Monday, June 24, 2024


Arusuvai – Six tastes - அறுசுவை

The people in Yarlpanam enjoyed a very good stress free life right along for a very long time. When one spoke to an elder statesman, they would talk about arusuvai and the variety of fresh food they ate. Those people were very modest and ate three cooked meals every day and two of which was a sort of main meals. There were no takeaways or readymade food or even restaurants but occasionally one could find a local family made breakfast dishes at their homes and sold them to those who ordered them in advance and also supplied to small eating houses in the small towns and shopping areas. As these dishes were homemade they were palatable and of good quality. Of course, as time passed all these changed and elaborate restaurants soon established and things changed to the present day status.

So what is this Arusuvai then? Those people believed quite rightly that arusuvai provided them with a good balanced food and it kept them healthy and fit physically. At the same time they also had the indigenous spices and herbs which provided them with ready remedies to their health problems. Now we know that arusuvai, according to Ayurveda should be included to form a balanced diet and again according to Ayurveda, ‘sense of taste is the guide map towards proper nutrition'.

From ancient times, humans relied on taste to identify healthy foods in nature and avoid bad ones. Our taste buds do more than identifying tastes by unlocking the nutritive values of food and providing the initial information to the entire digestive system. Literally food speaks to us through sense of taste. Once the food is ingested and disappeared from the mouth, taste does not disappear as we think but continues to influence our physical and emotional balance. Each food has a particular taste which relates to its digestive action. This taste is the result of pharmacological properties of the biochemical substances that are contained in the food.

Arusuvai means six tastes and they are perceived by the tongue when the food enters the mouth. All foods can be categorised under six tastes as Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Sour, Astringent and Pungent.

The Sweet taste:

This one taste is most liked by all people of all descriptions. Sweet taste is found in starches, sugars and some fats. The sweet taste acts fast in the tongue. It is a cooling taste and helps to build body tissues. It is therefore absolutely necessary in the diet of emaciated individuals. It gives immediate energy and promotes growth in babies. In excess it builds toxins and causes obesity. It promotes a sense of contentment and is associated with love and happiness.

Nearly all staple foods like root vegetables, yams, cereals, some varieties of fruits, vegetable oils, sugars, syrups, dairy products and meat belong to this group of food having this taste. These foods provide nourishment when consumed within limits. It should be noted that honey has a sweet taste and is slightly astringent and due to this astringent taste honey does not increase the weight of the individual to the same extent as sugar does.

Sweet foods are fattening and contribute to mucus formation which leads to congestion and coughs. In general sweet foods contribute to drowsiness, lethargy, poor digestion, vomiting and a whole host of other disorders.

The Sour taste:

This taste of sourness adds further taste to foods. The sour taste is found in fermented foods like cheese and yogurt, idli, and thosai, acidic fruits like lime, tomatoes, sour mangoes, grapes and plums and of course in tamarind which forms the basis of many chutneys, juices and pastes. It is a heating taste and stimulates salivation, thirst, maintains acidity, improves appetite and aids digestion. Sour foods are generally cleansing, carminative and cause perspiration. It also causes heartburn, itching, and increased blood pressure and damage to teeth. Sourness is associated with emotion of envy. In excess it increases acidity. Muscle weakness and diarrhoea are first evidence of excess consumption of sour foods.

The Salty taste:

The salt taste is unavoidable and everyone likes it provided it is consumed in the right proportions and not in excess. The salty taste is found in sea salt and sea weed. It is also found in excess in some vegetables like radish, parsnip, pumpkin, bottle gourd and stalks of some leafy vegetables. Salt aids digestion and circulation. It also increases saliva production and dilutes phlegm. It is soothing to nervous and excitable individuals. Salt taste is said to be heavy, hot and pungent. Its sharpness stimulates appetite and softens food by changing the consistency of saliva.

In excess it causes general debility, wrinkles, hyper acidity, and high blood pressure, itching and burning sensation and gout as well as vomiting. Due to its nature of absorbing moisture, it induces thirst and intake of salt should be avoided when there is thirst and contraindicated in cases of premature aging and skin diseases. Salty taste is generally associated with emotion of greed.

The Pungent taste: (Hot)

This taste stimulates the appetite. The pungent taste comes from the essential oils in spices and herbs. Pungent foods are hot, light and dry. Mostly found in known spices, onions, garlic, ginger and pepper. The volatile oils in spices and herbs in addition to bringing out the aroma also cause tingling sensation to the tongue and promote salivation and increased flow of digestive juices thus stimulating the appetite and help digestion. They also improve metabolism.

The hot spices act as decongestant in sinuses and can be used to drain blocked sinuses and expectoration of phlegm. Black pepper and ginger are examples that are used to clear up colds. Spices are also known to treat obesity and diabetes. Many spices help to wipe out low grade fungal and bacterial infections and intestinal parasites in addition to aiding in fat metabolism. Some spices can be chewed after meals to cleanse the mouth like cardamoms, fennel seeds or cinnamon sticks and these in addition give fresh breath. In excess this causes burning and increased irritability and anger. It increases swatting and there are increased chances to develop stomach and intestinal ulcers and haemorrhoids. It is usually associated with emotions of hatred.

The Bitter taste:

The bitter taste is not a well appreciated one out of the six tastes; however it is a more useful taste. It is light, cold and dry. The taste in these foods is due to the alkaloids and glycosides present in them. Bitter foods are dry and this helps to relieve mucus and watery accumulations. The bitterness is really overwhelming and in a meal it therefore obscures the presence of other tastes. Hence they help in slimming, reduction of fat and flesh and also in diabetics. Bitter foods are also detoxifying and help to remove poisons from the blood, help in some skin disorders or even in loss of appetite. Bitters are also known to eradicate the intestinal worms.

The bitter taste comes from some herbs like aloe Vera, dandelion, and some commonly used spices like coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, garlic and Omam, vegetables like bitter gourd, Aubergines, and Neem flower. Bitter taste is associated with emotion of grief and disappointment. In excess intake will be debilitating and causes dryness and loss of muscular strength. Most bitter plants are poisonous; however some have most profound pharmaceutical uses like digitalis.

The Astringent taste:

People do not show liking or hatred to this taste and it is a very useful taste to the health. The astringent taste is drying and the foods are light, cold and dry. This taste is due to the presence of tannin in them. The dryness of this taste causes reduction of water. These foods and herbs have the property of arresting bleeding. It reduces secretions and controls sweating and settles the stomach and intestines and controls diarrhoea. This taste of astringency is associated with emotion of fear. This should be avoided when there is cardiac pain, flatulence, constipation, debility and impotency.

Astringent taste is found in some herbs like sage, St. John's wort, vegetables like beans and ash plantain, lentils, cauliflower, broccoli and potatoes fruits like pomegranate, apples, turmeric, honey and tea.


Having spoken about the different y tastes and their presence in various food and food products, it should not be confused that each examples given above contain only one simple taste described. In fact many food items contain more than just one taste; examples are Indian Gooseberry contain all but salty taste, Turmeric has bitter, pungent and astringent tastes combined in it. There are many such examples. Our forefathers did it and they recommended it that we all should eat a well balanced diet and to attain this we should include foods of all six tastes in our meals. This is the view of Ayurveda healers.

By including all the six tastes in a meal provides a well balanced complete nutrition and balances appetite and digestion and reduces cravings for snacks in between meals. Within the principle of including the six tastes in a meal, one can choose a balanced meal from foods providing different tastes. Ayurveda says that each meal we consume ‘should be a feast for all of our senses'. Spices and herbs have ability to enhance digestion and assimilation, cleanses toxins from body and also contain nutritive values. According to Ayurveda, spices and herbs stimulate digestion before, during and after a meal and should be included in the meals every day.

In the West, we tend to consume more of sweet, salty foods and omit or take less of bitter, pungent and astringent tasting foods. There are plenty of fast food shops and the like where the meals are not balanced enough to call them a good meal. The least we can do to get all six tastes would be through a balancing soup or fruit and vegetable juice that contains all six tastes. Select from the items given as examples and make up your menu. Better still there are some sites in the internet which deal with this type of things and you can get more information.

For more information on spices. Please see Spices in Menu

ஆறு சுவைகள்

யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் வசித்து வந்த நம் மூதாதையர்கள் ஆறு சுவை கொண்ட உணவை உண்டு சுகமான வாழ்கையை வாழ்ந்து வந்தார்கள். இதைத்தான் ஆயுர்வேதத்திலும் சொல்லப்பட்டிருக்கிறது.

ஆறு சுவைகள் ஆவன: இனிப்பு (Sweet), புளிப்பு (Sour), உவர்ப்பு (Salt), கார்ப்பு (Pungent), கசப்பு (Bitter), துவர்ப்பு (Astringent).

இனிப்புசுவை அதிகம் விருப்பப்படும்சுவை.இது சில பழ வகைகளிலும், கிழங்கு வகைகளிலும், தானியங்களிலும் அதிகம் கிடைக்கும்.

புளிப்புசுவை உணவுக்கு மேலும் சுவையை தரும்.எலுமிச்சை, இட்லி, தோசை, தக்காளி, தயிர், புளி போன்றவைகளில் உண்டு.

உவர்ப்புசுவை தவிர்க இயலாத ஒரு சுவை.இது உப்பு, முள்ளங்கி, சுரக்காய், ஆகியவற்றில் உண்டு.

கார்ப்புஅல்லது காரச்சுவை பசி உணர்வை தோற்றுவிக்கும். வெங்காயம், மிளகாய், இஞ்சி, மிளகு போன்றவைகளில் காணலாம்.

கசப்புசுவை அதிகம் வெறுக்கப்படும் ஒரு சுவை.ஆனாலும் மிகவும் நன்மை பயக்கும் சுவை ஆகும். பாவரற்காய், கத்தரிக்காய், வெந்தயம், பூண்டு, வேப்பம் பூ ஆகியவற்றில் காணலாம்.

துவர்ப்புசுவை அதிகம் விருப்பு வெறுப்பு படாத ஒரு சுவை. இது வாழைக்காய், மஞ்சள், அவரை போன்றவைகளில் கிடைக்கும்.