Ayurveda and Taste
Taste is assigned a much deeper significance in Ayurveda than we are accustomed to in the West. Taste, or rasa, is considered critically important in determining the effect that various foods, spices and therapeutic herbs will have on our state of balance – body, mind, and spirit. Ayurveda recognizes six tastes. Each of the six has a vital role to play in our health, wellbeing and nutritional satisfaction. They are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.
Sour is a taste found in sour fruits like lemons and limes and in sour dairy products like yogurt, cheese and sour cream. Fermented foods, like vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut and soy sauce also fall into Ayurveda’s sour category. You may be surprised to learn that fermented drinks, like wine, beer and liquor, are considered “sour,” too.
The sour taste is made up of fire and earth element. Its qualities are heave, hot, moist and stable making it a good taste to reduce the Vata dosha. The earth element in sour can be nourishing and tonifying to the tissues, except the reproductive system. Being the second warmest taste it helps increase agni, improve digestion and circulation.
Sour foods have a cleansing effect, stimulating the appetite and sharpening the senses. For that reason, many folks start the day with a mug of hot lemon tea.
The sour taste also stimulates saliva production. The first step in the long process of digestion begins in the mouth. Sour helps relieve thirst, too. A sweet-and-sour Georgia peach can quench a thirst while helping the body absorb minerals like iron from our foods.
But too much sour taste can damage the small intestine and create hyper acidity.
Psychologically the sour taste improves discrimination and too much sour taste can make a person critical, sharp and angry.
The sour taste is great for Vata body-mind types. They need lots of warmth and moisture. Sour may be balancing for Vatas, but can cause Pittas to spin out (with aggression) from the excess heat. Sour also needs to be eaten in moderation for Kaphas. Sour can increase the heaviness and wetness associated with Kapha dosha.
It is important to remember that all taste are needed in the diet on a daily basis and need to be balanced depending on the needs of the constitution.