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Food and Emotions

It may not surprise you that food deeply affects your mind and emotions. Within the science of Ayurveda, time and study has led to the categorisation of foods and herbs into tastes, Rasas.
We can work with the different tastes and other subtle qualities to balance cravings and free ourselves from the emotion/food struggles that so many of us face.

Six Rasas of life
Ayurveda divides tastes into six categories. Sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent.
Our goal is to bring these six tastes into our meals, bringing profoundly positive physical, psychological and emotional effects. When we miss some of the tastes, we may feel that something is missing, even if our belly is full. Generally the standard diet in the west is salty and sweet, lacking the very tastes that would bring a decrease in our societies chronic inflammatory imbalances and obesity.

Emotions and Tastes
Our very life experiences hold distinct rasas. Pay attention to how different relationships in your life leave you with a particular flavour. Some interactions may feel sweet and comforting while others may leave you feeling bitter and angry. The very emotion you are left with often brings a craving for a certain type of food. There may be moments where you feel sexually unsatisfied, you may find yourself reaching for sweet foods, ice-cream, wine that suppress your need for warm, sweet-tasting sexual nourishment. You may feel unfulfilled in your career. In those moments, you may find yourself reaching for heavier tasting foods to fill a void. Both sweet and heavier foods can be nutritional in the proper amounts at the right time, the task is to notice our tendencies.

The Six Rasas or flavours

Examples: Grains, breads, rice, honey, sugar, meat, milk, most fats, most fruits, nuts.
Benefits: Builds tissues, rejuvenates and nourishes us; hydrates, tones our muscles, softens and builds the skin, hair and voice, boosts longevity, soothes us, grounds us, strengthens us, comforts us, reassures us, heals us.
Counter benefits: Too much results in feeling fat and swollen, clogged pores, oily skin, congestion, lethargy, puffiness in the face and may even result in diabetes, greed and depression.

Examples: Vinegar, sour apples, raspberries, tempeh, yoghurt, fermented foods, citrus foods
Benefits: Cleanses skin, boosts metabolic activity, digestion, adds firmness/strength to tissues, stimulates sweating, eliminates gas and bloating, improves elimination, increases appetite and salivation, moistens food we ear, creates alertness and sharpness in the mind.
Counter benefits: Too much leads to envy, jealousy, excess thirst, muscle weakness, loose stool, hyperacidity, anemia, dizziness, lifeless skin, ulcers.

Examples: All salts, seaweed, seafood
Benefits: Boosts digestion, opens blocked channels, improves circulation, softens organs as well as lumps and tutors, decreases general stiffness, increases saliva, a mild sedative and laxative, awakens mind, strengthens heart, creates a sense of enthusiasm, builds courage.
Counter benefits: Leads to water retention, contracton, itching, wrinkles, weight gain, inflammation, debility, thirst, high blood pressure, acidity, chronic feeling of dissatisfaction, swollen glands, premature ageing, balding, greed.

Examples: All spicy peppers and chillies, ginger, garlic, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mustard, horseradish, oregano, rosemary, thyme, spearmint
Benefits: Boosts appetite and digestion, opens blocked channels, improves circulation, purifies food, promotes sweating, relieves nerve pain, gives skin a glowing quality, aids in weight loss, helps dissolve fat and toxins, kills parasites, moves blood stagnation.
Counter benefits: Leads to burning sensations of all types, inflammation, dryness, broken capillaries, increased blood pressure, acidity, heartburn, dry skin, dry lungs, loose stool, jealousy, anger, lust, passion, weakening of fertility.

Examples: Leafy greens, green tea, mate
Benefits: Powerfully antibacterial, germicidal, antiviral and anti parasitical, used to detoxify the body, reduces tissues, purify the blood, promote weight loss, create tightness in skin and muscles, used as a fat scraper, tonifier and cleanser for the organs.
Counter benefits: Leads to anxiety, isolation, grief, fatigue, physical depletion, dryness, constipation, dehydration, premature wrinkles, chills, vertigo, compromised immunity.

: Most lentils and beans, green apples, pomegranate, cranberries, acai berries, asparagus, teas high in tannins.
Benefits: Antiseptic, constricts channels that are overly open, holds nutrients in the body, shrinks pores, controls excess sweating, removes mucus, helps heal sores and wounds, reduces inflammation and cools, slows or stops bleeding and diarrhoea.
Counter benefits: Dryness, gas, constipation, contraction, close-mindedness, insecurity, nerve pain, general irritability, mind feels scattered and fearful, intestinal cramping, spastic colon, weakness or stiffness in the body.

Self Quiz: Ayurveda: food and emotions

Have you noticed a tendency to crave certain foods when experiencing different emotions? Give an example for each Rasa.
What dietary changes do you feel you need to make and why?