Healing Ayurvedic Kitchari: the gentle approach to detox
Happy 2019 my friend!
New Year - New You
Or so the New Year’s Resolutions begin…
With December and the overindulgence of christmas out of the way come the January weight loss & detox challenges. It’s bloody everywhere - one almost feels obliged to get on the detox train.
But we are a little wiser than that, right?
While my christmas was pretty healthy (lots of roasted veggies, organic chicken and sweet potato brownies) of course I still indulged in some not so nutritious food choices.
Ah, those sweet temptations…
As I need to gain weight rather than losing it, I have no problem with that. But now it’s gotten to the point where my body is really craving SIMPLE, GROUNDING, NUTRITIOUS food.
My blood sugar has been on a rollercoaster ride. I’m feeling slow and sluggish - both physically and mentally. My skin looks shit, my sleep is disturbed, and my mind feels restless.
It’s time to regain my glow - I miss myself.
I’m not a big fan of drastic changes or going crazy on a juice fast, especially if December was a little… well, sugary. Body and mind need to ease gently into wholesome, sustainable lifestyle changes, and January really isn’t the time to go hard-core on a raw smoothie detox.
It’s grey, cold and pretty miserable outside. My body wants STABILITY - nourishing, warm and easy. And so I’m turning to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda to gently ease my way back into eating with more BALANCE.
Kitchari is the famous one-pot wonder Indian dish that combines grains (traditionally rice) and lentils with warming and detoxifying spices. Its best known in Ayurvedic medicine as a cleansing and complete protein meal - very easy to digest, and even easier to make.
Because of its simplicity and ease, many people find that doing a “kitchari mono-diet” is very pleasant and far less of an ordeal than going bananas on a juice fast.
The theory behind this wholesome cleanse is based on the concept of clever FOOD COMBINING.
A mono-nutrient fast of three to seven days gives your digestive system a much needed break from dealing with a mess of different foods with every meal.
And because digestion is at the core of human health, supporting this essential process creates space for the miracle of SELF-HEALING: something the body is constantly striving for.
But Kitchari is more than just a detox, it’s actually super DELICIOUS COMFORT FOOD - even if you’re not up for a comprehensive Ayurvedic cleanse by eating the exact same dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This traditional Ayurvedic recipe is perfect for cold winter nights, when you’re in need of a warm hug, or in times of high stress.
After three days of eating Kitchari for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m feeling sooo much more balanced, focused and energized - the ways I would like to feel at the beginning of a brand new year.
My body loves it, but my mind loves it even more.
Not having to constantly think about food and what to make for lunch and dinner frees up a lot of mental space to focus on more important aspects of my life.
But be warned: some unpleasant, suppressed emotions might come to surface. Journaling is a great way to get the mess out of your head (and out of your life) so that healing BODY, MIND and SPIRIT may commence.
Kitchari Detox Prep
Before you jump right in, you’ll need to do a bit of planning:
First of all, check with your doctor and/or nutritionist that you’re physically and mentally healthy - this applies for any detox program.
Set REALISTIC goals for yourself. Ideally you’ll be eating this dish for three to seven days exclusively. But don’t be too ambitious - if one is all you can do, that is perfectly cool. Maybe try two days in the following week and see how you feel.
Since you’re eating throughout this practice there is no need to pause your regular life. You might even find that everything becomes a lot smoother. However, if you want to give yourself a real treat, do the Kitchari detox over a long weekend and indulge in some other nourishing, cleansing experiences: daytime napping, a massage, reading an actual book, a sauna visit, and maybe even going offline completely. Woohoo BODY-MIND DETOX!
If work and family life can’t just be put on hold, make sure to give yourself plenty of juicy private time in the evenings - essential oil bath, yin yoga, early nights, etc.
Before you begin
Start by cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meat, dairy and all processed foods. You can also add any bad habits that are throwing you off balance, and eliminate the daily practices that aren’t making your life extra sweet.
Soak the quinoa and lentils (in a separate bowl) the night before you make your first Kitchari. Not only does soaking neutralise most of the phytonutrients found in grains and legumes, but it also activates them - kicking off the germination process, which releases more nutrients and makes them easier to digest. This is especially important if you suffer from leaky gut syndrome. But don’t panic if you forgot, just get them in water as soon as you can. Remember that even soaking for an hour is better than nothing.
Cook the Kitchari daily if possible. The fresher the food, the more energy (or PRANA) it contains. Freezing is an option, but freeze each serving/portion separately so that you’re not heating more than you need at one sitting.
Morning: upon rising, drink a large glass of ginger tea or warm water with freshly squeezed lemon, followed by another glass of pure water. Make your first batch of Kitchari, and enjoy it for breakfast. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Midday: Drink a large glass of warm water at least 30 minutes BEFORE eating. Heat your desired amount of Kitchari (avoid microwaving if possible) for lunch.
Evening: Drink a large glass of warm water or ginger tea at least 30 minutes before eating. Heat your desired amount of Kitchari for dinner.
Night time: Herbal detox tea if you like (peppermint, fennel, ginger, liquorice etc.) and enjoy something that nourishes you (bath, meditation, stretching). Grab your journal, a lovely book, and go to bed early.
Before bed: Place the quinoa and lentils for the following day in separate bowls, add plenty of filtered water, and soak overnight.
Repeat for three to seven days.
Kitchari Reset Tips
Eat when you’re hungry. This may seem like an obvious one, but many people eat out of habit instead of listening to their bodies. Take these days to really tune in, listen when your body actually desires food, and feel how much you need to be PLEASANTLY SATISFIED. When you feel hungry, your body is giving you the signal that it is ready to receive. Some people need five small meals, while others function better on two main meals and a snack inbetween. Having said this, avoid mindless snacking and let your body rest and digest inbetween meals.
Cook mindfully. If you normally approach cooking from a “let’s get this over with” standpoint, use this opportunity to make your meal prep a ceremony, and see it as a gift to yourself. Take your time and enjoy the process. The attention and intention you put into your food will come back to you, and nourish you in ways that you never thought possible.
Keep things interesting. You can adjust the spices to suit your personal taste. If you need some variety, top the Kitchari with some of your favourite sprouts and veggies, or fold in some spinach while it’s still hot. I love adding sweet potato and some greens.
Cravings are normal, especially if your eating has been off balance for while. If you feel a craving coming up, first identify what the craving is. Be curious. Maybe it has nothing to do with the food but more with your emotional or mental state. If you can’t shake the feeling, drink a cup of warm herbal tea, and have some steamed veggies. Tune in and taste your food.
The body functions optimally when hydrated so drink plenty of water. This is especially important when we’re detoxing, but it will also prevent cravings, combat brain fog, and keep the bowels moving. Remember to drink water away from mealtimes for optimal digestion (30 minutes before eating, 2-3 hours after). Other beverages like coffee, tea, juices, sport drinks and nut milk, are NOT water. Only water is water.
Listen to your body and be kind to yourself. Detox symptoms like mild headaches are normal, but please see your doctor if something doesn’t feel right.
After the Kitchari Cleanse
You probably won’t feel like eating processed junk food after resetting your taste buds - YOU JUST FEEL TOO GOOD - but some people find it tempting to celebrate and indulge. Even though this process keeps your digestive system happily humming along, your body is still in a sensitive place.
Introduce new foods slowly, and keep combinations small and uncomplicated (i.e. don’t have a meal with 20 different ingredients thrown together).
Limit meat, dairy, sugar and all processed foods for as long as possible. Your favourite chocolate should wait until you’re pretty much back to “normal”, but you may even be craving healthier, sugarfree alternatives.
Traditionally Kitchari is made with rice and lentils, but remember that this dish is a few thousand years old - back in the days our soil was unpolluted and healthy. Nowadays even the best organic rice is tainted with arsenic, a toxic substance. This is why I prefer using quinoa (or buckwheat) instead of rice, giving the meal a lighter texture and an additional protein kick.
To keep things interesting you can add any kind of vegetables you love. Greens are particularly detoxifying and healing, but you can play with the ingredients however you want. Adding some sweet potato and cinnamon is delicious if you have intense sweet cravings.
Go easy with the spices to start with. You can always add more later. Be playful and experiment.
Ingredients - serves 4 (more or less)
1 cup quinoa or buckwheat
1 cup red lentils
4 cups of water
2 cups of chopped greens (broccoli, kale, spinach etc.)
2 tbsp. of ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon of ground coriander and ground cumin
1 - 2 teaspoons of black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ground turmeric and fennel seeds
1 -2 teaspoons of finely grated fresh ginger
black pepper and Himalayan rock salt to season
fresh coriander or parsely as garnish
fresh lemon or lime to squeeze if you like
In the morning, after overnight soaking, wash and drain the lentils and quinoa.
Wash and cut your veggies.
Prepare all your spices (except for the mustard seeds and freshly grated ginger) in a little cup so you don’t need to mess with them whilst cooking.
Heat the oil and sauté mustard seeds in a wok or pan until they pop. Add water, lentils, quinoa and all other spices. Bring to boil, cover with a lid and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Stir in the veggies and cook for another minute until they’re soft, adding more water if necessary. Your Kitchari should have a soft, porridge-like consistency.
Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, garnish with freshly chopped herbs, and add some lime or lemon juice if you like.