Ayurveda and Dairy: Should You Include Dairy in Your Diet?

Many complementary medicine practitioners say dairy products should be avoided. Yet Ayurveda holds it in high esteem. Why do Ayurveda and dairy mix?
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Many complementary medicine practitioners say dairy products--such as yogurt--should not be included in your daily diet. Yet Ayurvedic practitioners hold it in high esteem. Why do Ayurveda and dairy mix?

As you stand at the grocery store in front of rows of snackable, packable yogurt—seemingly an easy add to your kids' lunch—it's not surprising that you might hesitate over what type to buy, or even whether to buy it at all. After all, many complementary medicine practitioners diss yogurt as just another outpost of dairy's evil empire: a vile, mucus-making, immune system no-no. Yet Ayurvedic practitioners hold it in high esteem. What's a yogi to do?

Ayurveda considers milk products the building blocks of tissue, says Reenita Malhotra Hora, an Ayurvedic clinician at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. In Ayurveda, the body is made up of seven layers of tissue: water, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow, and reproductive tissue. Milk is thought to contribute to the health of each layer.

"The Western world says milk causes mucus and allergies, but the problem isn't dairy; it's the manufacturing processes," Hora says. "India has been drinking raw milk for 5,000-plus years without a hitch." But she acknowledges it's not easy for Americans to get their hands on safe raw milk.

Short of parking a cow in your backyard, your best bet is to buy plain organic whole-milk yogurt with live cultures from a reputable producer, says Hora. Whole milk is key because the fat is where the tissue-building properties are found. (Whole milk is also high in saturated fat, so moderation is also key.) Plain is nonnegotiable, Hora says, because fruit interferes with the live bacteria, ferments the yogurt, and makes it more acidic. "In Ayurveda, you never mix fruit and dairy," she says. "The combination is practically considered poisonous."

See also12 Ayurvedic Healing Foods to Add to Your Diet