In Ayurveda, food products are chosen for an individual based on the tastes and qualities present in the food and how those react with their constitution, rather than for its calorie or fat content. Meals that are prepared using all six tastes (sweet, sour salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) are considered ideal because the body is receiving a variety of nutrients.
It is well established in Ayurvedic nutrition that each of the tastes have a unique effect on not only the body, but on the mind and emotions as well.
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Food like whole grains, sweet fruits, root vegetables like carrots, beets and sweet potatoes, honey, dairy products, oil and meats are classified under this category. These are best for building and strengthening, and improving circulation. They also act as a mild laxative. When taken in proper quantities for your constitution type, sweet foods promote compassion and contentment. Lack of enough sweet foods in the diet results in weakness, debility in the body and dissatisfaction. Too much, however, results in over-developed tissues that lead to weight gain, attachment, and possessive behavior.
Plain yogurt, lemons and limes, alcohol, vinegar, fermented items and cheese are primarily sour foods. These foods help stimulate the secretion of digestive fluids, reduce gas and increase circulation. They also sharpen the senses because they are stimulating. Not enough sour foods can result in an acid imbalance, while too many sour foods can cause envy, jealousy, and anger by increasing the fire element in the mind and body.
Salt supports agni (digestive fire), acts as a laxative and is calming to the nervous system. It promotes confidence and a zest for life when taken in the right quantity. Excessive salt intake can cause water retention, greed and over ambition.
Foods like green leafy vegetables, bitter melon and burdock root are considered bitter foods. These purify the blood, detoxify the body, especially the liver, open up channels in the body and reduce body temperature. In moderation, bitter foods can encourage lightness in the mind. Over consumption can result in grief, sorrow and a generally “bitter” view on life.
Pungent foods include jalapeno peppers, fresh ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, onion and cloves. These foods speed up metabolism and strengthen agni (digestive fire). They also reduce congestion, improve circulation, relieve muscle tension, raise body temperature and reduce excess fluid in the body. Mentally, spicy foods encourage extroversion, passion and boldness. Lack of spicy foods in the diet can cause weak digestion, poor circulation and cold extremities. Excessive consumption can result in heartburn, acid reflux, over-heating and anger.
Legumes, unripe banana, pomegranates, turmeric, leafy green veggies, and cranberries are considered astringent foods because of their dry properties. These foods are good for constricting the blood vessels and for drying up excessive fluid in the body. They help stop diarrhea and bleeding. Mentally, they promote introversion but when taken in excess, these foods can cause insecurity and fear.
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