What is Kitchari & Why We Eat It for Cleansing
Kitchari (pronounced kich-uh-ree) is the traditional cleansing food of Ayurveda. It is a combination of split mung beans and white basmati rice with plenty of spices, depending on your constitution. Amidst all of the modern diet trends happening today, this might seem like an unusual cleansing food. Here are seven reasons why kitchari is a fabulous food for cleansing.
Kitchari is balancing for all constitution types (don't know your constitution, take the Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz). While beans are typically not a food recommended for regular consumption for vata-types—or for people experiencing vata imbalances—the split mung are easy to digest for even weak digesters. Whole mung beans are oblong and green, but the mung dal used for cleansing is half the size (because they’re split, of course!). The green husk is removed, leaving them yellow. When beans are split, they are called “dal” or “dahl,” so don’t get these confused with other dals, such as chana dal (split chickpeas), urad dal (split black gram) or masoor dal (split red lentils).
A Complete Protein
The combination of rice and mung dal provides all the amino acids needed to form a complete protein. Eaten on their own, each of these foods is missing one or more of the essential amino acids that our bodies are not able to make on their own. However, together they make magic happen! The protein content of kitchari supports stable blood sugar levels so that energy and mental clarity are balanced during the cleansing process.
Easy to Digest
White rice is traditionally used in kitchari because it is very easy to digest. Along with the split mung dal, kitchari is a food that is gentle enough for babies. In fact, in Ayurvedic homes, kitchari is typically given to people who are sick, the elderly, and babies because it is so gentle. In addition, taking a mono-diet of primarily just kitchari for several days offers the digestive system a rest by making the diet extremely simple.
Nourishing Enough to Get You Through Your Day
Unlike fasting cleanses, a kitchari cleanse is substantial enough to fuel you to accomplish your day-to-day responsibilities. Traditionally, panchakarma would be done away from home, at a retreat center where meals are cooked for you and you receive specialized bodywork to facilitate the detoxification process. Unfortunately, most people don’t have this luxury and today it is common to undertake a home cleanse while still maintaining work and parenting duties.
Agni, or the digestive fire (referred to as metabolism in western terms), is considered in Ayurveda to be the golden key to all health. Good agni means we are able to digest, assimilate, and absorb nutrients from our food. Weak or imbalanced agni means malabsorption and accumulation of ama, or toxins. Spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, and even salt encourage healthy agni. Because kitchari is made with spices that can be tailored to your constitution type, it nourishes and balances agni. Kapha-types benefit from all spices; vata-types do well with most spices but should avoid very pungent ones, such as cayenne pepper; and pitta-types can find balance with cooler spices like fennel and coriander.
Pulls Toxic Build Up
Mung dal has an astringent (dry) quality. This astringency has a natural pulling action that helps to remove toxic build up from the intestinal lining. This pulling action is much gentler than a harsh or abrasive scraping action that happens with raw or cold foods, especially raw vegetables. According to Dr. Sunil V. Joshi in his book, Ayurveda and Panchakarma, kitchari also liquefies ama during the second stage of digestion. This makes the ama easier to remove.
Removes Natural Toxins from the Body
Once toxins are loosened and liquefied, it is essential that they get properly eliminated from the body. The split mung beans provide enough fiber (over 15 grams per 1-cup serving) to move these toxins through the G.I. tract and out of the body.
While kitchari is used for cleansing, it is also incredibly delicious, so don’t wait until your cleanse to try it! Not sure how to make it? Click here for our recipe. Make it as a special meal, topped with toasted sesame seeds, shredded coconut, or cilantro, and serve with a side of chutney. Try cooking the mung and rice together or separately, and add any variation of veggies to the cooking pot. Enjoy, knowing all the benefits that kitchari brings!