Can a 5,000-year-old diet be relevant today? If you’re choosing the ayurvedic diet, the answer is yes. This lifestyle originated in India. The concept invites followers to figure out their dominant mind/body state, called a dosha. Depending on your dosha, certain types of foods should be enhanced or avoided.
Even if you don’t follow the diet exactly, it’s worth adding ayurvedic herbs to your diet. Not only are they delicious, but they offer plenty of health benefits that will make you feel great—no matter what dosha you possess.
Read on for an overview of the ayurvedic diet, and the herbs you can add to your diet for better wellness.
What is an ayurvedic diet?
In ayurvedic diets, there are five elements that make up the universe: vayu (air), jala (water), akash (space), teja (fire), and prithvi (earth). These elements combine to create three different doshas: pitta (fire and water), vata (air and space) and kapha (earth and water).
Once you figure out which is your dominant dosha, you can emphasize certain foods and eliminate or restrict others. This is meant to bring your body and energy system into balance. For example, pitta people may have issues with indigestion, high blood pressure and heart disease, while kapha people often have issues with weight gain, depression and diabetes. Vata people could have digestive problems, fatigue and anxiety.
The foods that your dosha recommends are meant to counteract your natural tendencies toward illness. If you have trouble with weight gain and diabetes (kapha), you can benefit from the recommended vegetables, fruits and legumes, while limiting nuts, oils and seeds.
Above all, the ayurvedic diet emphasizes healthy, whole foods full of vitamins and minerals. That makes it great for weight loss as well as overall good health. It also promotes mindfulness: being conscious of how you feel in the moment, and eating to address your needs.
Try these ayurvedic herbs
One of the downsides to an ayurvedic diet is that it can seem overly restrictive. If you’re not ready to fully dive in, you can add these herbs to enhance your existing diet.
Here are nine herbs to try:
- Ashvagandha: You might have read about ashvagandha here before—it’s an adaptogen, which helps the body get better sleep, cope with stress and reduces the effects of long-term stress.
- Brahmi: This herb enhances memory and cognitive function. It’s also an aphrodisiac.
- Coriander: Coriander juice can boost weight loss, especially when you add some lime juice to your drink.
- Guduchi: Guduchi supports the immune system, which can support the body against stress and illness. It increases the effectiveness of your disease-fighting white blood cells.
- Guggul: Add guggul to your body to help boost its fat-burning power, which increases your energy.
- Haridra: Try this herb as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Adding it to your diet will improve your overall health, preventing disease and illness before it starts.
- Neem: Neem has antibacterial properties and promotes skin health—you can use it to help ward off acne and other unpleasant skin conditions.
- Triphala: When you have digestive issues, including constipation, adding triphala to your diet can help keep everything regular.
- Tulsi: Finally, try tulsi, also known as “holy basil.” It’s good for building your immune system, as well as respiratory health. It acts as an expectorant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
With the exception of coriander, you might not see these herbs in the aisles of your local grocery store. One of the best ways to find ayurvedic herbs is to stop by your local Indian food market, if you have one. Other Asian markets may carry them as well.
Of course, these herbs often come in supplement form, too. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate dosage and whether they could interact with any current medications and supplements you’re taking.
Incorporating ayurvedic herbs
Most Western diets don’t use these herbs, so you might have a tough time finding the right recipes to try. You’ll have the best luck learning to cook Indian and ayurvedic-specific recipes. There are plenty of websites and cookbooks devoted to the subject, so your biggest challenge might be tracking down the right ingredients—and choosing which recipe to try first.
Whether you follow a strict ayurvedic diet or you opt for supplements, give these herbs a try. 5,000 years of healthy eating can’t be wrong.