In Qualities and Quantities of Being, I touched on Taste or Rasa as an example of how one can understand the makeup of objects. I briefly touched on it’s importance in eating, but given the article on Ama, it’s worth going into this a bit more.
Ayurveda describes 6 tastes*:
Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent, and Astringent.
You’re familiar with the first 4 but may not even recognize the last 2. A few examples may help. Onions and ginger are pungent. Pomegranate and turmeric are astringent. Some things have a bit of 2 tastes, like cheeses and oranges can have both sweet and sour aspects. Honey is both sweet and astringent.
One of the reasons it’s valuable to understand this is because the body is looking for all 6 tastes in a meal to be satisfied. If some are missing, it’s more inclined to want more or to feel unsatisfied.
And that’s the magic of condiments. Why we like to add flavours to a meal. In fact, many spices fall into the Bitter, Pungent, and Astringent categories. This is one of the secrets of Indian cooking. The spicing is designed to meet all flavours and thus satisfy much more fully.
And it’s not complicated. A little Garam Masala (a blend) and Turmeric on your veggies or rice and you may find yourself satisfied sooner. Or perhaps throw some sesame seeds and garlic in. A good mixed salad often includes all flavours.
“Comfort food” on the other hand tends to be almost all sweet and salty. Sweet helps Vata type but in excess just leads to fat. Too much salt increases blood pressure & thus anxiety, leading to more desire for sweet.
Of course, this does require a bit of mindfulness. If you are simply eating from habit and not paying attention to how your body is responding to what you’re shoveling in, you may want to turn off the TV or put down the paper. If you’re not enjoying what you’re eating, why are you eating it? Do you think it will make you feel good?
Deepak Chopra places routine at the top of his list. Regular meal times, timed with when the digestive fires are strongest. Much more can be said about this, but the role of flavour in satisfaction and thus eating healthy should not be underestimated. Dr. Lad’s book I mention in Ama has a more through explanation and a table of foods and tastes.
*Ayurveda also explores if an item has a hot or cold effect in the stomach (Virja) and what the digestive effect is (Vipak). It’s this total effect that is used to determine somethings effect on body type and thus on you.