There are Six Tastes, according to Ayurveda, and they all have various affects on the body. The Six Tastes are: sweet, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter, and salty; and today we’re going to take a look at some attributes of sweetness and what sweetness does for our bodies.
Sweetness and the Doshas
The sweet taste balances pitta and vata, which are two out of the three doshas (or humors) in Ayurveda, and that basically means sweetness can help to cool down and soothe the body, alleviate mental agitation, transform frustration into contentment, and fortify us physically and emotionally. The sweet taste aggravates kapha (the third dosha), which means that it can (especially if we overindulge in it) cause us to feel extra tired or lethargic, like we need more sleep than usual.
Benefits of Sweet
Eating a reasonable amount of sweet foods can help us feel joyful, blissful, and able to maintain a positive outlook on the world, even if we’re going through a hard time. The sweet taste, according to classical Ayurveda, ought to be a main part of our daily diet, as it promotes sattvic qualities (peace, harmony, bliss, compassion)—but that said, we’re not talking about sweet-tasting candy bars and sodas or any highly processed/refined sweet-tasting foods that cause more harm than good. 5,000 years ago, when Ayurveda was developing, they didn’t have Hershey’s chocolate or coca-cola. They didn’t have Jello or Gatorade, Red Bull or Monster Energy drinks; so including any processed or refined sweet foods into the discussion is irrelevant to the classical teachings of Ayurveda. In the modern world, though, where many people are consuming those types of foods on a regular basis, it is relevant to mention that there aren’t any health benefits to eating highly processed, refined sugary foods with chemicals and additives, and Ayurveda does not recommend the consumption of those foods—especially when there are thousands of whole, organic, natural sweet-tasting foods from the earth to choose from like:
Plums, peaches, melons, grapes, dates, dried fruits, maple sugar and syrups coconut, agave, stevia, licorice root, peppermint, alfalfa, slippery elm, fennel, panax ginseng root, beets, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, seeds, nuts, nut milks, sprouted grains, alkalizing protein-rich foods (lentils, beans, legumes, chicken, turkey, tofu, cheese, yogurt, eggs, milk, tuna, salmon, lamb), grains, yams, oils, carbs and fats, to name a few.
The sweet taste refers to anything that awakens the very tip of your tongue when you eat it, and tastes, well—for lack of a better word, sweet. Sweet foods are not easily digested, per se; but eaten in moderation, can help the body produce the right amount of phlegm and mucus to keep the mouth, throat, diaphragm, and all the tubes running through the belly down to the bowels well moistened and fortified for air (breath), beverages, and food to pass through properly—which, by the transitive property, can support digestion.
Sweet is considered grounding, building, nourishing for the body, and it helps to strengthen all 7 dhatus, or 7 tissues of the body: plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscle (mamsa), fat (meda), bone (asthi), nerves (majja), and reproductive tissues (shukra—male, arthava—female). It benefits the skin, hair, nails, complexion, and it can bring a melodious tone to our voices, strengthen the immune system, and help wounds heal quickly (fun fact: raw, unprocessed, high quality honey can be great for healing cuts, burns, and scrapes—applied directly onto the wound).
Sweet directly influences the thyroid and upper legs—both are related to our ability to feel safe, balanced, secure and content in the world (the upper legs are literally supporting your “root,” or sacrum, pelvic floor and reproductive organs, and play a major role in our ability to literally, physically feel strong and secure; and the thyroid deals with hormone regulation, which majorly influences our mood and emotional/energetic sense of security). Sweet also directly influences the stomach, spleen and pancreas, helping them work properly when eaten in balance, and decreasing their vitality when eaten in excess, or when eaten from highly processed/refined sugary foods. Sweet can neutralize toxins in the body and support tissue growth and cell regeneration, and acts as an antispasmodic, nervine and tonic for the organs and tissues.
Sweet interacts with the Apana Vayu, which is one of the 5 vayus (directions of energy flow in the body, mentioned in the Vedic texts). Apana Vayu deals with downward motion, particularly related to the elimination of waste and toxins. So we can often see signs of too much sweet in the body once we experience difficulty with elimination—like constipation or diarrhea.
How much is too much sweetness?
Too much sweetness can suppress our appetite, slow down digestion, impair the spleen, stomach, kidneys and pancreas, cause fevers or difficulty breathing, instigate a cough or a cold, lead to diabetes or obesity, and/or promote feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration, lethargy, and cravings for more sugar, unhealthy expectations/attachments in relationships, and a greedy/possessive disposition in general.
So when we’ve overindulged in sweetness, we might notice we’re not often hungry, and we’re a bit more anxious, possessive, needy, and ungrounded. We might also notice that our digestion slows down quite a bit, and we have uncomfortable and infrequent elimination. Our hair, skin and nails might start to suffer; we might lose hair, have weak and brittle nails, and see less evenness and tone to our skin—or, in some cases, even see signs of skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc. We might also experience insatiable thirst, regardless of how much water we drink throughout the day.
Most committed yogis eat primarily sweet foods because of the mind-quieting, compassion-inducing qualities of sweetness. But in order for our sweet intake to stay in the healthy rage, we do need to make sure we’re eating the other 5 tastes in addition to sweet, as well as, pay attention to what kinds of sweet foods we’re ingesting (again, staying away from processed, refined foods and sugars).
If you’re experiencing any of the out-of-balance-sweet symptoms, there are actions you can take to restore balance. For more information about what you can do, or to learn more about your own constitution and what a potential balanced nutrition plan would be for you, schedule a consultation with us here: https://santacruzayurveda.com/appointments/
“Ayurvedic Tongue Diagnosis” by Walter Shantree Kacera, 2006.