If you are diagnosed for high blood sugar; the first thing you will make change in your life is cut on sweet food and increase the intake of bitter food with a hope that bitter being the opposite of sweet; it will be helpful to control blood sugar.
Taste, called rasa in Sanskrit, is the key to understanding ayurvedic nutrition. It is why certain foods influence some people’s digestion in a positive way while not for others. Each taste has a direct energetic effect on digestion, creating either a heating or a cooling sensation.
षडेव रसा इत्युवाच भगवानात्रेयः पुनर्वसुः, मधुराम्ललवणकटुतिक्तकषायाः|
ṣaḍeva rasā ityuvāca bhagavānātreyaḥ punarvasuḥ, madhurāmlalavaṇakaṭutiktakaṣāyāḥ|
There are only six tastes -
1. Madhura (sweet)
2. Amla (sour)
3. Lavana (Saline)
4. Katu (Pungent)
5. Tikta (Bitter)
6. Kashaya (Astringent)
Physical & Mental Effect of Six Rasas on our Body :
|Taste||Physical Effect||Mental Effect||Source|
|earth, water||Sweet||nourishes, builds and strengthens body tissues||soothing, calming, satisfactory||Carbohydrates, Protein, FatGrains, pasta, rice, bread, starchy vegetables, dairy, meat, chicken, ﬁsh, sugar, honey|
|fat diseases, obesity, diabetes||lethargy, anxiety|
|water, ﬁre||Salty||lubricates tissues, softens, maintains mineral balance and holds water||enhances appetite and other tastes, enthusiasm, calms nerves and stops anxiety||Mineral saltsTable salt, soy sauce, salted meats, ﬁsh, seaweed|
|wrinkles, thirst, loss of strength, baldness||cravings, anger, impatience, lethargy|
|earth, ﬁre||Sour||stimulates appetite and digestion, strengthens heart, relieves thirst and satiates||enhances intellectual activities||Organic acids: ascorbic acid, citric acid, acetic acidCitrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, pickled foods, salad dressing, yoghurt, alcohol|
|loss of strength, fever, thirst||resentment and jealousy, anger, impatience, hot temper|
|ﬁre, air||Pungent||warms body and promotes sweating, improves metabolism and relieves nerve pain||opens mind and senses||Essential oilsPeppers, chilies, onions, garlic, cayenne, black pepper, cloves, ginger, mustard, salsa, raddish, wasabi|
|thirst, depletion of reproductive ﬂuid and strength, fainting, waist/back pain||irritability, anger, impatience|
|earth, air||Astringent||cleanses blood and helps maintaining healthy blood sugar level, dries moisture and fat||cools ﬁery minds,clears senses and emotions, removes lethargy||TanninsLentils, dried beans, broccoli, green apples, pears, grape skins, cauliﬂower, cabbage, pomegranates, tea|
|gas or constipation, heart pain, thirst||anxiety, worry, fear, insomnia|
|ether, air||Bitter||cleanses and detoxiﬁes, reduces fat and water excess, relieves thirst and fever, antibiotic||helpful in managing food cravings, clears senses and emotions||Alkaloids or glycosidesGreen leafy vegetables, green and yellow vegetables, kale, celery, broccoli, sprouts, beets|
Effects of the Rasas on the Doshas :
Action of Bitter Taste – Tikta Rasa
स्वयमरोचिष्णुरप्यरोचकघ्नो - Though not so good to taste, when taken, it improves taste in the person. विषघ्नः – Vishaghna detoxifies क्रिमिघ्नो – krimighna – kills germs and worms मूर्च्छादाहकण्डूकुष्ठ – Murcha daha kandu kushta – relieves unconsciousness, burning sensation, itching and skin disorders तृष्णाप्रशमनस्त्वङ्मांसयोः स्थिरीकरणो – relieves thirst, strengthens and stabilizes body ज्वरघ्नो दीपनः पाचनः – Jvaraghna, Deepana, pachana – useful in fever, digestive and carminative स्तन्यशोधनो – Stanya shodhana – cleanses, purifies breast milk लेखनः - Lekhana – scraping क्लेदमेदोवसामज्जलसीकापूयस्वेदमूत्रपुरीषपित्तश्लेष्मोपशोषणो – dries up excess moisture, fat, marrow, lymph, pus, sweating, urine, Pitta and Shleshma. रूक्षः शीतो लघुश्च – Rooksha, Sheeta Laghu – dry, cold and light
Excess of Bitter taste causes -
रौक्ष्यात्खरविषदस्वभावाच्च रसरुधिरमांसमेदोस्थिमज्जशुक्राण्युच्छोषयति –
Due to dryness, roughness, non sliminess, bitter depletes Rasa dhatu (essence part of digestion), blood (rudhira), Mamsa (muscle tissue), Meda (fat tissue), Asthi (bone), Majja (marrow), Shukra (semen, female reproductive system) स्रोतसां खरत्वमुपपादयति – Srotasam kharatvam upapadayati – brings about roughness to the body channels बलमादत्ते – depletes strength and immunity कर्शयति – Karshayati – depletes body weight ग्लपयति – Glapayati -weariness मोहयति – Mohayati - unconsciousness भ्रमयति – Bhramayati - giddiness वदनमुपशोषयति – Vadanam upashoshayati -dryness of mouth वातविकारानुपजनयति - Vata Vikara anupajanayati -causes diseases of Vata imbalance [43-v]
All the six Rasas, if properly used jointly or individually, in proper dose, bring about happiness to all living beings. Otherwise they are equally harmful to all. So a wise person should use them properly in proper dose in order to have good result.
Bitter is the coolest and lightest, making it best for pitta and least effective for vata, especially when taken without a proper balance of other tastes. Air and ether comprise this rasa, whose virya is cooling and whose vipak is pungent, making it quite cooling in the short term, but warming in the big picture.
Be careful to consume the bitter taste in excess, as it’s known to create immediate coldness that can bring on bouts of grief and depression. Like sour, a little goes a long way. Make the bitter rasa a regular part of your meals but in small amounts. It will enhance the flavor of other foods and help to gently purify and cleanse the body.
Each of the six tastes also produce effects on each of the internal organs. They have the capacity to adversely affect certain organs in the body, when found in excess.
The preferential use of rasa in diet
Rasas are extremely important in our diet and the diet should primarily consist of all the six rasas. In medicine, the Veerya (potency) is predominant whereas in diet, rasa is predominant. Consumption of a particular rasa in large quantities in particular seasons has also been advised.
It has been instructed that madhur rasa (madhur dravyam not only constitutes sweet items like sugar, jaggery but also other food items like wheat, rice, maize etc.) should be consumed first, amla and lavana rasa should be consumed in the middle of the meal and tikta, katu and kashaya rasa should be consumed at the end. There is some ideological basis for this.
- When a person is hungry, the stomach is empty. Empty stomach causes an increase in vata dosha. To pacify this vata dosha, madhur rasa should be eaten first.
- Apart from this, kaphavruddhi is required to moisten the ingested food. This is accomplished by the madhur rasa.
- Since dravyas, having madhur rasa are difficult to digest, it is advisable to eat these dravyas first.
- After this, it is correct to use amla and lavana rasa. The reason for this is not to pacify the remaining vata but also to aid digestion by improving the agni.
- Lastly, katu, tikta and kashaya rasa should be taken as these rasa increase the agni along with reducing the kapha which increase after ingestion of food.
This rule applies in relation to health. But in pathological conditions this idea has to be modified accordingly. For example,
- In anorexia and similar kapha disorders, initially ginger and salt i.e. katu and lavana rasa should be used.
- Of these, katu rasa pacifies the kapha while the lavana rasa moistens food and pacifies vata.
- Similarly, the order of using these rasa can be suitably altered taking into consideration the prakruti (nature of the person), individual preferences and the condition of the doshas.
- At times, when rasa like lavana, amla and katu, which produce burning sensation, are used first, madhur rasa has to be used in the end in order to reduce the offending pitta.
Like for instance, in tropical countries, there is a custom to eat sweet preparations before starting the meal. This is useful in moistening the annavanha srotas (alimentary canal) before ingestion of food. Contrary to this, in cold countries, there is a custom of taking soups of amla and katu rasa.
There is a definite order even in arranging food items in the dish:
- Staple food like rice and chapatti are kept in the center of the dish.
- On the left side sweet dishes are kept, then sour pickle and lemon.
- Lavana rasa is kept in the center (right in front of the eyes) and tikta or katu rasa are placed on the right side of the plate.
Therefore, plan your diet consciously taking into considerations all six rasas to nourish your body.