I dislike the word diet; in fact I’d go as far to say I loathe it. In today’s society it is used to cover far too many bases in our everyday eating habits and then there’s the dreaded use where people go ‘on a diet’. This is why I’ve invented my own word ‘foodstyle’ combining our eating habits with our lifestyle. People in today’s western culture live such hectic and busy lives that we seem to forget that what we put in our bodies has reactions and dramatically affects our mood. By knowing what food does during the digestion process we can mindfully select our meals and snacks around our lifestyle, you combine this with daily quiet time or meditation and some physical activity and you’re living a very ayurvedic friendly lifestyle. The reason why Ayurveda interests me is how it can be so transferable in to every aspect of living however, the food and health subject matter interests me most of all. Ayurveda’s literal translation from Sanskrit is ‘The Science of Life’, and is the sister science of yoga. The main theory is to live healthily and prevent illness; which is something I believe has been lost in our society.
The good old phrase goes “Everything in moderation”, and that couldn’t be truer. However studies have shown that the order of the moderation factors into our well-being too. Ayurveda the ancient Indian ‘science of life’ recognises six main tastes which should be counted into your daily food plan.
- Sweet: Sugar, Honey, Rice, Pasta, Milk, Sweet Fruits.
- Sour: Lemons and other sour Fruits, Hard Cheese, Yoghurt, Vinegar and any fermented foods.
- Salty: Natural salts, Seafood, Sea Vegetables, Seaweed.
- Pungent: Chilli Peppers, Garlic, Cayenne, Ginger and any hot spice.
- Bitter: Leafy greens, Herbs, Turmeric, Lettuce.
- Astringent: Pomegranate, Beans, Lentils, Legumes, Raw Fruit and Veg.
From top to bottom, this is the order in how quickly our bodies digest these taste groups.
Sweet foods digest quickly giving us a quick release of energy. This is why we sometimes experience difficulty settling into bed after having a large sweet dessert. They also build tissue in the body and calm the nerves, so a sweet cup of tea if perfect for stress relief. Ayurvedic science suggests we should eat our sweet at the beginning of the meal. Sweet foods benefit our skin, hair and voice.
Sour foods increases our bodies ability to absorb minerals, it also aids in the cleansing of our digestive system. A warm glass of lemon water every morning is like giving our insides a shower. This food product relieves thirst, energises the body, sharpens the senses and maintains our bodies’ acidity levels.
Salty foods when from a natural source such as seaweed or kelp salt can be incredibly nourishing to the body. Because of its tendency to retain water it can hydrate our system. However, if over indulged or the wrong kind of salt it can do the complete opposite. There are many theories on salt being bad for you but I have found that using himalayan pink salt is very good at keeping everything natural and chemical free while still retaining the classic salt taste.
Pungent tastes are incredibly good for the overall health of your heart. They speed metabolism, aids digestion, improves circulation in the body and clears sinuses. Do not indulge as most of these foods have a drying quality in the body and as hot foods have a detoxification quality your insides could be left feeling rather unloved.
Bitter foods are light, cooling and dry so on hot days are the perfect answer. The bitter taste is found in most leafy greens, aubergines, spices such as fenugreek and dandelion root, coffee and tea and some fruits like grapefruit, bitter melon and olives. Most of these foods aren’t appealing alone and that’s the beauty of bitter tastes, they help to encourage flavour out of other foods. Bitter foods are powerful detoxifying agents, antibiotic and antiseptic. They aid in weight reduction, water retention problems and skin rashes.
Astringent elements are the least common in foods out of our six tastes, you find them in beans and lentils, cranberries, pears and dried fruits, many vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and asparagus and quinoa. They give us our much needed slow release energy. Astringent tastes aren’t as cold as bitter ones but still aid in the detoxification of the body. Most astringent foods have a drying quality in the body which is why they are also best when mixed with other foods.
Bitter and astringent foods reduce your desire for sweet things, so if you finish a meal with a pomegranate salad you’re less likely to crave anything afterwards.
These six tastes are a great way to incorporate an ayurvedic style of eating into your life to gain a greater sense of well-being and shed a few pounds effortlessly. To bring a yoga pose or two into this foodstyle try doing some seated twists (Maryciasana C) and Sun Salutations (A or B) first thing in the morning to get your digestive system working, then last thing at night try some light inversions to calm your heart rate and blood pressure followed by some Bramari Pranayama.