The astringent taste is a pungent, tingly, and drying sensation that some people find unpleasant. It’s not something you’ll typically find in your average candy store, and it may make your face wrinkle up like a prune.
Still, this lesser-known taste sensation can add flavor and intrigue to any dish.
The five main tastes — salty, sour, umami (savory), sweet, and bitter — are tied to tastes buds on your tongue, which send sensory information through different nerves for you to taste these flavors.
The astringent taste is a bit of a mystery, with scientists debating whether it can be considered an additional taste (
This article reviews several astringent foods and explores food compounds linked to astringency.
Here are 5 astringent foods, plus their health benefits.
1. Green tea
Green tea brims with astringent plant compounds called tannins and catechins, which have remarkable antioxidant potential.
Antioxidants are compounds that lower disease risk by fighting unstable molecules called free radicals in your body.
Additionally, one recent review suggests that catechins, in particular, may protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and influenza (
All the same, further research on these compounds is needed.
Persimmons are tomato-shaped fruits that are particularly sweet when ripe. However, unripe varieties are especially astringent.
In fact, tannins in their pulp contribute to their astringency.
Grapes not only contain tannins but also high amounts of tartaric acid, which adds to their astringent taste.
Despite the name, tartaric acid isn’t the same thing as cream of tartar. Rather, it’s a type of organic acid found in many fruits (7).
Apart from being the main chemical component of wine, which gives it its tart taste and astringent properties, tartaric acid is popularly used in an array of Mexican dishes.
All the same, specific studies on grapes’ health effects are lacking.
Broccoli is packed with health benefits but has a unique flavor that people seem to either love or hate.
Although it may not make your mouth pucker or dry out, it’s considered to have astringent qualities according to Ayurvedic medicine.
This veggie is also packed with phytonutrients like sulforaphane that behave like antioxidants, lowering inflammation in your body. These compounds may provide anti-cancer and pro-aging benefits, as well as safeguard against heart disease, diabetes, and brain conditions (
5. Milk and yogurt
While dairy products like milk and yogurt are commonly considered mild or even sweet, they may have astringent qualities depending on how they’re processed.
According to an older review, dairy’s astringent taste arises from three distinct sources — accidental contamination with chemicals, heat treatments to destroy unsafe microorganisms, and oxidative or enzymatic reactions during storage (12).
As such, raw milk may be less likely to be astringent than pasteurized milk.
Fermented milk products, such as kefir and yogurt, may also carry sour or astringent tastes. Scientific studies show that the probiotics in these foods support immune health, bowel function, and mineral absorption (
In Ayurvedic medicine, milk and fermented milk products have long been used to support digestion and ease digestive conditions.
Astringent foods and drinks include green tea, persimmons, broccoli, grapes, and certain dairy products.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old traditional system of medicine. Developed in India and meaning “long life” or “the science of life, it’s regarded as one of the world’s oldest medical systems.
Ayurvedic medicine incorporates various elements of your personality, diet, sleep habits, and exercise to provide a comprehensive picture of your health. It utilizes herbs and supplements, as well as exercises like yoga and meditation.
What’s more, this medicinal system recognizes six tastes — sweet, salty, pungent (or spicy), bitter, astringent, and sour.
Ayurvedic teachings place tremendous therapeutic value on the taste (rasa) of food, including astringent taste.
Foods are considered astringent (kashaya) if they have drying and cooling qualities. Proponents of Ayurveda claim that astringency depends on a food’s ability to dry up bodily fluids and “cool down” internal organs like the lungs, throat, or stomach.
Similarly, Ayurvedic practitioners commonly recommend astringent foods to those experiencing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, acid reflux, or heartburn.
While astringent foods may be especially helpful for some people, you shouldn’t eat them in excess, as they may create an imbalance in the body that’s too dry, according to Ayurveda.
Still, there’s a lack of scientific evidence that astringent foods, beyond their effect on saliva, dry out the body.
Ayurveda teaches that astringent taste in food is helpful for those with high levels of pitta, but it shouldn’t be consumed in excess.
Unlike other tastes, astringency might not be directly related to your taste buds.
Interestingly, some evidence suggests that you experience an astringent taste when your mouth is exposed to astringent molecules — usually plant compounds like polyphenols, such as tannins — present in fruits, leaves, or bark.
Such molecules impair your mouth’s natural lubrication by binding to proteins in your saliva, thereby provoking sensations of dryness and roughness. These alterations in how your mouth feels are important elements of astringency in everyday foods and drinks (
Besides tannins, certain metal salts may cause an astringent taste, including copper sulfate and iron chloride. Acids like citric acid or hydrochloric acid may likewise produce astringent sensations when they come into contact with certain types of food (
Sensations of dryness and roughness in your mouth may occur when astringent molecules bind to saliva proteins. Compounds in food, drinks, metal salts, and acids may result in an astringent taste.
The astringent taste is a pungent, tingly, and drying sensation that some people find unpleasant.
The astringency you experience when having foods like persimmons or green tea may be due to plant compounds in these foods that bind with proteins in your saliva. This reduces the natural lubrification of your mouth.
While astringent taste may not be to everyone’s liking, astringent foods offer a great way to diversify your palate and reap unique health benefits.
Just one thing
Try this today: Cook rice — or any other grain — in green tea to infuse it with a pleasant, slightly astringent flavor. This balance in tastes will delight your palate while adding heart-healthy antioxidants.