digestive system. To maintain balance in our body with our digestion we want to be careful not to overdo any one taste in our diet. You can also use information on how the tastes impact digestion to determine which tastes to favor and minimize, given your own current state of health.
According to Ayurvedic theory, for a diet to be easy on our digestion the meal will contain all 6 tastes in varying amounts depending on what your body needs. Curious to learn more?
Here’s an overview of the six tastes and their impact on digestion:
No, this doesn’t refer to cakes and candies (although that would be fun!) but rather foods that are naturally sweet like carbs, fats and proteins. The sweet taste helps build strong tissues, is grounding and nourishing. So what does this mean? If you’re experiencing extremely dry skin, constipation or feelings of ungroundedness and anxiety you may be lacking (natural) sweet taste in your diet. This taste is especially beneficial for many during the cold winter months. On the flipside, the sweet taste can cause weight gain and lethargy, so if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms you may want to cut back on this taste.
Foods with sweet taste: sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, wheat, rice, dairy, almonds, coconut, salmon, basmati rice.
Think about the last time you bit into a plain lemon or lime, your face probably puckered and then your mouth filled up with saliva. That’s the effect that the sour taste has on our digestion. The sour taste increases secretions of digestive enzymes in our digestive tract which is a crucial step in digesting our foods. It also stimulates the taste buds and increases salivary secretions in the mouth, increasing appetite. While we need some sour in our meals it’s important to not overdo this taste. Excess sour taste can heat up and aggravate the digestive system leading to symptoms of discomfort such as heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux. When deciding how much sour taste is effective, think about a slice of lemon squeezed over a piece of fish or salad, that’s usually perfect!
Foods with sour taste: citrus fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruits, all vinegars, cheese and alcohol.
Imagine a meal without salt? Blah! Salt adds flavor to our foods and places an important role in our digestion and hydration. Salty taste helps keep us hydrated because without the minerals in salt our body wouldn’t be able to hold onto hydration. Too much salt can cause water retention, so again it’s important that we only consume an appropriate amount. Since salt promotes hydration and water retention it can help with constipation, since dehydration can be a root cause. We recommend avoiding refined table salt and sticking with less processed versions such as himalyan sea salt, celtic salt or black salt.
Foods with salty taste: salt (obviously), seaweed, anchovies, stinging nettles.
This is the taste that makes foods spicy! Pungent foods wake up your body and mind. They stimulate circulation, which can increase sluggish digestion, improve appetite and even clear your sinuses. Foods with the pungent taste actually irritate the digestive tract which is what causes things to get….moving. This can be helpful in cases of constipation, but as with all the tastes you don’t want to overdo it and create irritation and inflammation. The pungent taste can be particularly helpful for digestion and immunity during the cold winter months when we all need a little extra heat in our body to keep circulation up. It’s best to keep the pungent taste minimal in hotter months when our body is already overheated from the weather.
Foods with pungent taste: black pepper, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, red onion, horseradish, daikon radish, tomato, red bell pepper.
Bitter taste is often missing from the Standard American Diet but it’s a crucial one for our bodies’ detoxification processes. Bitter taste stimulates peristalsis (movement) in the digestive tract which helps to increase elimination as well as the release of bile from the liver and gall bladder, both of which have a detoxifying action on the body. Bitter is also considered to be cooling and drying which is why bitters such as arugula, endives and dandelion are abundant in the hot summer months.
Foods with bitter taste: matcha green tea, endives, dandelion greens, arugula, broccoli, celery olive oil, spirulina.
The astringent taste has a drying action on the body. Think about the way a fresh cranberry makes your face pucker, that’s an effect of the astringency. The drying effect of the astringent taste travels from the mouth all the way to the digestive tract. This effect can be healing if you’re dealing with diarrhea or inflammation in the GIT but can be aggravating for those who tend towards constipation. The wet, muddy spring weather is a great time to favor astringent foods in your diet.
Foods with astringent taste: all beans, walnuts, amaranth, aloe vera, cranberries, plantains, bean sprouts.