Balanced meals are about more than just making sure you have vegetables on your plate. In Ayurveda, we look at rasa, or taste, as a way to ensure meals are balanced to support digestion. When rasa in a meal is balanced with all six tastes, we feel satisfied and the food tastes delicious.
The concept that “like increases like and the opposite brings balance” is a key Ayurvedic principle to balance the doshas. So, a person with excess kapha will have more damp, heavy qualities that will be increased by foods with sweet, sour and salty rasa. More pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will bring balance because of their hot, dry qualities. We are composed of all doshas, just in different amounts. A common misconception about Ayurveda is that we must completely eliminate the tastes that increase our primary dosha(s). Going to extremes like this will cause imbalance and actually goes against Ayurveda, where the goal is to move toward balance. Eat in a way that represents all six rasa at the levels appropriate to your unique state of balance.
Our meal this month is a great example of balanced recipes according to rasa. Try it out and see if you can discern the tastes of each of the foods. Keep in mind that if you are used to heavily flavored foods, like onions, garlic, hot sauce, or refined sugar that numb the taste buds, it can take time to adjust to the more subtle flavors. Over time, you’ll taste the sweetness of squash and rice, the pungency of coriander and the bitterness of kale, all the time knowing that you’re supporting your agni and improving your overall health.
Ayurveda recognizes six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each of these tastes relate to the elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) that govern the three doshas. When present in a meal, each rasa can support or hinder digestion depending on quantity used and your particular state of imbalance, or vikruti.
Here’s a quick reference chart:
Rasa rice bowl