Food market in Benares, IndiaDuring the several trips I’ve made to India with my wife I have learned a few things on Ayurveda. Ayurveda is an Hindu health doctrine which is based on scriptures (Veda’s) that were arranged at the beginning of our era. The origins of Ayurveda are estimated to be about 7000 years ago, when it started as an oral tradition without any writings.

Proper nutrition and the associated good digestion are considered in the Ayurveda as one of the main foundations for a good health. In the Ayurvedic health doctrine they always check first the nutrition intake and adjust it if necessary for the patient. After that one optionally starts with a system of herbs, treatments and medications.

In the case of poor nutrition, the digestion also doesn’t function properly. Which has as effect that all kinds of other body processes don’t get the required energy. As a result, diseases may occur. The Ayurveda doesn’t work with strict rules but instead has some guidelines. A diet is recommended that is vegetarian or contains a little meat.

The Ayurveda is a very comprehensive health doctrine which I will not try to completely explain here. A part of the Ayurveda of which I want to tell you something is on the knowledge of the six flavours; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. In India they use the tastebuds as a natural guide towards a healthy diet. The Ayurveda teaches us that when all six tastes are present in a meal, then also all food groups and nutrients are present. You will also feel much longer full, after you’ve had a meal in which all six tastes are represented.

Six tastes

  • Sweet is the taste of which we normally consume way too much. This leads to problems with our blood sugar. You can find this taste not only in honey, sugar or fruits, but also in cereals, potatoes and milk.
  • Sour, a taste found in citrus fruits such as orange and grapefruit, but also in tomatoes, alcohol and fermented foods such as yogurt or sauerkraut. Too much sour taste in your diet is not good for your liver.
  • Salt, a taste that is also usually too much represented in our foods. Salt increases your appetite and enhances other flavours. The highest concentration of salt in our diet we can find in the with salt overloaded pre-packaged products of the food industry. From salt you’ll get more hungry, logic?! Meat, soy sauce and seaweed are other sources of salt. When overconsumed you often get problems with your kidneys.
  • Pungent, a taste we find among others in (chili) pepper, onion, garlic and ginger. This flavour heats the body, promotes sweating and works on your lungs.
  • Bitter taste is one of which we often have an shortage of in our diet. The bitter taste is important to detoxify the body and aid the digestion. You can find the bitter taste in dark green leafy vegetables and Brussel sprouts among others.
  • Astringent is a flavour which most people are not familiar with. This flavour gives a dry taste in the mouth and we can find this flavour for example in dry beans, green apples and tea.

You can examine your meals yourself if all 6 tastes are represented by chewing quietly and to try to recognize the flavours. This also ensures that you don’t eat too fast, another directive of the Ayurveda for proper digestion.

It might seem hard to ensure that all tastes are represented in your meal, but that’s not too bad though. What you could do for example is to put a little bit of lemon juice in your cooked dish to get the sour taste. When you combine this with a green salad for the bitter and astringent tastes, you’re almost done.