“By eating lightly of healthy food, one experiences the bliss of brahm and complete liberation.” -From the poem: The Daily Banis by Yogi Bhajan in Furmaan Khalsa, 1987
Every food has a specific taste or “rasa” that affects us uniquely. Translated from Sanskrit, “ra” means to relish or to taste and “sa” means juice or secretion. The six tastes are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent; and ideally are present in every meal. Each taste is composed of two elements and thus has very specific effects on our mind, body and spirit through each of the doshas: vata, pitta and kapha.
Ayurvedic texts note additional actions for each taste. The first aspect is virya which is the effect once the food enters the digestive tract and in part relates to the effect on the agni or digestive fire. The second aspect is the vipaka, or post digestive effect, and is the effect on metabolic pathways in the body in regard to tissue and waste production.
Ayurvedic nutrition has an understanding that the core properties of a food can change depending on the manner in which it is grown and prepared. When green grapes are picked off the vine, there is a co-mingling of sour and sweet tastes. As the grapes are dried in the sun, the sweet taste becomes more noticeable. When raisins are soaked in water or milk before adding to food or drinks, the sweet taste becomes even more prominent. It is amazing to see how significantly the action of a food on the body can evolve based on the manner through which it has been “prepared.” Additional changes in effects can come from other foods consumed together. For example, lemon, which has the sour taste, is not recommended to be consumed with milk, yoghurt or cucumbers as it can cause curdling and/or toxic metabolic side effects.
Elements: Earth and Fire
Effect on Doshas: pacifies Vata, increases Kapha and Pitta
Qualities: liquid, light, heating, oily
Vipaka: promotes metabolic functions and creates acidic pH of urine, feces, sweat
Role in the body:
When used in moderation, it increases salivary secretions, stimulates appetite, energizes the body, enlivens the mind and decreases kapha. When larger quantities are in the diet or the core constitution of the person is high in pitta or kapha, the sour taste may lead to drying membranes or creating congestion. Over time, excess sour taste in the diet can contribute to acid indigestion, ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, cystitis, diarrhea and dampness in lungs.
Effect on emotional states: Incorporating the sour taste in the diet leads to improved comprehension and discrimination. In excess it will induce jealousy, envy and hate as discrimination progresses to judgment.
Healthy Dietary Examples:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Citrus fruits
- Unripe mango
- Green grapes
- Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso
- Tamarind (sour)
[Adapted from Textbook of Ayurveda Vol 1, Dr. Vasant Lad, Albuquerque, The Ayurvedic Press, 2002.]
[From The Ancient Art of Self-Healing]
- “Green grapes are good for clear complexion.” p. 85
- “The qualities of fermented foods have been listed as follows: for arthritis, scurvy, ulcers, colds, digestive disorders and cancer” p.116
- “Lemons expel mucus from the body. Drink lemon-honey water often when you have a sore throat or a cold.” p. 76
- “Lemons are high in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are good for scurvy. They purify the system, pushing out the acids. They are good for fevers and liver problems also.” p. 104
- “In one of the Vedic books, it is clearly written that woman should eat her type of food and man should eat his type of food. Women need more citrus, plums, peaches, papayas, raisins and more dates.” p. 32
- “You want to know what can cure a bad complexion? They call it a vatna. Take milk, boil it and make yoghurt. Then churn it and you will be left with butter and buttermilk. Strain the buttermilk through cheesecloth. The residue is called chiddi. Then mix that chiddi with ground sandalwood, almond oil and garbanzo flour and make it into a paste. You can massage that paste into the face until the cheeks are red. These people always look like they are 12 years old.“ p. 85
Celery Chickpea Flour Pancakes
- 1/2 tsp cumin seed
- 1/2 tsp oregano seed
- 1/2 tsp caraway seed
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup chick pea flour
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup water
- Dash salt
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Recipe can be doubled for more pancakes. Add up to ¾ cup water to thin the batter. Fry on cast iron griddle until browned on each side. Coconut oil or ghee can be used to coat the pan. Makes 4 five-inch pancakes. Best when served warm.
Recipe from: Yogi Bhajan, Foods for Health and Healing, Arcline Publishers. 1984
- 1 cup plain vegan or organic yogurt
- 2 tbs chopped cilantro or parsley
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
- ½ cup diced cucumber
Bring a small saucepan to medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and briskly move the seeds over the bottom of the pan by shaking the pan via the handle and toast the seeds until they are lightly browned. Dice the cucumber and spices and mix all ingredients together. Best when served fresh but can keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Blend together for several minutes and serve over fresh greens, steamed carrots, on a sandwich or as pasta sauce. Covered in the refrigerator, it will keep for 2 -3 days.
- 4 large sweet red peppers (Note: if you don’t have fresh red peppers, roasted red peppers in jar can be used.)
- 1-2 small hot chili
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron (optional)
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs (whole wheat or gluten free can be used)
- 1 cup walnuts (or combo of walnuts and almonds is good too)
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Toasted whole wheat pita bread
- 4 cups salad greens from farmers market
- Cured black olives
In 350 degree oven roast the red peppers for 15 minutes until browned on outside. Place the cooked peppers in a bowl and cover to steam for another 10 minutes. The skin should peel off easily. In a food processor or blender, blend together the peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin, and salt to taste until the mixture is fairly smooth. With the blender running add the oil gradually to create an emulsion. Serve with pita, olives and salad greens.
The content of this column is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information in this column for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication or other treatment.
Dr. Siri Chand Kaur Khalsa maintains a private medical practice in Phoenix, Arizona and has a vegetarian food blog, www.luminousfoods.com where she posts on utilizing food as our first daily medicine for creating a vibrant healthy body. From the organic farms where we get our vegetables to sustainably preparing healthy food, to the ancient science of Ayurveda, her writings are offered to critique the often-conflicting information available on these topics. After completing her allopathic education, Dr. Khalsa has been blessed to travel internationally learning ancient, subtle healing techniques and is now certified as a Kundalini Yoga Teacher and Reiki Master with additional ongoing studies in aromatherapy, Ayurveda, and nutrition. From the wisdom given to us by Yogi Bhajan, she teaches the fundamental idea that food is in fact medicine that can sustain our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies as we move through our time on Earth. Embracing the Sikh concepts of seva (service) and langar (kitchen where food is served to all for free) she prays someday all will be able to join in the global table to receive adequate servings of healthy vegetarian food.