There are a lot of vitamins and nutrients we have to get in our daily diet to maintain optimal health and wellness. With today’s standard diets of more nutritionally void food than nutritionally whole foods, it can seem like a daunting task. After all, we’re not taught nutrition much (if at all) in grade school, and very few of us explore the topic on our own.
To help close the gap, we have things such as “My plate” which replaced the outdated and poorly demonstrated “food pyramid” in 2011, as well as slogans like “eat the rainbow” to help us move towards a more whole, balanced diet.
Ayurveda, a sister science of yoga and ancient practice from India, has its own system to help us more easily and intuitively meet all of our dietary needs without the stress of counting vitamins. Its concept is simple: there are 6 tastes, and if we eat each one daily, we’ve met all of our nutritional needs.
This one is probably going to be the easiest for everyone. And no, we don’t mean grab a candy bar or cake. All Ayurvedic food practices are centered around whole foods. When looking for something sweet, fruits are the obvious choice.
It also includes, however:
- Sweet vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes
- Grains such as corn, rice and/or wheat
- Legumes like garbanzo beans (chickpeas), navy beans, mung beans
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, coconut
- Spices like basil, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg
These are generally your more acidic foods. They tend to be higher in vitamin C, rejuvenating, and metabolism increasing.
- Pickled foods
- Fermented foods
- Sour cream
- Dough breads
Salty is also a fairly easy one to acquire. Salty foods are easy to identify, support digestion, absorption of nutrition, and other bodily functions. This taste almost completely comes from salt itself, so adding a little to your food is okay. Just don’t go overboard. In fact, most of our foods these days are so overwhelmed with salt you’re probably good without even trying on this one.
Pungent is where we start getting into the less easily identifiable by those of us who haven’t studied food characteristics. Most of us will identify this taste as “spicy.” We find it in garlic, onions, peppers, ginger, and all of the “hot” spices that we love for cooking and flavoring our foods.
These foods are stimulating, cleansing, and clarifying. They “ignite the digestive fires,” clear excess moisture, and open up internal channels like blood vessels and pores.
Bitter only sounds less fun than it is. You’re probably already enjoying more bitter foods than you think, such as coffee, turmeric, and leafy greens. Other bitter foods include dandelions (I really want this plant to make a comeback in common diets), eggplant, burdock root, cumin, dill, and fenugreek.
These foods alleviate thirst, help the body release fat, stimulate healthy appetites and cleanse the blood and liver. They are also great for the skin, muscles, and gastrointestinal tract.
The astringent taste is our last one. It can be identified by its ability to make the mucus membranes in the mouth contract, leaving an almost immediate feeling of dryness. It may sound off-putting but allow me to present a list of astringent foods you’re most likely already enjoying. It encompasses things such as:
- Brussel sprouts
- Most raw vegetables
- Most beans
- Green bananas
Keeping these 6 tastes in mind when you’re formulating your meals throughout the day can help you to ensure you’re staying balanced and getting all of the vitamins, nutrition and fiber you need in your diet! It’s just another method that will hopefully feel intuitive and easy in helping you in your daily food ventures.