6 rasa (tastes/Food types) in Ayurveda

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6 rasa in ayurveda or in sanskrit ,  concept of rasa in ayurveda , 6 rasa in ayurveda in hindi

The six important rasas of Ayurveda are sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter and astringent. A good combination of these six rasas ensures the health of the digestive system and ensures that fewer toxins are absorbed into our body.

The six tastes or 6 rasas in Ayurveda have a natural tendency to move in a certain way. The tastes predominantly comprising air and fire tend to move up. For example, consumption of pungent and bitter tastes can cause reflux, mostly because air and fire are light and tend to move upwards. The tastes comprised of earth and water move downwards. They can slow down the metabolism and cause heaviness. The other tastes can move both ways.

The 6 Tastes and Their Predominant Elements

Sweet (Madhura)Earth & Water
Sour (Amla)Earth & Fire
Salty (Lavana)Water & Fire
Pungent (Katu)Fire & Air
Bitter (Tikta)Air & Ether
Astringent (Kashaya)Air & Earth

1. Sweet

It provides the body with energy and vitality. It balances the burning sensation for Pitta and is good for health of skin and hair. Rice, wheat, milk, date, sugar, potato and ghee are considered to belong to the sweet rasa category.

2. Sour

This keeps the body warm, enhances appetite and digestion. However, if had in excess, it can cause indigestion, hyperacidity and ulcers. The sour rasa decreases Vata and increases Pitta and Kapha. Tamarind, yogurt, tomatoes, gooseberry, sea food and alcohol are examples of sour rasa.

3. Salt

This rasa keeps the body warm, improves digestion and promotes growth in the body. If had in excess however, it results in sluggish lymphatic drainage, thus causing water retention and hypertension. It increases Kapha and Pitta and decreases Vata. Table salt and rock salt are examples of salt rasa.

4. Pungent

This helps in breaking down fat, aids digestion and absorption, and activates blood circulation. In excess, it can cause stomach irritation, heart burn and nausea. It increases Vata and Pitta and decreases Kapha. Ginger, garlic, onion, chili, tulsi and pepper possess pungent rasa properties.

5. Bitter

This is cool, dry and light, and good for digestion. This rasa enhances liver function and muscle tone. It increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha. Neem, bitter gourd and spinach belong to this rasa.

6. Astringent

This rasa has anti-inflammatory properties and helps in absorption of nutrients and is very cooling to the stomach. In excess, it can cause constipation. The astringent rasa increases Vata and decreases Pitta and Kapha. Tea, coffee, pomegranate, asparagus, cauliflower and figs are examples of this rasa.

It is also important to include spices like turmeric, ginger, cumin, fenugreek, coriander, cinnamon and cardamom in your cooking as these have medicinal properties and they have a harmonious blend of the six tastes.

Ayurveda also emphasises the order in which the six rasas are ingested.  Start with mild-tasting dishes that have an underlying sweet flavour.  Followed by sour, salt, pungent, bitter and astringent in that order. End with something sweet, like dessert. This balance ensures that one does not feel bloated, tired, torpid or nauseous after a meal.

Example of a wrong combination: A pickle sandwich with milk. The contrast of sweet and sour upsets digestion.

The taste should be natural not man-made

When I say taste, it is the natural taste of the food not the mixed or man-made. For example, it is the sweet nature of apple, not the sweet syrup made in the factory. Same goes for mix- example, adding honey in a cup of tea to make it sweet can’t be classified as sweet now because this is not the natural sweetness of the tea. Therefore, you can’t have tea and expect to gain the same results that come from consuming natural and wholesome honey.

Food Combinations

The combination of two foods may have an entirely different effect than if the two were consumed separately.

Foods affect on the body may be opposite to it taste

A food may be sour, and therefore hot and light, but its effect on the body may be sweet and soothing. In other words, the effect of food on your body may be quite different from its taste. For example, if you drink a sugary beverage like cola, it may taste sweet, but its effect on the body is not sweet but astringent. It will not quench your thirst– will make you even thirstier and may cause reflux.

What is sweet in taste may not necessarily be sweet in action. What is acidic in nature may not work as such on the body. For example, lemons are sour in taste. Their taste has acidic properties, but their effect is alkaline on the body. 

the nature of food during the process of assimilation or digestion in the stomach-

  • cold,
  • hot,
  • heavy,
  • light,
  • unctuous or
  • rough.

Broadly, it is classified as either hot or cold. Cold food will vitiate kapha and hot food will vitiate pitta. Whether it pacifies or deranges vata depends on your constitution and the time you consume such food.

Cabbage is cold and light in rasa but rough and hot in virya. It causes gas during the process of digestion no matter what time of the day it is consumed.

All acidic foods, with the exception of citrus fruits, have pungent or bitter vipaka and should be avoided as much as possible. Naturally, citrus foods have sweet or sour vipaka and are really good for the body. Most dry fruits, for example, have hot vipaka and aggravate pitta.

Milk may help wash down spices after a meal, but its net effect is acidic and it vitiates vata.

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Vikas Rana

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