We all love the taste of food. Taste or rasa is the first impression of a substance one gets when placed on the tongue. The six tastes are nothing but the permutations of the Panchmahabhuta. The tongue has areas that correspond to these tastes and different organs in the body. Our taste buds in the tongue not only identify the taste but also signal the body to start the digestion process as the food touches our tongue. 

The effect of Rasa or taste can be felt in the entire body. For example, think of the taste one gets while eating rice or a dessert or the taste when one eats a persimmon or a salty and spicy pickle. Each taste is different and evokes different feelings in our bodies. 

These tastes are very important for understanding what ayurvedic nutrition is about and how to have a balance of these tastes in our everyday eating. Each taste used in an appropriate quantity balances all the bodily systems and leads to happiness and good health. But if used improperly, can cause harm and disturbance in energy. 

Ayurveda defines taste into six basic types – sweet (Madhura), sour (Amla), salty (Lavana), pungent (Katu), bitter (Tikta) and astringent (Kashaya). 


  • A sweet taste is oily, heavy and cooling in its quality. This taste consists of earth and water elements and acts on the Thyroid and lungs. Sweet taste nourishes the body and promotes the growth of bodily tissues, i.e. plasma, blood, muscles, fat, bones, marrow and reproductive fluids. It Improves complexion, promotes healthy skin and hair. Also improves the voice quality making it more melodious. Sweet taste relieves thirst and calms burning sensations in the body. It brings about stability and groundedness. It also improves longevity. 
  • The sweet taste can aggravate Kapha and cause cold, cough, congestion, and heaviness if taken in excess. It will diminish the digestive fire leading
  • to loss of appetite, weak digestion, laziness, sluggish metabolism and obesity. It makes the blood viscous and also is the cause of many health conditions like diabetes. 
  • A diet lacking in sweet taste will be the biggest reason for bringing on the disease. So, rethink the diet that discourages your rice and wheat. It’s the biggest blunder that many are making. 
  • The main foods that fall into the sweet category are the following. 
  • Rice, corn and wheat 
  • Millets, nuts, seeds 
  • All sugars, sweet fruits such as figs, peaches, pears 
  • Milk and milk products, ghee 
  • All root vegetables
  • Meats such as beef, pork, and salmon 
  • Honey and all sweeteners such as jaggery 


  • Hot, light, and oily are the main properties of a sour taste. This taste makes the mouth moist and increases saliva production. Made of the elements earth and fire, this taste tends to increase pitta and Kapha dosha. Organs associated with the sour taste are the middle and lower lobes of the lungs. This taste brings about the sharpness of the mind and increases the attention span. It stimulates appetite, improves digestion and causes salivation. In addition, it nourishes the heart and improves liver function.
  • In excess, a sour taste can cause sensitive teeth and excessive thirst. In addition, it causes skin conditions like dermatitis. Foods with sour taste are listed below. 
  • Sour milk products like yogurt, sour cream, and cheese. 
  • Fermented foods such as wine, vinegar, soy sauce, and sauerkraut.
  • Citrus fruits such as lemon and grapes. 


  • Made from the elements of water and fire, the salt taste is heating, heavy, oily and hydrophilous. Its location on the tongue is the rear edges. Due to its water element, it is a laxative. It removes stiffness, hardness and obstruction, promotes growth and maintains water-electrolyte balance. It stimulates salivation, improves the flavour of food, aids digestion, absorption and elimination of wastes. 
  • Excess salt leads to thick and viscous blood and causes hypertension, oedema, and water retention. It may cause skin issues like rashes, itching etc. Since it increases pitta in the body, it increases the heating sensations, fainting, wrinkling, baldness and greying of hair. Salty foods are listed below. 
  • Sea salt, rock salt, tamari 
  • Ayurveda recommends having rock salt as a choice for salty taste.


  • This taste is a combination of air and fire. It is light, drying and heating in nature. Its action occurs in the centre of the tongue. It kindles the digestive fire and therefore improves digestion and absorption. It clears the sinuses by liquifying Kapha Dosha and stimulating nasal secretions and lacrimation. It aids circulation and helps eliminate waste products through sweating and cleansing the blood. It breaks up blockages, scrapes fat and helps with its elimination. Removes constrictions and opens up the tissue pores. 
  • In excess, it may adversely affect reproductive health. This can lead to imbalances in the nervous system like insomnia, anxiousness, and mental agitation. In addition, ulcers, colitis, and skin conditions may result. 
  • Foods with a pungent taste are given below. 
  • Chillies, onion, ginger, garlic. 
  • Spices such as black pepper, cayenne, and cardamom. 


  • A combination of space and air elements gives the bitter taste. It is cool, light and dry. Its location on the tongue is the middle edges on the left and right sides. The associated organs are the pancreas, liver and spleen. It Improves appetite and enhances all the other tastes. It has a cleansing action and scrapes fat and ama (undigested toxic food waste). It helps to relieve burning sensations, itching and skin disorders. It reduces fever by clearing heat.
  • As it increases Vata Dosha, it can lead to a feeling fearful, anxious and nervous. In excess, it is drying the system and causes a reduction in fat, bone marrow, urine and faeces. It can even dry out Ojas and inhibit sexual energy. In addition, it may result in the depletion of tissues. 
  • Foods with bitter taste are listed below. 
  • All green leafy vegetables such as fenugreek, kale, spinach, rocket, and bitter melon. 
  • Spices such as turmeric and neem. 
  • Tea and coffee 


  • Made of earth and air elements, this taste is cooling, drying and heavy. Its location on the tongue is at the back of the tongue. In moderation, it is a grounding taste given its earth element. And supportive due to its drying action, it absorbs excess moisture and helps in binding the stools, cleanses the mucous membranes and scrapes ama. It aids in healing ulcers and stops bleeding by promoting clotting. It has cohesive action leading to the toning of muscles, bones, organs and skin. In excess, it can cause dryness in the mouth and constipation. Foods with astringent tastes are listed below. 
  • Grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, and rye. 
  • All raw vegetables
  • Beans and lentils 
  • Unripe apple and banana 
  • Dry crackers
  • Raw vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and brussel sprouts

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