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Sweet taste is made up of the elements earth and water; it has a cooling virya. This means its immediate effect on digestion is to cool it down a bit, be mildly inhibiting.
Its vipak is sweet. Sweet tends to be heavy and moist, and will create heaviness and moisture in the long as well as the short run. What this means practically is that sweet foods like sugar, sweets, candies, pastries, and ice cream will increase our bulk, moisture and weight when eaten in excess. The Sweet taste in moderation can be most satisfying. It is also an excellent taste for stimulating growth and grounding, again, in moderation.
Sour taste is comprised of the elements earth and fire. The warming quality of fire shows up in the virya of sour, which is heating. Sour taste promotes digestion and has a mildly warming effect on the body as a whole.
Its vipak is sour, which means that it continues to warm the body over time, as well as in its first impact. Anyone who has had an ulcer may have experienced this warming effect as something less than pleasant.
Other qualities associated with sour are a mild sort of heaviness and moisture. Vata benefits from the warmth, humidity and grounded ness of sour taste. It can be quite helpful in stimulating digestion in Vata systems. Pitta can find it counterproductive because the heat of sour is more than Pitta needs. The gentle heaviness and moisture of this taste can be oppressive to Kapha, causing it to retain even more fluid and weight within itself. For Pitta and Kapha, sour taste is best balanced with other tastes.
Fire and water are the elements which constitute salty taste. Fire gives salt its heating digestive effect or virya. Like sour and sweet, salty taste tends to be somewhat moist and somewhat heavy. While sweet is the heaviest and most moist of the tastes, and sour less heavy and moist, salty taste is somewhere between the two. It will stimulate water retention faster than sour taste, yet will not promote weight gain quite as fast as sweet.
Its vipak is sweet. This means that while salty is initially warming, its long-term action is not very warming, but more moistening and grounding. This long term effect can be seen in its ability to promote water retention in people eating many salty foods.
Because salty taste is mildly warming it slightly enhances digestive ability and agni. It is helpful for Vata because it warms and holds in moisture. Pitta can find its heat aggravating. While the warmth of salty tastes might stimulate Kapha, its tendency to promote weight and moisture is counterproductive for Kapha.
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