The Six Tastes

What is taste?

According to Ayurveda, taste is ‘the sensation the tongue experiences’ when you eat.  Having diverse tastes in your meals helps to satisfy cravings and prevents overeating.  Although we spend a lot of time evaluating the carbohydrate, fat and protein content of our food, we rarely think about the variety of taste of the foods we eat.

How many tastes are there?

Ayurveda recognizes six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.  The American diet often has plenty of the first three- sweet, sour and salty—but is often missing the last three.  It is easy to thing of examples of sweet tastes (apple pie), salty tastes (potato chips) and sour tastes (lemons).  But how often do you think of bitter, pungent, and astringent foods?  Each taste has a composition based on the elements of air, ether, fire, water and earth.  Remember the doshas of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha?  Vata is composed of air and ether; Pitta of fire and water; Kapha of earth and water.

How does taste influence your dosha?

The taste of the food has a direct effect on your doshic balance.  Think of the principle “like increases like”.  A sweet food, such as a delicious bread pudding, increases the Kapha dosha, which can lead to an imbalance in someone who already has a lot of Kapha in his or her body.  On the other hand, someone with too little Kapha, i.e. Vata dosha, will find sweet foods to be balancing.  The same applies for salty foods, which can aggravate Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha. Thus, the taste of foods can aggravate or pacify the doshic balance based on their content of the six tastes.  This is one of the principles used by an Ayurvedic physician to make dietary recommendations for you.

Ideally, we should eat a diet which contains all six tastes.  If we are attempting to pacify a doshic imbalance, using the tastes that counteract the elements of the dosha can prove helpful.  Who knew that the actual taste of the food you choose can have such a medicinal, therapeutic value?   I wish I had learned about this in medical school as it would have saved me a lot of calorie counting!

The above article was provided to Wellspring Health by. Dr. Trupti Gokani

Examples of the Six Tastes:


  • Most grains such as wheat, rice, barley, and corn
  • Pulses (legumes), i.e. beans, lentils, and peas
  • Milk and sweet milk products such as ghee, cream, and butter
  • Sweet fruits (especially dried) such as dates, figs, grapes, pear coconut, and mango
  • Cooked vegetables such as potato, sweet potato, carrot, beetroot, cauliflower, and string beans
  • Sugar in any form such as raw, refines, brown, white, molasses, and sugar can juice


  • Sour fruits such as lemon, lime, sour orange, sour pineapple, passion fruit, sour cherries, plum, and tamarind
  • Sour milk products such as yogurt, cheese, whey, and sour cream
  • Fermented substances (other than cultured milk products) such as wine, vinegar, soy sauce, or sour cabbage
  • Carbonated beverages (including soft drinks or beer)


  • Any kind of salt such as rock salt, sea salt, and salt from the ground
  • Any food to which salt has been added


  • Spices such as chili, black pepper, mustard seeds, ginger, cumin, cloves, cardamom, and garlic
  • Mild spices such as turmeric, anise, cinnamon, and fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, and mint
  • Raw vegetables such as radish, onion, and cauliflower


  • Vegetables such as chicory and bitter gourd; other green leafy vegetables such as spinach, green cabbage, and brussels sprouts
  • Fruits such as olives, grapefruit, and cocoa
  • Spices such as fenugreek and turmeric


  • Turmeric, honey, walnuts, and hazelnuts
  • Pulses such as beans, lentils, peas (dahl)
  • Vegetables such as sprouts, lettuce, and other green leafy vegetables; most raw vegetables; rhubarb
  • Fruits such as pomegranate, berries, persimmon, cashew fruit, rose apple, and most unripe fruits