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In Ayurveda, the Vedic System of mind-body medicine, taste (Rasya) is a valuable therapeutic opportunity. Taste is divided into six categories:
Sweet, sugars and starches, related to the earth and water elements.
Salty, table salt or seaweed, related to the water and fire elements.
Sour, fermented food or acidic fruits, related to the earth and fire elements.
Pungent, hot spices like cayenne and ginger, related to the fire and air elements.
Bitter, cruciferous vegetables and various herbs, related to the air and ether elements.
Astringent, some fruits and vegetables, related to the air and earth elements.
The reason that tastes are of therapeutic value is because they provide the opportunity to balance external influences on one's constitution, including seasonal/climatic effects. When eating "by the season" many of the available crops help to alleviate seasonal stressors experienced by certain individuals. Spring, for instance, is the season most influenced by the elements of earth and water and when we begin to feel the effects of seasonal allergies. To counter this we can apply air (dries water) and ether (counters density/earth) by way of bitter tasting spring vegetables like dandelion greens, mustard greens, radish tops, kale, and arugula. The brain's perception of bitter taste is simply the body's detection of air and ether in the food.
This is also why the pairing of flavors is so effective in gastronomy. The dish, when successful, contains balanced flavors which is perceived as harmony in the brain and body, and harmony equates to satisfaction. As individuals, our bodies are each naturally inclined towards one or more of the elements, thus our individual reaction to flavors is influenced by this inclination which we call Doshas.
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