In Maharishi Ayurveda (Sanskrit–Ayus “life,” and Veda “knowledge” or “science,” hence “the science of life” or “the knowledge of life span”), a balanced diet does not revolve around fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Nor are calories, vitamins, and minerals given direct attention. These nutrients are known to us intellectually, not through direct experience. You cannot detect vitamin C in your orange juice, much less the difference between it and vitamin A.
When your taste buds greet a bite of food, an enormous amount of useful information is delivered to the doshas (three operating principles situated in the interconnectedness between mind and body). Working solely with this information, Ayurveda allows us to eat a balanced diet naturally, guided by our own instincts, without turning nutrition into an intellectual headache.
When food talks to your doshas, it says many things, because the different gunas (qualities)–heavy and light, dry and oily, hot and cold–are present in it. But the primary information is contained in its taste.
Ayurveda recognizes six tastes, or rasas: Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. All spicy food is pungent. Astringent is the taste that puckers your mouth. In Ayurveda a balanced diet must contain all six rasas at every meal.
It is not necessary to overload a meal with each taste. Just a hint of herbs and spices will add pungent and bitter to a meal. Nor is it good to let the same tastes dominate day after day. The basic rule is simply to give the body all six rasas each day so it can respond to feed completely.
Adapted fromPerfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. (Harmony Books, 1990).