Can You Name the Six Tastes?

Updated: Dec 5, 2017

Our Current North American Diet is primarily made up of three tastes-Sweet, Sour, and Salty. Processed foods in particular rely on sugar and salt for flavor. Of course, chemical flavor enhancers like the neurotoxin MSG (Monosodiom Glutamate), are often added to fool our tastebuds into thinking we are eating something flavorful. The reality is that the food is devoid of any real taste such as we would get from a well balanced nutritious meal made from fresh food.  When our diets are only made up of three tastes we may experience cravings and feel addicted to either sugar, salt, and occasionally sour. We never feel satisfied because the other three tastes-Pungent, Bitter and Astringent, are missing. Our body needs all six for proper balance. 

When I first started on my Ayurvedic journey, it was a process of educating my palate to actually taste my food. I learned to identify all six tastes and to cook with that in mind. Once I learned how to balance those flavors, I was able to effortlessly stop binging on sweets. That’s what I would go for first, and then at some point I would want salty, and then some sour and then back to sweet. It was a vicious cycle that sabotaged my efforts at a healthy diet. I felt that I lacked will power when in fact, it was my cooking that was causing the binging that made me feel out of control. 

Along with the physiological effects of an unbalanced diet come emotional and psychological effects of the six tastes. We even have expressions that demonstrate a long lost knowledge of this connection between flavors and people’s psychological make-up. We have expressions like, she is really sweet, or he’s a sour puss, or she’s bitter. These sayings derive their meaning from an understanding of how tastes effect us on an emotional level. 

When we overdo any particular taste, we are at risk of diseases. Many diseases are a direct result of too much of one taste. An obvious example is Type Two Diabetes. While an inability to handle stress may be a factor, the main cause is a diet that is too sweet. A dietary treatment in Ayurveda often includes a vegetable called bitter gourd cooked in spices. It’s a dish that includes all six tastes with a healthy dose of bitter to balance the too sweet system of someone diagnosed with Diabetes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a remedy called the Six Tastes Pill that is used to help balance someone that has gone too far in any one direction. 

Every chronic illness has an unbalanced diet at it’s root. There will often be digestive issues such as gas and bloating, burping, acid reflux, and constipation or diarrhea.  Without an understanding of how to cook using the six tastes, there is no chance of balance.

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