This is Part 3 of our series on Ayurveda and Health written by guest expert Lynne Stewart, B.Sc. MBA (Owner/Instructor SOL BARRE, Pilates & Yoga; Speaker/Writer, SOL Wellness).
Taste’s Intelligence – Why Is My Child Such a Picky Eater? If everyone is exactly the same, we should all eat exactly the same. But do our bodies, metabolism, shape, age, energy, personalities all look the same? Is it possible our choice of foods and tastes that appeal to us are different for some intelligent reason? Children, unaffected by processed foods and sugar, may be just about the most intelligent eaters around. Let’s see what they know about good health and food choices?
In Ayurvedic medicine, food is considered medicine and each taste has an intrinsic ability to heal and improve our tissues, our energy, our emotions and overall our immunity and health. There are six tastes defined according to Ayurveda and our approach to eating should attempt to represent all the tastes in meals and in our days.
The first place we recognize a taste is on the tongue and this is the first stage of digestion and immunity. Tongue scraping is a common Ayurvedic practice to keep access to the taste buds clear which can reduce unnatural cravings.
Let’s get familiar with the six tastes. The first three are the most common tastes represented in the North American diet and the last three are the ones that we likely need to make more of an effort to include in our day.
The Sweet taste (Earth & Water) is considered to be building and nourishing to all the tissues and brings an immediate feeling of satisfaction. Sweet is also cooling, calming, and is said to give strength, increase longevity, promote growth and is good for the voice, hair and skin. As much as we feel guilty eating things like carbohydrates, butter, and dairy, Ayurveda considers these things to be important in nourishing the entire body and sustaining strong immunity. Yes it is very possible to overindulge in the sweet taste and since sweet is increasing to Kapha, the result of excess sweet can be weight gain, lethargy, and emotions such as possessiveness and attachment. White sugar is to be avoided and natural sugars such as maple syrup are best to use.
Here’s a nice long list of sweet options for you! Milk, butter, ghee (clarified butter), rice, wheat, honey, licorice, dates, fennel, flaxseed, grapes, apricots, melons, bananas, almonds, sesame seeds, marshmallow, beets, carbs, millet, corn, wheat, oats, and rice. My favorite is rice pudding.
The Sour taste (Earth & Fire) is considered to be stimulating and creates a sharper mind. Nutritionally it helps to improve absorption, extract iron, and improves circulation. Because it can increase Pitta due to it’s heating quality, excessive sour in the diet can lead to feelings of jealousy, anger and envy. The sour taste is nourishing to all the tissues ecept the reproductive tissue.
Sour can be found in lemon, citrus, yogurt, aged cheeses and pickled foods using vinegar.
The Salty taste (Water & Fire) enhances and increases salivation and digestion. It softens and aids in the growth of tissues. It helps to maintain elecrolyte balance, provides energy, and can relieve stiffness and spasms. Excessive salt can result in kidney stones and skin problems. Psycholgically salt in the diet can promote conifence and calm the nerves. But an excess of salt can lead to feelings of greediness and overambition.
Anything salty qualifies but it might be helpful to consider the effects of different salts. Himalayan (rock) salt is cooling. Mineral salt is moderate in its cooling/heating effect and Black salt is heating.
The Pungent taste (Fire & Air) is considered to be oily and clearing. It can be thought of as an antiobiotic and aids in circulation.
Pungent is the spice of life! Consider chillies, ginger, cumin, cayenne, black pepper and spicy foods.
The Bitter (Air & Space) is important in detoxifying and purifying.
Bitter foods leafy greens, basil, lettuce, nettle, bitter melon, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, barley and aloe vera
The Astringent taste (Air & Earth) is drying and lightening and tends to absorb water. It can tighten watery areas, dry fat and is cooling in nature.
Astringent foods are lentils and other pulses, beans, tofu, quinoa, sprouts, apple, pear and pomegranates.
In Ayurveda representing all the tastes throughout your meals or your day will reduce any extreme cravings for certain tastes. A study was done on children to see how and what they would eat without prompting and all children tended to eat nutritionally and calorically what they required over the course of the day although their food choices differed on taste, warmth, cooked, raw, and assimilated (as in soups).
Different constitutions will gravitate towards certain tastes more so than others and in different seasons different tastes and types of foods will be more balancing.
Stay tuned for the next article on Eating for the Season.