How the Ayurvedic principle of ‘Shadrasa’ can lead you to good health

Dr. Madhumitha Krishnan

Dr. Madhumitha
22 October 2020

A Consultant Ayurveda Paediatrician practicing in Bengaluru, she specialises in treating special children, and believes that a proper diet is the greatest medicine.

In these times of mass manufactured junk and fast food, we don’t often think of taste and health together. Indeed, in many cases, the foods many of us consider tastiest are also the least healthy. But this is usually because our diets have become too limited, narrowing the definition of good taste. Indeed, if we go back to traditional Ayurvedic traditions, we find that it’s all about taste and the concept of shadrasa.

The three doshas and shadrasa

Traditional Indian Food

To understand the idea of shadrasa, we have to go back to the three doshas or basic physiological functions of the body: vata, pitta and kapha. Vata is responsible for movement, pitta for metabolism or transformation, and kapha for anabolism – which is the process of building cells in our body.

According to Ayurveda, a person is healthy when the three doshas are in equilibrium, and falls ill when they fall out of balance. While the doshas can be affected by a variety of conditions, the foods we eat play a major role in their regulation.

Shadrasa refers to the rule of Ayurvedic dietetics that a person should incorporate all six fundamental tastes into their diet. These six tastes are madhura or sweet, amla or sour, lavana or salty, katu or pungent, tikta or bitter and kashaya or astringent. These tastes, in turn, affect the three doshas in different ways, as follows:

Vata: Is increased by consuming food that is katu (Pungent), tikta (bitter), and kashaya (astringent) and reduced by food that is madhura (sweet), amla (sour) and lavana (salty).

Pitta: Is increased by food that is katu (Pungent), amla (sour) and lavana (salty), and decreased by food that is madhura (sweet), tikta (bitter) and Kashaya (astringent).

Kapha: Is increased by food that is madhura (sweet), amla (sour) and lavana (salty) and decreased by food that is katu (Pungent), tikta (bitter), and kashaya.

How the different tastes impact our health

In line with their effects on the different doshas, the six primary tastes also contribute to a variety of body processes.

Sweet or madhura ingredients like dates and sugar help increase strength, improve complexion, increase the essence of bodily tissues, increase weight, and are heavy on digestion. In excess, they cause increase of fat and kapha, leading to obesity, diabetes and reduced appetite.

Sour oramla ingredients like lemon and tamarind stimulate the digestive fire, improve heart health, improve appetite and cause satiety. In high quantities, they increase kapha and pitta and cause looseness within the body, loss of strength, giddiness, pallor, thirst and fever.

Salty orlavana ingredients like saindha namak (rock salt) and sea salt improve digestion and taste and induce sweating. Too much of them increases pitta and causes diseases of the blood, greying of hair, wrinkles on the skin, and loss of strength.

Pungent orkatu ingredients like chillies or pepper improve hunger, help in digestion, relieve diseases of the throat, reduce moisture and fat and help improve skin condition. In excess, they increase pitta and vata, causing thirst, reducing tissue mass and strength in the body, and causing loss of consciousness.

Bitter ortikta How to Increase Immune System ingredients like bitter gourd and neem are easily digestible, cleanse the throat, reduce intestinal worms, fever, nausea, and burning sensations and reduce moisture and fat. Overdoing these ingredients

When it comes to the pungent and bitter tastes, Indian traditional spices are your best friends, since most of them fall in these two categories. Apart from pepper and chillies, you should keep cinnamon, dry ginger powder, turmeric, ajwain and cloves handy in the kitchen for taste balances in your food.

Astringent orkashaya ingredients like pomegranate rind or raw banana are heavy on digestion, reduce moisture and fat, cause dryness and cleanse the skin. In excess, they deter digestion and cause emaciation, constipation and flatulence.

The ideal diet is about balance

Each person is a unique combination of the different doshas. What’s more, the doshas also vary based on several other factors such as the environment we inhabit and the prevailing season. Healthy eating, therefore, is about finding a combination of tastes that compensate and regulate the doshas. However, one simple rule to follow for healthy eating is to bring all the six tastes into the meal by eating a variety of foods i.e. balance diet food.

Whether for taste, cost or convenience, our diets nowadays are dominated by an excess of processed food, fats, and sugar. To balance out the doshas and eat healthily, however, we need to return to our traditional diets built on the multiple tastes of shadrasa. After all, variety is not only the spice of life but also the key to good health.


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