Ayurveda Day 51: Nutrition pt. 2 – What’s on your plate?

Yesterday we spoke of mouth taste (Rasa) vs the long term action of a substance (Vipaka). Today we are going to delve deeper into this relationship, and ultimately what a plate of food on your table should look like!

The taste of food, or Rasa, comes in 6 flavours:

– Sweet
– Sour
– Salty
– Pungent
– Bitter
– Astringent

This is also the order our body works to break down the flavours as they move from our mouth and ultimately out the body via elimination.

When we eat food, regardless of which Dosha you are or which is imbalanced, it is important to note:

Everyone needs all 6 flavours.

Everyone. However, the amount we each have will vary based on our constitution and our current doshic imbalances.

Those tastes all can be felt in the mouth, however, the long term effects (Vipaka) of each substance have a specific effect on the body:

– Sweet tastes should not be confused with sugars. These are the carbs, proteins, and fats we ingest. They build the tissues of our body.
– Sour tastes (like fresh unsweetened yogurt) increase the probiotic population.
– Salty tastes maintain the sodium levels essential for the nervous system and fluid movements through all cells.
– Pungent tastes (onions, garlic, peppers, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, etc.) stoke our metabolism and begin the end of the digestive process. Most pungents are highly alkalizing.
– Bitter tastes clear the impurities from our digestive system (greens, peels of vegetables, cacao nibs). They are high in vitamins and minerals though provide little substance (tissue building) to the body.
– Astringents are digested last (legumes, unripe fruits, cranberries, pomegranate,, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes) and are drying to the body. If you’ve ever licked a banana peel and felt your tongue get immediately dry, that is the effect these foods have on your system. They are extremely drying, typically high in fibre, and draw fluids and impurities away from the digestive system.

As your body eats food it automatically sorts out all these components in order. We don’t have to worry about eating a meal with sweet first, then sour, then salty…however, as you can see, we all need all six of these in our meals.

If we eat a plate of food that contains all 6 tastes in correct proportion (based on our doshas), the body will be able to get everything it needs. Think of the alternative now: You snack throughout the day, eating a bowl of chips only getting salty and astringents flavours. Then you eat a meal of salad, getting bitters. The body can’t find everything it needs, and has to send your reserves, your ojas, to help counteract the effects.

Eating improperly depletes your ojas over time.

Sitting down for a well prepared, fresh, organic, balanced meal based on your doshas is so vital. It’s easy to become neurotic thinking about all this and stress out.

“Do I have to make a different meal for every member of my family for EVERY meal???!! What are you, nuts???”

No, you don’t have to do that. Even in India they don’t do that. All you have to do is know what doshas the people eating are trying to balance, and prepare a meal. The same meal, but a healthy one that utilizes all the tastes. Then, each taste will have a different proportion on the plate:

In short, sweet, then sour, and then salty are great for Vata.
Bitter, then sweet and astringent are great for Pitta.
Pungent, then bitter and astringent are great for Kapha.

But again everyone needs all six! It’s just about knowing portion sizes.

Nutrition is a complicated subject. Crafting a diet for someone is something only a CAS can do for you. But hopefully this gives you an idea of how food affects your body!

With gratitude,

S

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