<< Beyond enjoying seasonal fruits and vegetables,
we may ask what else we can do to find more
balance and optimize our health in this season
of indulgence. While Ayurveda teaches us to eat
seasonally and to choose foods that balance our
constitution, it also recommends ensuring that we
include foods from all of the six tastes in our diet.
WHAT ARE THESE SIX TASTES?
How do they inform our meal planning, preparation and consumption, especially during this time
of traditional holiday meals?
Sweet - Sweet tastes are found in naturally occurring sugars like fruits and honey, but also in
whole grains, long-storing vegetables (like beets,
winter squash, potatoes, and other tubers), unfermented dairy products (from humanely and
healthfully raised animals), and oils from nuts
and seeds. Sweet tastes promote a sense of calm,
contentment, and love, so it’s no wonder we indulge during the cold winter months. In excess,
overindulging in the sweet taste can contribute to
weight gain and stagnation like the couch-craving
coma we often experience after traditional holiday meals. When craving sweets, opt for wholefoods and whole grain-based sweet tastes since
our American diet is overly abundant in refined,
processed and artificially sweet foods.
Salty - Most notably found in table salt and many
processed foods as a natural preservative and flavor enhancer, the salty taste is associated with the
elements water and fire, and thus tends to increase
digestive fire and appetite. Since salt in the form
of sodium can increase water retention, consider
salty tastes as a condiment and opt for sea salt and
sea vegetables to broaden your balance of minerals
such as potassium and magnesium.
Sour - Predominant in fruits like lemon, lime, and
tomatoes, sour tastes are also found in fermented
foods like vinegar, cheese, wine, beer, and yogurt.
Sour foods consist of the elements fire and earth
and thus can help stimulate digestion and even
calm the windy and active vata mind. However,
in excess they can increase fermentation or yeast
overgrowth, so include sour foods in moderation
(something as simple as lemon squeezed in our
water) to balance your holiday diet.
Pungent - Pungent tastes are associated with
spicy and hot, fiery foods like cayenne and black
pepper, ginger, radishes, garlic, and onions. Comprised of the elements air and fire, pungent foods
are typically warming and stimulate metabolism,
circulation, and digestive fire (agni), but can also
irritate the nervous system and inspire irritability
and anger. Use pungent tastes like fresh ginger to
balance the grounding nature of sweet potatoes
Astringent foods include raw nuts, legumes,
pomegranate seeds, persimmons and raw
cranberries, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli,
cauliflower and artichoke, as well as grapes
and dry wed wine.
and roasted squash and to stimulate digestion of a
heavy holiday meal.
Bitter - Bitter tastes are associated with leafy
greens like kale, dandelion, and some fresh herbs
like cilantro, but also in some fruits like grapefruit, and in beverages such as coffee and some
forms of tea. These foods tend to cool and cleanse
the body and detoxify and tone the organs. Comprised of the dominate elements air and water, bitter tastes are considered detoxifying, antibiotic,
anti-parasitic, and antiseptic. Even though cooling in nature, bitter foods should be included in
moderation to balance winter holiday indulgences
and associated weight gain and water retention.
Astringent - Perhaps the least common and most
challenging taste to comprehend, astringent tastes
are dry and cooling. Astringency is classified by
its effect on the tongue more than its actual taste.
Like when you apply a toner to your face, it immediately tightens your pores; think how an astringent food might create a feeling of tightening
in your tongue. When you eat a raw walnut, for
example, you are sure to experience its astringent,
drying effect on your mouth. Astringent foods
include raw nuts, legumes, pomegranate seeds,
persimmons and raw cranberries, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and artichoke, as
well as grapes and dry wed wine.
Let’s embrace this celebratory time of year with
friends, family, and good cheer, and the abundance of nature’s bounty. Be sure to include
some aspects of all the six tastes (not just holiday
sweets!) to optimize your palate, round out your
plate, find more balance in your life, and look and
feel your sexy best through the New Year!
Red Jen Ford is a Certified Holistic
Health Coach, Yoga Instructor, and
Seasonal Eating Expert. Jen teaches
her students and busy clients the
benefits and simplicity of eating local,
sustainably grown food. Contact her
at (917) 971-1941 or visit: