Salty Taste in Ayurveda (Taste Series)
Updated: Jul 15
The Salty taste is called Lavana in Sanskrit. The dominant elements are Water and Fire providing the qualities heavy, hot and oily. Salt is hydrophilic in nature, meaning it loves water and draws it towards it, which is why we can retain water if we take in too much salt. Although this quality makes it balancing for Vata types, as they don’t retain things well generally ~ nutrients, water, etc.
Water is the vehicle for taste, and Fire has a spreading quality, so these elements together greatly enhance the flavor of food. But use in moderation ~ if there is more than just a little bit of salt, it nullifies the flavor and medicinal effects of the other tastes.
Salt is anabolic (building, energy-storing) in nature like the sweet taste. Just a pinch of salt can equalize blood pressure and enhance energy. It is necessary to include in the diet, but definitely can easily be overused.
When we call someone ‘salty’ it indicates they are angry or irritated. Salt makes things hot and that includes heating up the body and the mind.
In moderation Salty:
Improves digestion, absorption & assimilation
Acts as a laxative, helping eliminate waste
Lubricates the tissues
Enhances the flavor of food
Maintains water-electrolyte balance
Calms the nerves
In excess Salty:
Makes the blood viscous causing thickening & narrowing of blood vessels (hypertension)
Induces water retention (edema, swelling)
Causes excess heat in the body, eye problems, fainting, wrinkles, ulcers, bleeding disorders, hyperacidity, hair loss
In Kapha, can lead to obesity, swelling, high blood pressure, edema
Salt, like sugar, also has an addictive power. Just like it enhances the flavor of food, it also enhances the spirit, our confidence, courage, and enthusiasm. It brings a grounded Fire quality as it’s paired with the ever-stable Earth element, giving us the audacity to seize life by the horns.
But beware, too much salt not only imbalances our blood and water balance, but it can also lead to attachment, greed, possessiveness, and temptation.
Use salt mindfully as a way to amplify the deliciousness of your food but make sure it’s balancing to your unique dosha. Vatas will benefit from a little more salt than Pittas and Kaphas.
The Salty Stage of Digestion
Within the 3rd hour of digesting, the Fire and Earth elements are most prominent. This is the Salty Stage of digestion.
This stage brings moisture and heat, and the process of emulsification (a mixture of 2 immiscible liquids), breaking up large fat globules.
Bile from the gallbladder and pancreatic enzymes mix with food ~ these are both alkaline, but the food coming in from the stomach is sour, which is acidic. When Acid & Alkali mix it = Salt & Water. This shows how food in this stage becomes salty.
Salt has a buffering action and further assists the digestion of fats and protein, as well as further digestion of carbohydrates.
Swelling and edema can occur in this stage, especially when there is low kidney energy impeding the efficient removal of salt from the blood.
Salty taste is found in all foods that are rich in minerals, and for that reason, the soil is considered salty. This also includes all dark leafy greens that are loaded with minerals like nettles, kale, spinach, swiss chard, and turnip greens.
Ayurveda recommends using mineral rock salt, as it contains many minerals as well as sodium and therefore does a better job at balancing the doshas.