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The Six Ayurvedic Tastes
Instead of looking at the individual
components of foods—ie: carbohydrates,
protein, fats, and calories—as Western-based
nutrition does, Ayurveda identifies six “tastes”
of foods: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and
astringent. Each taste has specific effects on
the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). By
including all six tastes in each meal we satisfy
our nutritional and dietary needs without the
need to count calories or consult a manual.
The Sweet Taste :: earth + water
…is heavy, moist, and cool. This increases
Kapha and decreases Vata and Pitta. Examples
are nuts, grains, oils, and most dairy.
The Sour Taste :: fire + earth
…is heavy, moist, and hot. This increases
Pitta and Kapha and decreases Vata. Examples
are pickles and fermented foods such as yogurt.
The Salty Taste :: fire + water
…is heavy, moist, and hot. This increases
Pitta and Kapha and decreases Vata. Examples
are sea salt, sea vegetables and seafood.
The Pungent Taste :: fire + air
…is light, dry, and hot. This increases Pitta
and Vata and decreases Kapha. Examples are
chili peppers, ginger, and black pepper.
The Astringent Taste :: earth + air
…is dry and cool. This increases Vata and
decreases Pitta and Kapha. Examples are most
beans, cranberries, and pomegranates.
The Bitter Taste :: air + ether
…is light, dry, and cool. This increases Vata
and decreases Pitta and Kapha. Examples are
leafy greens and herbs such as goldenseal.
Svoboda Johnson
Ayurvedic Health Practitioner
[email protected]
a holistic wellness practice
steeped in the timeless traditions
of Ayurveda
The Sattvic Food Program
• Eat your main meal of the day between
noon and 1pm
• Eat only light foods after sunset
• Follow the Recommended Guidelines
for Proper Food Combining and the
Guidelines for Healthy Eating
Food Sadhana
Eating food is a very sacred thing. We are not typically
aware of this: we feel hunger or we see something that
looks like it might be yummy, and we eat. Vaguely, the
body’s digestive system takes care of what we feed it, and
after our momentary taste-bud-centered pleasure we
move onto the next thing in life. Eating—and the habits
around food consumption—are typically of minimal
concern to us except when we notice digestive upsets.
When food is mindfully and intentionally consumed,
the atoms and molecules that comprise food are able to
join with a person’s body in a healthy and productive
way. When food is not consumed with respect, even
wholesome food is difficult to digest and absorb,
becomes toxic, and produces ama. The body will extract
more prana (life energy) and produce less ama (toxins)
from mindfully consuming low quality food than from
unmindfully consuming high quality food. Of course,
it is best to properly eat healthy, homemade food, but if
that is not possible it is better to properly take in poor
quality food than to unmindfully take in healthy, home
made food.
This seems counter-intuitive. After all, we all know
that McDonald’s does not make “healthy” food. We saw
that clearly in the film “Super Size Me.” How can it be
better to eat that food—even if we do it mindfully—
than to unmindfully eat wholesome, organic food
prepared with love?
Ayurveda understands that taking in food is about
much more than taking in calories, carbohydrates,
proteins, and fats. Rather than “You are what you eat,”
Ayurveda holds that “You are what you digest and
absorb.” That is, you are what your digestive system is
capable of breaking down into basic constituents and then
making easy and effective use of those constituents to build
and maintain healthy the tissues of the body. If either poor
quality food is eaten or good quality food is unmindfully
taken in, the digestive system and liver stand no chance to
make productive use of the food’s atoms and molecules and
thus to sustain us in full health and wellness. While we may
have just taken in a sizeable meal and felt full in our gut, we
still feel hungry because nutritional needs have not been met.
Sadhana is the process of making an action sacred.
Food sadhana is the action of making the consumption of
food sacred, of eating mindfully. This means following the
Ayurvedic recommendations regarding the proper combining
of foods as well as the Ayurvedic guidelines for healthy eating
routines. These assure that we are able to digest and absorb
the foods that we take in and that the foods that we take in
can be optimally utilized by the body to build and maintain
healthy tissues.
Food Sadhana means eating with an awareness of which
foods are doshically appropriate for a given individual,
preparing those foods in a doshically-appropriate way, using
doshically-appropriate digestive herbs and spices, and creating
a calm environment in which to eat that will facilitate easeful
digestion and absorption of those foods.
This is a different approach to food than we are used to. We
in the West think of food simply as “fuel” and hunger as an
inconvenient interruption to the flow of tasks. Ayurveda asks
us to reconsider our relationship with food; in fact, Ayurveda
asks us to have a relationship with our food.
The following Sattvic Food List contains foods that are
relatively easy for the digestive system to digest and absorb.
By mindfully and properly preparing these foods—and by
mindfully eating them—we can turn the corner from seeing
food simply as fuel and understanding that food is much more
than that. Our health and wellness are worth the effort.
Sattvic Food List
Nuts and Seeds
fresh or slightly roasted almonds, pine nuts, and walnuts
{Do not eat large quantities. Nuts and seeds should be fresh.}
basmati rice, oats, rice, wheat
{Eat whole or as a bread. Eat more in the winter for
honey, jaggery, raw sugar in small quantities only
ghee, olive oil
raw milk, raw-milk cheese, small amounts of freshly
made yogurt
{Just about all fruit is all right. Consume smaller
quantities of the heavier fruits such as bananas and
{Most vegetables are all right. Eat smaller quantities
of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage family plants,
cauliflower, and mustard, as they are gas-forming, and
smaller amounts of potatoes and sweet potatoes as
they are heavy. Avoid mushrooms. Vegetables may be
fresh or steamed.}
pure spring water, raw milk, sattvic herb teas
such as chamomile and mint, sattvic vegetable juices
aduki beans, mung beans, tofu­
cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, ginger,
{Use in larger quantities as they help balance the
dampness of the high fruit and dairy diet. Avoid garlic
and raw onion. Also avoid Cayenne pepper and all
other very pungent spices.}
aloe gel, ashwagandha, astragalus, bhringaraj, calamus,
comfrey, ginseng, gotu kola, jatamamsi,
lotus, mint, rose, saffron, sage, shatavari, skullcap,
triphala; also chavanprash and Brahma jelly
Essential Oils
camphor, frankincense, lotus, rose, saffron,