Do you consider yourself healthy? If you’re like most people, your physical and mental health could use an upgrade. A survey published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that less than 3 percent of American adults lead a healthy lifestyle (1).
To improve their health holistically, many people are turning to the ancient Indian tradition of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda emphasizes balance in all things and promotes the use of healthy food as medicine.
That’s where black gram comes in. Black gram (also known as urad dal and Vigna mungo) is a type of bean related to mung beans and lentils. This superfood is a staple of traditional Indian cuisine. It’s also been prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors for many types of ailments and imbalances.
Here’s your crash course in Ayurveda and how black gram can help you achieve a healthy balance in your body and mind.
Sources: The Mayo Clinic
What is Ayurvedic Medicine?
Ayurveda is a type of medical philosophy that originated in India several thousand years ago. Ayurvedic medicine is holistic, meaning that it focuses on all aspects of the person being treated, not just the body. The word Ayurveda is usually translated to mean “the science or knowledge of life” (2).
Ayurvedic medicine is all about balance. To be in good health, both your body and your mind must be balanced in harmony. Ayurveda treats each person individually, creating a health plan to correct each patient’s individual imbalances.
In Ayurvedic medicine, ailments aren’t treated the same way as Western medicine. Instead of treatments that just work for the body (like medication or physical therapy), Ayurveda takes into account all aspects of the patient’s life. Treatments might include changes to diet, sleep, stress management, meditation, herbal remedies, massage, and exercise.
Sources: The Chopra Center
Black Gram’s Role in Ayurveda
Ayurveda classifies different types of foods according to their nutritional value. Black gram and several other pulses (legumes) are called samidhanya. These types of foods are considered wholesome for the Ayurvedic diet.
The Three Ayurvedic Doshas
In Ayurvedic medicine, there are three doshas, or types of life energy: vata, pitta, and kapha. Most people are naturally more dominant in one dosha, although every person has some of each type. Here’s what they mean:
Vata: This dosha is associated with the elements of space and air. People who are dominant in vata are often creative and energetic, although they can become anxious if their vata is imbalanced. Vatas usually like hot weather and are seen as always on the go.
Pitta: Pitta encompasses the elements of fire and water. People dominant in pitta are organized, intelligent, and make good leaders and managers. However, if pitta is out of balance, they can become angry or frustrated quickly. Pittas prefer cool weather.
Kapha: Elements of water and earth represent kapha. Dominant kaphas are usually calm, loving people with slow and steady energy. Kaphas have slow metabolism and tend to dislike cold or damp weather.
How to Eat Black Gram for a Dosha Imbalance
In Ayurveda, food is medicine. Eating black gram can help balance your doshas, giving you better physical and mental health. Warm, cooked foods and digestive spices are recommended for people with a vata imbalance (3). To improve a vata imbalance, black gram can be eaten in curries with cream sauce and spices. For those with a pitta imbalance, cooling foods and foods with a bitter or astringent taste are suggested. In this case, black gram can be eaten cold in salads. Most types of beans–including black gram–are very good for kapha imbalance. People with this type of imbalance should eat small meals of spiced foods, cutting down on oil, fats, and sweets. Those dominant in kapha can eat black gram in any type of recipe that fits these guidelines.
Additional Ayurvedic Uses for Black Gram
Nutrition and eating for your dosha is just one aspect of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda also focuses on many other aspects of mental and physical health–and black gram can help with several of these. Here’s how:
Black Gram Improves Digestion
How you digest your food is very important in Ayurvedic medicine. The process of digestion is known as agni, or digestive fire (4). To help adjust imbalances, Ayurveda recommends strengthening your agni. One way you can do this is by eating foods rich in fiber, like black gram. Fiber helps alleviate common digestive complaints, like constipation, gas, and bloating.
Black Gram Promotes Mental Health
In Ayurveda, the mind is known as manas. Ayurvedic medicine considers the mind and the body to be connected and intertwined. That means mental health is influenced by physical health and vice versa. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend balancing the mind with exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep, herbal supplements, and a nutritious diet. Interestingly, black gram is good for mental health because of its nutritional makeup. Some of black gram’s components that help with mental health include:
Iron: A 100 gram serving of black gram contains 95 percent of the iron you need in a day. Not getting enough iron has been closely associated with conditions like depression and anxiety. A scientific review on iron supplement research found that “Iron deficiency increased the risk of psychiatric disorders” (5)
B Vitamins: Black gram is high in B vitamins, including folate, thiamin, and riboflavin. A study published in the journal Neuropsychobiology found that taking a supplement including B vitamins for a year improved mood for study participants (6).
Protein: Protein has often been called the essential building block of your body’s cells. Foods rich in protein also help supply your body with amino acids, which help to regulate your mood. Black gram is an excellent source of protein–in fact, just one serving of black gram has 45 percent of the protein you need for the day.
Black Gram Increases Energy Levels
Vitality and energy (called ojas) are also important concepts in Ayurvedic medicine. It is important to have energy and vitality, but also to have balance. Ojas are influenced by the foods you eat and the activities you engage in. Black gram can help balance your energy because of its high concentration of iron and protein.
The ancient tradition of Ayurveda is especially relevant in today’s modern world. Nowadays, it’s easy to lose balance and become unhealthy. Black gram is packed with the nutrition your body and mind need to regain balance and health–that’s why it’s so often recommended by Ayurvedic medicine.