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This awesome guest post was written by Razi Berry, a natural health advocate and publisher of the naturopathic journal for physicians Naturopathic Doctor News & Review NDNR.com!

Traditional foods from most every culture include fermented foods.  All over the world there are examples of fermented vegetables, such as Kimchi from Korea and Saurkraut in Germany and Eastern Europe.

Yogurt and kefir are well-known examples of fermented dairy found around the globe.

Grains and beans were also soaked and fermented, as in the example of natto (fermented soybeans) in Japan.

Fermenting foods was a necessity because of a lack of refrigeration; the build up of lactic acid helped to preserve these foods while creating enzymes, probiotics and other beneficial nutrients.

The lactic acid that develops during natural fermentation (lacto fermentation) creates a pleasant tang or sour quality to foods. The resulting enzymes aid in digestion and also counter anti-nutrient compounds found in some foods, such as phytic acid. Often people find that foods they once could not tolerate are actually very well tolerated once fermented.

Fermented dairy products are among the most popular of fermented foods, especially yogurt. In the ancient art and science of Ayurvedic medicine, yogurt drinks are used to help with digestion and increase appetite.

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Here in the West, most yogurt products are sweetened with sugar and fruit, but in India, for example, yogurt drinks such as Lassi and Chaas are flavored with salt and spices.  In Ayurvedic medicine, salt acts as a nervine, which calms the nervous system.

It is also used to bring heat into the body. Cumin is often added to chaas for flavor and to further aid digestion and detoxification, while mango is added to salty lassis to increase energy.

Six Elemental Tastes 

There are 6 elemental tastes, called shad rasa, in Ayurveda:

  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Sweet
  • Pungent
  • Astringent

Each of these 6 taste categories has a unique physiological and physiological affect on the mind/body. In Ayurveda, there should be a balance of these tastes for optimal health. Increasing or decreasing one taste is important if there is a deficiency or excess affecting health or well-being.

A delicious and unique staple in Indian food combines the tastes salty and sour in salted and fermented dairy drinks in Lassi or Chaas. The salt further enhances digestion. Often in Chaas, black salt known as kala namak is added to enhance the gut healing benefits.

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Kala namak gets its reddish black color from iron and other minerals for anti-flatulent, antacid and demulcent properties. Its pungent flavor adds to the shad rasa.

According to  Ayurveda Amritvani.

Chaas with black salt and cumin contains sour, salty, and pungent aspects of shad rasa:

Salty

Physical effects: Salty taste has a laxative effect and it removes obstruction from the channels (srotas). It liquefies mucus and clears the channels. Apart from this, it improves digestion and increases salivation. It balances the blood pressure by maintaining electrolytes in the body. It gives muscles strength.

Psychological effects: Salty taste enhances the taste of food so one can enjoy it. This taste brings interest and enthusiasm. Hence, generally people show a kind of addiction to the salty things.

Sour

Physical effects: Sour taste increases the digestive power. It exhibits a sharp taste, which stimulates salivation and increases the appetite. It pacifies Vata but increases Pitta and Kapha.  It promotes strength and stability of tissue-elements. It regulates peristalsis; it regulates downward movement of vata and helps in the digestion of food.

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Psychological effects: Sour taste is very sharp. It brings alertness to the mind and increases attention. It is responsible for bringing appreciation but if consumed in excess it brings out hate, jealousy. 

Pungent

Physical effects: Pungent taste improves digestion. It stimulates the digestive fire (Agni) in the body. It improves circulations and clears the channels. It has an anti-spasmodic action. It causes instant watering of eyes and nose if consumed directly.  It produces heat in the body and breaks clots in the circulation.

Psychological effects: Pungent taste also has sharp and penetrating effects on the mind. It aids the clarity of mind, increases attention and brings clarity of perception.

If you are looking for a refreshing and delicious way to add more probiotics to your diet, or a healthy way to aid in digestions, consider trying making Chaas at home! I added cumin to this recipe because in Ayurveda it is used to further aid digestion and heal the intestinal tract.

Chaas with Kala Namak (black salt) Salt

  • 2 cups plain whole fat yogurt
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder (or whole, toasted seeds if you like texture)
  • black salt/kala namak to taste

Combine yogurt, salt, and spices and mix thoroughly in a bowl or small pitcher. Whisk in water ½ cup at a time. Taste to adjust seasonings. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

If you enjoyed that recipe, try Sweet Gluten-Free Quinoa Chocolate Cake!

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