16 Jun The Kitchari Cleanse: Ayurvedic Soup to Reset your Health
Looking for a cleansing diet where you won’t have to strap yourself down to avoid binging or climbing the walls? Kitchari is a simple dish made of mung beans and rice and is used in Ayurveda to heal all that ails, kind of like chicken soup but with vegetables. And it may be just the thing you’re looking for. It’s been used for aeons in India in special times of detox, cleansing, and deep spiritual practice.
Ayurveda means ‘the Science of Life’ and is an ancient Indian system of healing that looks at our wellbeing holistically, using diet, herbal treatments, yogic breathing and excersise to create balance.
The name Kitchari specifically refers to rice cooked with a legume, and according to Ayurveda mung beans are the only legume that is ‘vata balancing’ for the body – meaning it is easy to digest and doesn’t cause gas. It’s also rich in fibre and makes the perfect food for a cleansing regime. The best mung beans to use are split mung beans as the husk has been removed, making them easier to digest. It’s traditional to combine them with white basmati rice as rice that has been de-husked is easier to digest too and wont irritate your gut while you are in the sensitive stage of healing.
This time honoured combination – legumes and rice – comes with a natural genius; these foods on their own lack all the essential amino acids needed to make a complete protein, but they fit together to bring you a perfect complete protein meal that has kept cultures with plant-based diets going for centuries. It is also a combination that Ayurvedic doctors believe balances your whole system.
When you are cleansing and healing your body complete protein becomes important as the last thing you need is your blood sugar crashing, making you irritable and craving everything you shouldn’t. That’s why Kitchari is one of the less stressful ways to give your health (and mind) a gentle reset. Anytime you feel your body has become sluggish or you have been under the weather, a kitchari cleanse is just the thing to give yourself a fresh start.
What will a kitchari cleanse do for me?
- Help create balance in your whole being – known as the Satvic State
- Soothe your digestive system
- Increase your digestive fire (called ‘Agni’ in Ayurveda)
- Reduce bloating
- Clear your mind
- Release heaviness and congestion from body and mind
- Help release food addictions such as sugar
- Give your body a kick-start to heal
- On a longer cleanse, help your body release and eliminate stored toxins
- Improve your energy levels and sense of wellbeing
The great thing about this cleanse is that you can do it for just a day, or up to a week for a more serious cleanse that releases stored up toxins. So for a start you will have to decide how many days you will cleanse for – are you just wanting a quick reset of a day or two, or a deeper more profound cleanse. Although it is a gentle way to cleanse, remember that you may feel tired as your body uses its energy to heal. Give yourself some space and time to heal and try make sure you don’t have stressful situations to deal with. If you work, perhaps try do it over a weekend so you can have time to yourself.
Prepare yourself a few days in advance by eliminating or scaling back on substances that cause imbalance in your body such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meat, processed and processed foods. You can also try taking some Triphala (a traditional Ayurvedic cleansing herbal formula) every night a week in advance. It helps flush out your digestive tract and improves digestion.
Doing the Cleanse
You’ll need to make yourself some kitchari daily. It’s best to make it fresh every day if you can as Ayurveda teaches that left-over food shouldn’t be kept very long as it loses its positive life-force (Prana). Make enough for the whole day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, with a kitchari cleanse you are allowed to eat as much kitchari as you like. While you are on the cleanse you will be eating a mono-diet; that means kitchari only. Don’t worry, it’s really tasty!
- You can drink herbal teas and purified water throughout the day
- Make sure you get enough rest
- You can enhance this healing time with gentle self-massage, yoga and meditation. Make it about your whole being – body, mind and spirit. Do this by setting an intention and going about it mindfully. Be aware of your thoughts. Even when you make your daily kitchari, do it mindfully and with appreciation.
- Every morning first thing drink a cup of warm water with a squeeze of lemon followed by another glass of warm water to flush the system (Ayurveda recommends that you drink warm water and not chilled as the cold water takes unnecessary energy from your body, as it has to warm it up to body temperature)
A Delicious Kitchari Recipe
Try and use fresh, pesticide and preservative-free organic veggies and ingredients wherever possible so your body can truly start to release toxins instead of accumulating more.
- 1 cup split or whole mung beans* soaked overnight and rinsed
- 3/4 cup basmati rice (can be substituted with quinoa)
- 4-5 cups purified water
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced or grated
- 1-2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
- 2-3 leaves of chard, kale or collard greens
- 2 tbsp ghee, coconut oil or sesame oil
- 1 tsp fennel, freshly ground or whole
- 1 tsp cumin, freshly ground or whole
- 1 tsp coriander, freshly ground or whole
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 3-5 black peppercorns, freshly ground
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- Fresh juice of half a lemon
- About 5 sprigs of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- Salt to taste (sea salt or pink Himalayan)
*If you use whole mung beans you will need to increase your cooking time. Be sure to use more water and to cook alone for at least half an hour before adding your veggies.
- In a medium size sauce pan add the ghee (or the coconut or sesame oil), cumin, coriander, fennel and black pepper
- Stir over a medium heat until the spices start to crackle and brown slightly
- Pour the water into the same pan and bring to a boil
- Add the mung beans or red lentils and the basmati rice
- Reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally
- Cover the pan, leaving a slight opening to prevent the risk of boiling over
While its cooking…
- Slice up the carrot, celery and greens
- Add to the pot, stir, and place back the lid keeping it slightly open
- Keep on a low boil for 30-45 minutes or until the beans and veggies are soft (almost mushy) and well cooked
- Remove from heat. Add cilantro, fresh lemon juice, grated ginger, turmeric and salt to taste.