Sweet, sour, salty. I’d venture to say that most of us have been eating meals dominated by those flavors for the last few weeks. But did you know that there are actually six different tastes we should be getting in each meal? According to Ayurveda, incorporating a healthy diet that includes all six tastes supports both our physical and emotional health.
You see, our body gets everything it needs when we incorporate the six tastes. What’s so interesting is that Ayurveda is over 5,000 years old. That was before there was knowledge of a cell’s nutritional makeup or the 4-4-9 rule that you learn in nutrition class- – Carbs and proteins-4 calories per gram, and fat nine calories per gram. Ahhh, the things you remember from nutritional sciences class. That and always crack eggs in a separate bowl. LOL, Long story there, but I digress.
If your taste buds are out of whack from indulging in this holiday season and you need help figuring out how to get yourself back on track without feeling deprived. You are going to really enjoy this podcast. If your waistline could use a little attention and your body generally feels out of balance, there are several ways to balance your body without feeling deprived. And today, we will look at creating balance in your body through taste. Seriously. Taste.
Something as simple as the tastes you incorporate can help shift you towards balance. To incorporate this body balancing technique, you don’t need to be a foody or an aspiring Barefoot Contessa. Just understanding the six tastes will empower you to make the choices your body needs and your daily cravings- poof! They will dissipate. It is impressive. So, let’s dive in.
I first learned about the six tastes during my Ayurvedic educator training. I have to be honest. Initially, I was overwhelmed, thinking, how will I fit all this into my regular meals? I’m generally a light eater, and I was looking at the foods and what categories they fell in. I felt like I was going to have to totally change up the quantities of food.
Here’s the thing. Once you understand the concept and focus on the big picture, it is pretty simple. So I’m going to share how I learned to incorporate the tastes successfully. And, when you think about it, it’s really interesting how many foods fall into multiple categories, making it much easier to accomplish the goal.
I always thought I ate a reasonably well-rounded diet. So I was utterly shocked when I looked at it from the standpoint of the six tastes.
You see, I was always missing a taste or two. Or, the things I was eating differed from what I needed to bring balance back to my body and mind. All you salad eaters out there, listen up – If you aren’t seeing the results you are looking for likely, you are like I was. You are missing one of the key pieces to the puzzle of balancing your body.
I was utterly amazed when I started actively incorporating the six tastes and saw how my body responded. Everything I learned about nutrition was amplified, and I had a greater appreciation for why the fad diets I had tried didn’t address what my body needed long-term. The food combinations I was eating got me partially there. The weight never really budged more than a few pounds here or there.
I always had cravings when my willpower was depleted because just missing one or two tastes threw off the whole balance of things. When I incorporated the tastes, the cravings began to subside, and I could see major differences in my mood. The six tastes work because I feel good when I consciously incorporate them, and my body responds positively. When I don’t, I return to those patterns of never feeling satisfied, reaching for sweets and salty foods. I revert to feelings of guilt around my food choices. So, something as simple as six tastes can profoundly affect your health.
Last year I had the opportunity to visit Civana Wellness Resort in Carefree, Arizona. The resort is set in the Sonoran desert just outside of phoenix. I can’t say enough good things about the program. As part of your experience, they provide carefully crafted dosha-balancing meals. Each meal is organic and locally sourced. They also incorporate all of the six tastes to bring balance and healing to mind and body. For a girl that lived off salads and juicing for way too many years in her twenties.
And relying on calorie counting or, rather yet near starvation, anytime I wanted to lose a few pounds, I was surprised to see how warm, heavy, and dense some foods can actually help you lose weight. I’m talking oatmeal, barley, lentils, etc. There were a lot of carbs—more than I was expecting. If you were getting the foods at Whole Foods and had to weigh them at checkout, you’d gasp. The plates were heavy (physically, that is) and filling. The first day I thought well, here’s to packing on 10 pounds. But I said I was going to embrace the experience fully. During the first day, I bet I ate more carbs than I consumed in an average week at home. Some days I physically couldn’t even finish the meals because my body was like – you’ve had enough, LOL.
On the last day, I was standing in front of the mirror in my room, looking at myself in my bathing suit. And I was like, Damn. My belly is so flat. How is this possible? I don’t think it’s ever been that flat since I was in my early 20s. All the bloat was gone. Now outside of the five tastes, I can tell you I drank a ton of water.
The desert is hot, and a friend of mine warned me to stay hydrated so I wouldn’t faint. And you better believe I drank a lot of water. But I couldn’t believe it. I came home 5 pounds lighter than I left despite eating so darn much food. I had always heard of volumetrics but didn’t realize how it could apply to my body type. And my complexion- holy smoke. My body definitely liked the food.
Let me share a little about the six tastes.
Most of us know sweet, sour, and salty, and those tastes dominate the American diet. But there are three others we need for a well-rounded meal, and the other three are pungent, bitter, and astringent. Combining all six tastes in different quantities based on your mind body type helps create balance in your body and a sense of absolute satisfaction.
If you don’t know your mind, body type, or what we call dosha in Ayurveda, likely you aren’t sure of where you might have imbalances.
And without the clarity of where the imbalance lies, it is hard to correct it. Head over to truebasishealth.com/clarity club. Because in the orientation, I provide a quiz to help you identify your natural mind-body predisposition. And then, you can understand your current imbalances and start adding strategies for fixing them.
Remember the last time you went to the grocery store? Did you do the self-checkout? If you did, you’d remember running the barcode over the scanner. You get the beep, and the system notes the item, size, price, and all the info needed to ring you up. The six tastes are like that scanner. Each taste carries the barcodes, so to speak so that our body knows what nutrients we consume. Get all of the six tastes. Our body knows it has what it needs to run optimally. Miss one, two, or more, and your brain continues to signal to your nervous system that you are missing something. You aren’t satisfied, and you eat more.
Have you ever finished dinner? Cleaned up the kitchen, then sat down to watch tv or surf your phone, and you are like, I’m still hungry. Dinner was a full meal, and you felt satisfied at the time and full. But here you are an hour or two later like I want something else, but I need to figure out what. You go to the cabinet? You check the fridge. You don’t want any more dinner. Check the pantry- nothing in there. You are hungry, but you can’t put your finger on it. More than likely, one of the six tastes needed to be added to your meal.
The problem is when you start snacking, trying to fill the void. As a result, you take in too many calories but remain malnourished because you’ve likely yet to get that missing taste.
Each taste has a very specific effect on the mind body physiology. I’ll share the basics really quickly.
Sweet, the taste we are most familiar with goes beyond sugars. It’s actually the taste of most carbs, proteins, and fats. Think bread, pasta, and meats. Here’s the thing: sweet has a soothing effect on our physiology and helps build body mass.
As a culture, think about how many are on the heavy side. Look at kids these days and the obesity trend. Our diets are filled with the sweet taste.
Now sour is the taste of acid. Think citrus fruit. But also foods like yogurt, cheese, tomatoes, and vinegar. What’s interesting about sour is it stimulates stomach acid production, so sour foods help when it comes to stimulating appetite and digestion. On the flip side, if you suffer from heartburn as many do or have too much heat in your body, as they say in Ayurveda, sour foods can be irritating.
This is where it is helpful to understand your body type and your current level of imbalance. Because although you want all the tastes, if something is going to be irritating your current state of balance, you’d want to have less of it.
Salty – this is an easy one. Think of the taste of the ocean. The salty taste enhances appetite and makes things taste more delicious- ever wonder why those fries keep making you want to come back for more?
The American Heart Association says we should get no more than 2300 grams of sodium daily. And recommends aiming for 1500 grams if you have high blood pressure. With too much salt, we experience excess fluid retention and high blood pressure.
Our diets are packed with packaged and fast foods high in sodium. Salt is necessary for life and helps with digestion and fluid balance in the body. So how do we get the salty taste without experiencing fluid retention and high blood pressure? You can replace the taste with herbs when you crave a salty taste but need to restrict sodium intake. Literally, try swapping out salt for black pepper, cilantro, turmeric, or ginger. Dr. Suhas at Ayurvedichealing.net offers a six-taste seasoning blend to sprinkle on your foods. You get everything you need in one shake.
Now, most of you can identify with the sweet, sour, and salty so let’s look at the other three Pungent, bitter, and astringent. These three are anti-inflammatory and actually increase metabolism.
Pungent foods enhance appetite and improve digestion. And while they increase metabolism, the heat can aggravate some mind-body types. This, again, is where understanding your mind body type becomes so important. Think spices or savory tastes like onions, hot peppers, salsa, and most cooking spices. Foods with pungent flavors naturally support detoxification pathways and activate our digestive enzymes. One of my favorite ways to get the pungent taste at breakfast is to sprinkle a little cinnamon on my oatmeal. Super simple to get that taste in, and doing this helps to metabolize the sugars in the carbs of the oatmeal.
If you’ve ever been on a diet likely, your meals focused heavily on stuff like salads, broccoli, and celery.
If that’s the case, you are familiar with the bitter taste. There’s a saying – Bitter is Better. LOL. Bitter foods are very detoxifying to the system and are great at promoting weight loss. They are full of healthy phytochemicals, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agents. Have you ever heard of eating the rainbow? Typically bitter foods are light and create lightness in the body.
However, as with everything, too much of a good thing isn’t good. If you eat too much of the bitter flavor expect gas or indigestion. Our bodies are highly delicate and sensitive yet they are also very responsive when things are in the right ratio.
The last taste puckers the mouth and has a drying effect on the body. It’s great for releasing excess fluid. Enter the taste Astringent. I always wondered how I could get the astringent taste into my meal. Then a mentor shared a great way was having a cup of tea. Warm, not iced. In Ayurveda, you’ll learn that cold drinks dampen your internal fire or digestion. Think about throwing some cold water on a fire.
Ok so this is TMI, but have you ever had a big glass of tea and then had to pee? You pee once, and the blood gates open, and then you continue to have to pee all afternoon? We used to have a restaurant in town that had the best tea. They had free refills, and I never really noticed how many times they refilled my glass. Inevitably the rest of my day would be spent in and out of the bathroom, releasing all the excess fluids. Funny, but not.
Outside of teas being astringent, you can get that taste from beans, mushrooms, apples, cauliflower, pecans, tart apples, and so on.It’s amazing when you start looking at what foods fall into different groups. In the Restore Roadmap and Clarity Club, I provide a list of foods by category to make it easier to incorporate the tastes.
As I mentioned before, several foods will fall into multiple taste categories. These foods are referred to as superfoods. A good example is garlic. It has all the tastes except for salty. Just be careful. Too much garlic, and you’ll smell it coming out of your pores. This is where getting creative with the different foods comes in handy. You want your body to experience different tastes through variety as well.
So I suspect many of you are considering healthy eating as the new year rolls around. I encourage you to consider adding the concept of the six tastes into your plans. Think about squeezing a bit of lemon onto your veggies or salad to get the sour taste or sprinkling a bit of black pepper on your veggies for some pungent taste.
While I’m continually amazed at the impact the tastes have on the physical side, it becomes even more interesting when you look at how they impact emotions.
Think about when you are sad or down. Most people reach for something sweet. Positive emotions are associated with the sweet taste. Right? Love, happiness, satisfaction – all sweet. But think about when you get too much sweetness. Those feelings of joy and satisfaction can turn into cravings and attachment. Remember the ad campaign Bet you can’t eat just one? I bet you are saying well, Micah, well, what do you suggest when I have cravings? A personal favorite- is massage. You can even do your own massage- you don’t need to go anywhere. Touch stimulates nerves which cause you to release oxytocin, providing a sense of well-being and reducing stress. In the afternoons, around 3 pm, which one of my friends calls the witching hour because she’s always reaching for something sweet. You can find me sitting at my desk, rubbing my shoulders and forehead, doing a mini massage.
Try it. And let me know what you think. If nothing else, it will get your mind off of a snack for a while. And then, follow it up with some warm ginger water. I’m curious to hear back about little tweaks like this and if they impact your life as much as they have mine.
These days many people are overwhelmed and need more clarity. It is said that the sour taste helps to awaken your brain and sharpen your senses. Think about the last time you peeled an orange. Do you remember the smell? A friend of mine gifted me with a box of tangelos for Christmas. Each time I’d make that first puncture into the skin, and I’d get that aroma of the orange, it was exhilarating. I’m not exaggerating, either. I’d peel back the first slice. You could see little droplets of oil being released. The smell was amazing. Immediately I’d perk up. If you want a good exercise in mindful eating. Try peeling an orange. Listening to the sound of the rind as you peel it back, taking in the citrus aroma, taste the sour and see how your mouth puckers a bit. Feel the juices in your mouth. Sensory overload. It is a good reset, for sure.
Now, do you know anyone that likes it hot? I’m talking hot sauce. I have a friend who loves hot sauce, and he’d even put Texas Pete on his eggs in the morning, which I didn’t realize was actually a thing for many people. Pungent foods, like hot sauces, will give your meals an extra kick, for sure. From an emotional standpoint, the taste represents clarity, passion, and curiosity. But with too much, like with everything, you start to see anger, irritability, competitiveness, and impatience. And this goes back to the fire or heat element in the taste. Everything is about balance.
Are there any wine drinkers listening today? Wine is astringent. Congrats, you’ve checked off one of the tastes with dinner. With a glass or two, you may feel grounded and collected. A little more at ease. Finish the bottle though, and that groundedness can turn into anxiety, sadness, and emotional heaviness. Right? It’s all about moderation.
From these examples, you see, you can either bring balance or create an imbalance in your body and mind based on the food and drink you consume. The key is not to avoid food or drinks if it creates an imbalance. It’s not an all-or-nothing deal. You need all six tastes. You just have to consume it in moderation and keep in mind how your body needs balancing at the present time. Everything is a juggling act.
On the positive side, I have a sneaking suspicion that you are just like I was before learning about the six tastes. So close to having it right. You are probably just missing one or two here and there toward getting all the nutrients you need for a balanced lifestyle. You probably need a little refining to understand what elements you need to incorporate or reduce to get yourself back in balance.
So, as I close out today’s podcast, remember what Hippocrates instructed: “Let food be thy medicine. And let medicine be thy food.” Seriously, this new year consider finding out where you are imbalanced and choosing to eat the foods that will decrease those elements you have too much of so you can restore your body without all the cravings that generally come when you “try” to eat what you think is healthy.
Until next time. Cultivate Clarity.
This is Micah Hill signing out.