Many of the patients I see in my practice ask the same thing: They have tried exercise, they have tried cutting calories—they’ve tried just about everything that Western medicine has to offer, and yet the weight just doesn’t come off.
But what most people — even most Western doctors — fail to understand is that weight loss doesn’t just come from balancing your calories. It comes from balancing your body, an essential aspect of Ayurveda, the centuries-old Indian medical practice that’s based around proper nutrition.
Ayurvedic medicine sees the body as a series of systems, called doshas; keeping these systems in balance through proper nutrition prevents inflammation, the source of most of our illnesses, including weight gain. To combat belly fat, I often prescribe for my patients one of these simple, delicious drinks made of traditional herbs, which help to soothe the digestive system and stimulate weight loss. Try one or more of these traditional healing drinks, and watch how quickly your own belly can go from nasty to Namaste.
1: Mango Lassi
Because it: Reduces inflammation
Lassi is a popular drink from India and Pakistan, made from fermented yogurt. In Ayurvedic medicine, lassi “cools” the digestive system, aiding gut function. And from a modern medical perspective, lassi is a fermented food that contains many healthy bacteria, or probiotics, which decrease bloating and reduce inflammation—two key contributors to weight loss. While lassi can be made with any number of fruits, mango lassi is one of the easiest and most popular drinks in India.
How to Enjoy It: Simply combine in a blender one cup of plain Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp of sugar, ½ cup frozen mango chunks, and enough water to blend. Avoid the sugar-packed yogurts in the dairy aisle with this Eat This, Not That! guide to The 9 Best Brand Name Yogurts for Weight Loss!
2: Golden Milk
Because it: Makes you more flexible
In Ayurvedic medicine, the way one prepares milk has everything to do with how our bodies react to it. To prevent bloating and allergies and maximize the health benefits of dairy, Ayurvedic practitioners brew golden milk, a blend of milk and turmeric. Turmeric has been shown to act directly on the genes that control fat storage, while the calcium in milk is linked to lower body mass—a University of Tennessee study found that dieters who consumed between 1,200 and 1,300 mg of calcium a day (about four cups of milk) lost nearly twice as much weight as those getting less milk. Golden milk is used to in Ayurvedic medicine to improve joint pain, muscle stiffness and to boost the immune system. No wonder yogis have such amazing flexibility!
How to Enjoy It: Mix one cup of milk with ¼ tsp of turmeric, and bring to a boil. Sweeten with a touch of honey.
3: Ginger Tea
Because it: Shrinks your belly
Ginger is a well-known digestive aid, and one secret to a flat belly is to start the morning with a cup of ginger tea to “activate” the digestive system. It is thought to help the vata and pitta doshas—the digestive and circulatory centers in the body, according to Ayurveda—thereby reducing bloating and warming up the circulatory system.
How to Enjoy It: To get the most powerful benefits, simply grate ¼- ½ tsp of raw ginger into your tea kettle. Boil for 3-5 minutes and then pour into a cup with your favorite tea bag. Add a teaspoon of honey for a sweeter taste. My friends at Eat This, Not That! love ginger tea so much, they made it part of this brand new weight-loss plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in just one week!
Because it: Stabilizes blood sugar
Chai may be among the healthiest drinks on the planet, but like so many other things in our diet, it’s been turned into a festival of sugar and artificial chemicals by our modern food industry. Chai is at its healthiest when made with fresh spices that are boiled and then steeped in tea leaves.
How to Enjoy It: While there are many different recipes and variations of chai, here’s a simple version I like: boil one cup of milk with 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fennel, anise, ginger and nutmeg. Pour the boiling milk over your favorite tea leaves. The cinnamon will help stabilize blood sugar, reducing weight gain; cloves have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic benefits, while cardamom boosts circulation, helping skin to glow. Fennel, anise, ginger and nutmeg help boost chai’s digestive benefits.
5: Amla Juice
Because it: Reduces cholesterol
Amla, or Indian gooseberry, is a sour fruit native to India. High in antioxidants, it is prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors for glowing skin and hair; in some preliminary Western studies, amla has been shown to reverse diabetes and cholesterol markers.
How to Enjoy It: You can buy frozen amla berries online. Defrost the berries, cut into small pieces and run through a juicer. Speaking of blended drinks, melt fat with each sip by making the The Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Ever, from the new book Zero Belly Diet.
6: Aloe Vera Juice
Because it: Balances your hormones
One of the great weight-loss secrets, aloe vera juice has been a mainstay in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The juice helps maintain weight by balancing the digestive system and regulating female hormones; it’s also believed to enhance fertility.
How to Enjoy It: Buy a bottle to go, like Alo brand Aloe Vera Pulp Drink.
7: Kerala Juice
Because it: Boosts energy
Kerala, also known as bitter gourd, is a prickly looking vegetable, shaped like a cucumber. Bitter gourd is valued for a number of properties by Ayurvedic medicine, including reversing diabetes, gout and psoriasis. The high levels of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc help make this vegetable an immune booster and energizer.
How to Enjoy It: Try adding the juice into the mix of your favorite fruit smoothie. And for more gut-healing weight loss secrets, check out my latest book, The 21-Day Belly Fix!