In the last part, we looked at how Ayurveda makes it easy and intuitive for us to eat healthily without losing our mind. According to this ancient science, the way to eat healthily is to ensure a personalized balance of all six Rasas or tastes in each meal. We will look at three more tastes and their effects on our body and mind.
Katu ( Pungent)
Some examples of pungent foods are black pepper, bell peppers, garlic, and ginger. Pungent foods work best when they are consumed in the second half of the meal after making your way through Sweet, Sour and Salty tastes.
These foods add a dash of tanginess to our meals. They stimulate appetite, improve digestion and absorption of food. They also help in proper elimination. They help clear congestion and remove phlegm from the body. This makes them great to reduce Kapha based problems like cold, poor digestion, chest congestion, and overall sluggishness.
When had in excess, they can increase thirst, reduce virility and cause general weakness. In extreme cases, they can even lead to loss of consciousness. So, while they taste great and add chatpata to our food, it's good to go light on these foods.
On the psychological level, the pungent taste enhances courage and fearlessness. It also improves initiative-taking ability. In excess, however, it can lead to feelings of hatred and violence. So, it's a good idea to stay away from these foods during hot-headed moments.
The pungent taste enhances both Pitta and Vata Doshas. It reduces Kapha dosha. If you are a Pitta body type, it's a good idea to moderate these foods even though you may have a natural taste for them.
Bitter foods are not exactly on top of our list of favorite tastes. However, they are fantastic for wellbeing. Typical Tikta foods include turmeric, neem leaves, and coffee. Pure dark chocolate is Madhura, Amla and Lavana Rasas.
Tikta foods are deeply cleansing and help in detoxifying the whole body. They are also great for rekindling appetite and improving overall digestion. Tikta foods have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
When consumed in excess, it can lead to bone loss and reduced sperm production. These foods can deplete strength from all tissues, weaken kidneys and even result in unconsciousness.
On the psychological level, bitter foods can help in giving clarity to thought. However, an excess can lead to anxiety, giddiness or a feeling of being very spaced out. You would have experienced some of these symptoms when you have had one coffee too many in a row.
ThisRasa increases Vata but reduces Pitta and Kapha Doshas. So if your body type has Vata, minimizing bitter foods is a good idea.
Common Kashaya foods include Okra, Pomegranate, Apples, Bananas, raw carrots, Turmeric, Cranberries, etc. Foods with Kashaya Rasa should be eaten in the second half of the meal after Madhura, Amla and Lavana Rasas.
Foods with Kashaya Rasa have anti-inflammatory properties absorbing excess moisture and inhibiting bleeding. They reduce diarrhea and help heal joints. These are drying foods and can be used to prevent coughs.
When eaten in excess, it can cause constipation, bloating, dryness of mouth and in extreme cases even spasms.
Psychologically, the astringent taste helps us become more reflective and turn inward. However, in excess, it leads to introversion.
This taste reduces both Pitta and Kapha doshas and increases Vata. Those with Vata body types can consider moderating astringent foods.
Personalize your Diet
Ayurveda does not impose a singular diet for everyone. Rather, it helps us personalize our diet to suit our own bodies.
A good thumb rule for Vata body types is to focus more on Sweet, Salty and Sour tastes. It's best to light on astringent, bitter and pungent tastes.
If you are a Pitta body type have more Sweet, Bitter and Astringent foods. Go light on sour and salty foods and minimize pungent foods.
If you are a Kapha type, pungent, bitter and astringent tastes go well with your body type. Try reducing sweet, salty and sour foods.
Foods that heat and cool
Sometimes, our digestion is sluggish and we may feel dull and lethargic. This means that our bodies are too cool. Similarly, we have all had times when our eyes burn or we have heartburn. Psychologically we may feel angry and irritable. These are indicators that there is excess heat in our bodies. To balance these, Ayurveda classifies food into heating and cooling foods. When our bodies are too cold, heating foods can help us improve metabolic rate, enhance digestion and make us feel sharp and active. Similarly, when our bodies suffer from excess heat, cooling foods can help us feel nourished and relaxed.
Identifying heating and cooling foods is quite simple. The first three Rasas namely Madhura, Katu, and Kashaya are cooling by nature. The other three Amla, Lavana and Titkta are heating foods.
In Times of Trouble
When you have minor health imbalances due to excess of Vata, Pitta or Kapha, it would be a great idea to balance your food according to the diet for Vata, Pitta or Kapha types respectively for a short duration. This will help your body bounce back faster and return to its normal, balanced state. Ayurveda makes it as easy as that.
These are simple, time tested principles that guarantee wellbeing. As with most good things, it takes a little bit of experimentation to tweak and find the right balance for your unique body. While doing all this it's important to have fun and enjoy your meal! A balance of all six tastes makes a meal delightfully tasty. And relishing a meal joyously is one of the best ways to ensure that food digests well and integrates with the body.