India is home to 1.3 billion people, and lately, it seems 1.3 billion wellness trends. In the past year and a half, even people disinterested in health crazes are unable to avoid the golden tsunami of turmeric drinks, the proliferation of ghee and coconut oil in grocery stores, and headlines about how khichdi is the magically detoxing concoction you need right now. Everyone can spell ashwagandha, and Ayurveda, India’s thousands-of-years-old holistic healing system, is now an Instagram hashtag with over a million posts (many of them featuring white women). To put it simply, Indian food has become the darling of the health world.
“Gwyneth Paltrow,” says Basu Ratnam with a laugh when I posted this question. Ratnam is the owner of Inday, a restaurant with multiple locations in New York City that melds his passion for health with his Indian upbringing. While Paltrow—who was an avid yoga enthusiast before she became the Goop queen—can’t take full credit for the rise of turmeric tonics and khichdi cleanses, Ratnam is correct to point to a specific, ahem, limber set of people as the catalysts of change.
When health is a multitrillion-dollar industry, turmeric becomes much more than a sickness remedy.
Sana Javeri Kadri, the founder of spice company Diaspora Co., sees the rise of Ayurveda, a term that wouldn’t so easily roll off tongues in the West just a few years ago, is connected to the popularity of yoga. “I think people who have access to seeing Indian food through the lens of Ayurveda are people who are into yoga, or some form of appropriated Indian culture,” she says.
True Ayurveda is a labyrinthine set of rules and guidelines, but some aspects are incredibly approachable, like not eating late at night, avoiding combinations of certain foods, or using spices such as turmeric to treat ailments. These principles are so woven into the fabric of everyday routines in South Asian culture, both on the subcontinent and in the diaspora, that many don’t realize they are actively participating in it. “I always thought I was someone who grew up without Ayurveda,” says Kadri. “But it was more than it was so a part of our daily lives that we never considered it a health thing.”
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