Ayurveda’s #1 Superfood for Cleansing & Rejuvenation — Atlas Yoga Studio & School


Updated on:

Ayurveda’s #1 Superfood for Cleansing & Rejuvenation — Atlas Yoga Studio & School

Kitchari, pronounced kich-ah-ree, has long been used to nourish babies, the elderly, and the sick, along with healthy adults during times of detox, cleansing, and spiritual practice.

The term kitchari is used to describe any mixture of rice and beans. Traditional cleansing kitchari consists of split yellow mung beans, long-grain white or basmati rice, and a blend of Indian spices.

During a cleanse, metabolism slows and digestive strength weakens, so foods must be very easy to digest. 

White rice is used for kitchari because the husk has been milled off. While brown rice may be used (and will actually supply more fiber and nutrients), the husk makes it much harder to digest. During cleansing, a time of already compromised digestion, the husk can irritate the intestinal wall and cause digestive gas or abdominal pain. 

Remember, kitchari is still used today in India as baby food—a food that is super easy to digest. Under normal circumstances, the husk of rice and other protective antinutrients on grains and legumes are healthy and support robust gut immunity, but, during a cleanse, the gut is in repair mode, so we make it as easy as possible. 

Traditionally, farmers brought rice to the miller to dehusk based on their needs. If someone was sick, elderly, or there was a baby in the house, all of the husk would come off, making white rice for ease of digestion. Brown rice was used only if digestive strength was optimal or when funds were short, as it was expensive to have rice prepared and dehusked. 

Long-grain white rice was typically used because it was believed to be more nutritious than short-grain. Even without the husk, it was considered more blood sugar stable. Now, studies have shown long-grain white rice is a low glycemic index food, lower than short-grain and other forms of rice (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19169946)

To be called kitchari rice has to be cooked with a legume. Traditionally, that legume is split yellow mung dahl beans. Split yellow mung beans also have their husk  removed. When split, the husk, very hard to digest and gas-producing, naturally falls off. This process renders them much easier to cook, digest, and assimilate.

Perhaps the most exciting research on mung beans suggests two of its major flavonoids, vitexin and isovitexin, are able to turn off one of the body’s major anti-aging switches, called HMGB1 (high mobility group box 1), which triggers release of toxic degenerative cytokines. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22845335 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23193422)

In another study, mung beans were found to be free of any “flatulence factors,” suggesting it may be the only bean that does not produce gas. This is one reason this bean has been used for babies and convalescence.  According to Ayurveda, it is the only bean classified as anti-vata or anti-gas. This means that, unlike every other type of beans or lentils, they will not produce intestinal gas. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20801948 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11340104). Mung beans, a low glycemic index food, are also a great source of magnesium, which most of us are deficient in.

The combination of rice and beans has been a staple around the world for 10,000 years, and for good reason. You may have heard the term complete protein, this is what happens when we combine certain plant based foods to ensure that the body gets what it needs for a healthy metabolism.

There are 20 amino acids that combine to make the protein we need. The body can synthesize 10 on its own. The other 10, called essential amino acids, the body does not make, meaning we must get them from food. Animal proteins are complete, containing all 10 essential amino acids. While plant foods are also complete, the amount of certain amino acids in plants is more abundant when plants food like rice and beans are combined. (https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/45274218?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=mung+bean&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=

Rice, like most grains, is low in the amino acid lysine. As a result, if you live on grains alone, you may slowly become lysine deficient. Legumes and lentils, on the other hand, have lots of lysine, but are generally low in methionine, tryptophan, and cystine. Fortunately, grains are high in these. 

So the combination of rice and beans, as found in kitchari, provides the 10 essential amino acids, making complete proteins and making kitchari an essential part of a healthy plant based way of eating.

During a cleanse, it’s essential to have adequate protein to keep blood sugar stable and burn fat. 

One of the most common reasons folks have trouble cleansing is unstable blood sugar made worse by the detox process. During a fast, for example, you are asked to drink only water or juice. For many, this type of austere fasting can be a strain and deplete blood sugar reserves. Then folks get really hungry, irritable, and end up with a low blood sugar headache or crash. 

While the goal of a fast is to shift the body into fat metabolism and detox fat cells, this will not happen if the body is under stress and strain. 

Here’s the basic equation:  

  • Stress = Fat storing

  • No Stress = Fat burning

If you attempt to detox heavy metals, preservatives, chemicals, pesticides, and environmental toxins from fat cells with a cleanse, make sure you aren’t straining, or the amount of fat burned will be minimal. 

Kitchari provides nourishment in the form of all the amino acids needed to keep blood sugars stable. Otherwise, ironically, the body may react to the cleanse as a fat-storing emergency.

The goal of any cleanse should be to convince the body and the cells that life is not an emergency and it’s okay to burn stored fat and release toxins. During a kitchari cleanse, you eat this complete protein three times per day, so that there is no starvation response. Theoretically, the more comfortable we are, the more fat we burn.

In India, kitchari is often the first food for babies, not only because it’s so easy to digest, but also because it heals and soothes the intestinal wall.  With 95% of serotonin produced in the gut, it’s clear we process stress through the intestinal wall. Chronic stress will irritate the intestinal wall and compromise digestion, the ability to detoxify through the gut, and cope with further stress. During a kitchari cleanse, the digestive system can heal. 

There are three dietary options in kitchari cleanses: the mono-, duo-, and poly-diets. Eating just kitchari as a mono-diet delivers a significant amount of fiber used by gut microbes to create gut-healthy butyric acid. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1374147/ ) Kitchari allows much of the digestive process to rest, while providing nutrition to theoretically heal the gut and nourish the body.  

The duo-diet combines kitchari and vegetables to provide a broader spectrum of nutrients for the cleanser not quite ready to eat the mono-diet. The poly-diet is a combination of kitchari (or any combination of grains and legumes), along with vegetables and fruit. This is the great way to start the cleanse, unless you are a seasoned cleanser. You can work your way down to the duo- and mono-diets during the cleanse if/when you feel comfortable. 

Fat metabolism facilitates deep calm, making it the natural state for spiritual inquiry and practice. For this reason, kitchari was fed to monks and ascetics to help create a sense of stillness in which to gain greater access to old toxic emotional and behavioural patterns. This is also why kitchari is the food of choice of panchakarma, Ayurveda’s deepest detox retreat.

For the Kitchari

·      2 cups yellow mung dal 

·      1 cup basmati rice 

·      3 tablespoons ghee – clarified butter

·      1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds 

·      1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds 

·      1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds 

·      1 teaspoon ground cumin 

·      1 teaspoon ground coriander 

·      1 teaspoon ground turmeric 

·      1 small cinnamon stick 

·      3 green cardamom pods 

·      3 cloves 

·      3 bay leaves

·      1 packed tablespoon grated ginger (from a 2-inch piece) 

·      2 teaspoons mineral salt or kosher salt 

·      8 cups mixed vegetables, such as cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato, bok choy, carrots, and green beans, cut into bite-size pieces 

Cilantro-Coconut Chutney

·      2 cups packed cilantro leaves (from 1 large bunch) 

·      1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons) 

·      1/4 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut 

·      2 tablespoons chopped ginger 

·      1 teaspoon honey 

·      1 teaspoon mineral salt or kosher salt 


Step 1

Make the coconut-cilantro chutney: Place everything in a food processor or blender with 3 tablespoons cold water. Process to a paste. Chutney will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, though it will lose its vibrant colour.

Step 2

Make the kitchari: Rinse dal and rice in several changes of water until water runs clear. Drain and set aside.

Step 3

In a large pot, heat ghee over medium-high (if cleansing use less ghee or use vegetable broth or water to the pot). Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds and cook, stirring, until mustard seeds pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining spices and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add dal and rice mixture, 10 cups water, salt, and vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally, until most of the water is absorbed and the rice and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Serve with chutney.

Cook's Notes 

·      Several important minerals are removed in the refining process of traditional table salt. For maximum health benefits, use a mineral salt such as Celtic Sea Salt or Real Salt — both can be found at most health food stores.

·      For weak digestion, gas, or bloating: Before starting to prepare kitchari, first parboil split mung dahl (cover with water and bring to boil), drain, and rinse. Repeat 2-3 times. OR soak beans overnight. Drain and cook as directed. 

·       Post a comment and add a picture if you try this recipe 🙂


You can view the original post here

Leave a Comment