Flavour in Ayurveda
We tend to want to pack as much flavour in our food, to make it taste good and be enjoyable. But is there something more to flavours? Can they enhance bio-chemical processes in the body? Taste and flavour play a critical role in Ayurveda and the digestion process, plus there’s a science behind it! Let’s discover more about the importance of flavour in Ayurveda and how it benefits us.
WHAT IS ‘RASA’?
The word for ‘taste’ in Sanskrit and in Sinhala (the most widely spoken language in Sri Lanka) is ‘rasa’. Yet ‘rasa’ in Ayurveda holds a wider holistic meaning than just taste; it also encompasses ‘experience’, ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘essence’. This does resonate when you think of the enjoyment of a wholesome meal with loved ones.
In Ayurveda, there are six identified tastes – Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter. Each rasa is believed to possess specific qualities that contribute both emotionally and physiologically to one’s health. When in balance and not in excess, they not only feed our body, but also our minds, senses and spirit. Including a combination of these different tastes is recommended to maintain a healthy digestive system and general well-being. Different foods tend to exhibit one or two more dominant rasas. Let’s take a closer look at each flavour in Ayurveda.
1. SWEET FLAVOUR
Sweet flavours are comforting and nourishing; they are believed to cultivate compassion and sharing. The sweet taste is derived from naturally occurring sugars that provide energy, strength and vitality. Dates, ripe bananas, beetroot, rice, oats, coconut, cashews, ripe berries, mango, papaya, sweet potato, honey and Ceylon cinnamon are examples of sweet flavours.
2. SOUR FLAVOUR
The sour rasa helps to enhance one’s appetite and digestion. Sour notes increase the secretion of saliva, gastric secretions and digestive enzymes to aid the breakdown of foods, encourage the flow of bile and stimulate the metabolism. The sour taste is energising, and is believed to awaken emotions of understanding and appreciation. In the sour food category are citrus fruit like lemon, lime and orange, tomatoes, yoghurt and fermented foods. In addition, sour fruits generally are a good source of vitamin C.
3. SALTY FLAVOUR
The salty flavour is warming, creating moisture and heat in the body. They improve the nervous system and digestion by supporting the absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Salty foods like rock salt, sea salt, seaweed, olives and soy sauce help to maintain the water-electrolyte balance in the blood. The salty flavour has a tendency to enhance the flavour of other foods. It is believed to be grounding and encourage stability.
4. PUNGENT FLAVOUR
The pungent rasa is effective in stimulating digestive juices, blood circulation and the metabolism overall. Intense in flavour and with properties of heat, it is deeply penetrating and helps the body detoxify. It is said to enable feelings of curiosity, concentration and vigour. Most herbs & spices contain pungent properties including black pepper, ginger and clove; and other foods such as garlic, onion, leeks and buckwheat.
5. ASTRINGENT FLAVOUR
The astringent flavour is grounding and tends to hold tissues together, thus promoting healing, repair and muscle tone. It is described as heavy and dry, and can support the body with excess fluid or swelling. Astringent foods include most beans, red wine, parsley, avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, walnuts and asparagus.
6. BITTER FLAVOUR
Cooling and light in nature, the bitter rasa helps to absorb nutrients, purify the blood and is considered deeply cleansing for the body. Examples of bitter foods include dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, celery, eggplant, turmeric, sesame, coffee and dark chocolate. They are typically high in polyphenol (antioxidant) content.
HOW FLAVOUR HELPS DIGESTION
We commonly hear the old adage, ‘we are what we eat’. But to be more precise – ‘we are what we absorb’. Although we eat a variety of foods, our bodies may not fully absorb all the nutrients and thereby truly benefit from them.
Smell and taste are important functions of the body, and Ayurveda sees a much deeper relationship between taste and good health. Therefore, the flavours of food play an essential role, giving the body the right signals to benefit from what you consume. Digestion begins the moment food enters your mouth. The 10,000 taste buds in the tongue, mouth and throat help to inform the body to release the appropriate enzymes required to breakdown food. For example, saliva in the mouth contains enzymes to start digesting carbohydrates before it is swallowed.
Recent research studies have revealed that taste receptors are not only found in the oral cavity. They are widely distributed in other organs and tissues of the body, including the stomach, intestines, liver, brain, kidney and pancreas, and form a large chemosensory system. Therefore, taste doesn’t end in the mouth, but continues to play a role in signalling the digestive tract to continue secreting specific enzymes for proper digestion.
In fact, the six tastes in Ayurveda satisfy the major dietary food groups. For example, naturally sweet foods are typically rich in carbohydrates, fats, proteins and water. Therefore, incorporating the different rasas in your balanced meals helps your brain and body feel satiated. In addition, there is scientific evidence that flavour helps in feeling full, reducing cravings and limiting overeating.
FLAVOUR IN BOTANISTRY ORGANIC HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS
Typically, flavour isn’t considered when discussing dietary supplements, especially in the case of pills and tablets. In other instances, products are artificially flavoured to mask certain tastes or non-active ‘filler’ ingredients. What is unique about BOTANISTRY Blends is they are mindfully formulated through Ayurveda with both function and flavour in focus. Flavour was not an afterthought, but very much a part of the formulation and purpose of each powder blend.
Only 100% natural plant ingredients are blended for BOTANISTRY Ayurvedic supplements. They are pure and unadulterated, without any additives, flavourings, sweeteners, binders, fillers, etc. It has been found that dried herbs & spices are more potent than their fresh counterparts. In addition, chefs will tell you that the stronger the aroma, the fresher and better quality the ingredient. Our premium grade plant ingredients are harvested specifically for BOTANISTRY all-natural supplements. They are not stale or old stock or leftovers, lacking in flavour and potency. This all means the powders are powerful in function and flavour to holistically benefit you.
Sweet, sour and bitter flavours found in herbs & spices help the digestive process, informing the body to be better prepared to breakdown what is consumed.
ACTIVE CORALS flavour – The warming sweetness of Ceylon Cinnamon gives comforting, strengthening properties, whilst helping to balance stress and hormones. It is balanced by the pungent and bitter taste from Turmeric and Ashwagandha – all working together to support the body’s circulation and mobility.
DIGESTIVE JADES flavour – The pungent Ginger and bitter Curry Leaf help to stimulate appetite and keep the digestive enzymes active for better nutrient absorption. It is balanced by the fragrant and floral notes of Lemongrass and Chamomile.
BOOSTING AMBERS flavour – The sour flavour from the Lime heightens the sense organs, improves circulation and ignites the digestive process. It is balanced by the bitter and pungent notes from the Turmeric, Ginger and Black Pepper that help cleanse and detoxify the body, especially when feeling run down. Pungent flavours have been used in Ayurveda to help with a heavy cold and clear mucus congestion.
GLOWING GREENS flavour – The herbaceous bitter taste with Moringa and Green Tea supports the removal of toxins and excess fluid, while Peppermint provides a hint of calming sweetness. This detoxifying action helps with skin health overall.