Kitchari: Healthy and Nourishing Cleansing

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Whenever I come home from traveling I like to do a gentle cleanse. I find that it helps me get back on track to my normal at-home diet. It’s also a great way to give my digestion a little break from all the hard work of eating food in a foreign country like India.

There are many different ways to cleanse so it’s important to find what’s right for your body, environment and the current season. I personally can’t do intense stripping cleansing like the Master Cleanse or multi-day juice fasts. I get terrible headaches, anxiety, chills and totally spaced out from these kind of cleanses. I’m not a health expert, but in general I do not recommend people try these long intensely restrictive fasts while maintaining their regular work/home life – this can be too stressful and that would be counterproductive! In certain controlled environments, under guidance and for a specific health condition, more restrictive cleanses can be incredibly healing, so I’m certainly not writing those off completely, I just don’t find they are the best choices for householders of good health.

So then how do I “cleanse”?

I eat simple cooked foods in moderate amounts, hydrate like crazy, take extra good care of myself and supplement with cleansing herbs and extra fiber. I sometimes use those 365 brand “Complete Body Cleanse” kits or take capsules of the Ayurvedic medicine, Triphala, as well as detoxifying herbal teas.

The method for cleansing I want to share with you today is a mono-diet. This means you eat only one type of food for each meal. The recipe I use for this cleanse is called kitchari. It is a staple of Ayurvedic diet and healing. It’s a wonderful meal for cleansing, but also for any time you are feeling a bit under the weather. It is nourishing and very soothing. Kitchari is served in India to people who are sick because it is so simple and easy to digest. The vegetables, legumes and rice provide a balanced meal of an easily assimilated protein while the spices are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and digestion-boosting properties. Onions, garlic and ginger –the trinity of roots, as Yogi Bhajan called them – are stimulating to the digestive fires and beneficial to the immune system.

A kitchari cleanse can be done for one day or many. I’ve done this mono-diet for up to a week before and I felt amazing afterwards. For severe illnesses, people have done kitchari mono-diets for weeks on end with very positive results. I find that even one day of kitchari makes me feel very light and balanced. Kitchari is very good for cleansing the colon so it’s especially beneficial for people with trouble digesting and eliminating their food in a healthy manner.

Each time I make kitchari it’s a bit different depending on whether I use brown or white rice and what spices and vegetables I use. Kitchari doesn’t’ have to be boring – mix it up!

If you are totally turned off by the idea of eating the same bowl of food multiple times a day, here’s a great modification:

Eat kitchari for lunch, dinner and an afternoon snack. In the morning, eat a bowl of cooked gluten-free cereal such as a steel-cut oats or millet. I flavor and supplement my hot cereal with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and nutmeg and sweeten it with cooked fruit like apples or pears and a dash of molasses, maple syrup or brown rice syrup.

 

Mung Beans and Rice Kitchari

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil

1 cup of mung beans

1 cup of basmati rice

9 cups water

4-6 cups chopped assorted vegetables (carrots, celery, kale, broccoli, sweet potato, zucchini, etc.)

2 onions, chopped

1/3 cup minced ginger root

8-10 cloves of minced garlic

1 heaping tsp. of turmeric

1 tsp. of black pepper

1 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. crushed chiles or cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. of coriander powder

1/2 tsp. of cumin powder

1/2 tsp. of mustard seeds

1/2 tsp. of cardamon powder

2 bay leaves

sea salt to taste

 

Directions:

Soak beans and rice for at least 2 hours and then rinse. Add water to beans and rice and boil over a medium flame. Add vegetables to cooking beans and rice. In a large frying pan, heat ghee/oil. Add onions, garlic an ginger to hot oil and saute. Add spices. When done, combine onions with cooking mung beans and rice and continue to cook until well-done, stirring often. The consistency should be rich and thick. Add salt to taste when finished cooking.

 

How to make the most of your cleanse:

Get some extra Zzzzzs – Switch off and get a little more rest. Be lazy – your body and mind will benefit from the extra sleep.

Sweat and soak – End your day by soaking in an Epsom salt and essential oil bath. If you have the opportunity to go to a sauna, steam bath or hot spring, go soak your bones and sweat yourself clean.

Move your body and breathe deeply – Cleansing is not the time to bust out Third Series or run a half-marathon. Take it a bit easy in your exercise routine but still get some good movement. Perhaps a gentle yoga session, a good walk, some tai chi – something to move your blood and lymph and keep the joints lubricated will make you feel better as you’re cleansing and processing.

Start your day right by tongue-scraping to clear off the amma that collected overnight, detox your skin by dry-brushing before you shower and be sure to drink a big glass of warm water to encourage elimination before eating.

I like to take a cold shower in the morning to dilate the blood vessels, flush my body of toxins and wake up. After yoga practice I normally take a hot shower to soap/shampoo etc. and then I rub my skin with a vata-pacifying oil like sweet almond or sesame.

Drink herbal tea – Make a large pot of Yogi Tea which is a blend of boiled cinnamon, ginger root, cardamon pods, black peppercorns, turmeric and cloves. I drink this tea multiple times a day with a splash of unsweetened almond milk. It’s very detoxing and beneficial for the digestion. It’s also warming so I find it to be very comforting when I am cleansing. I’m also a huge fan of tulsi tea. Tulsi (holy basil) is warming as well, so it’s a great choice for the cooler months. It is incredibly healing and great for building a strong immune system.

Stick clear of all intoxicants/stimulants – This means no coffee, booze, or drugs (except for necessary rx, if you take any), no caffeine or sugar. Give your body a break from these substances that are so hard on your liver and adrenals.

Break your fast intelligently – Don’t go out and order a big pizza and ice cream! Stick with a low-inflamation and healthy diet.  Slowly introduce more diverse foods. Use your cleanse as a way to bring healthier, plant-based foods into your routine.

 

Hope you find these suggestions helpful.

Blessings,

Frances

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12 thoughts on “Kitchari: Healthy and Nourishing Cleansing

  1. Hi Frances,

    Thanks so much for the recipe. I’ve always wanted to make kitchari and am intending to try such a cleanse soon. I am normally a banana eater and cleanse regularly with a mono banana diet, which is very detoxing, too.

    What amazes me are the garlic and the onions in the ingredients. I do not eat those any more at all, because they stuff up the nadis that I so thouroughly clean via nadi shodana every day. According to what you write they are important for the cleansing job, but I’d rather leave them out. Garlic and onions are not beneficial for the energy flow in the pranamaya kosha and also bad for meditation. I definitely noticed that, when for example I ate out and had onions or garlic in one of my dishes by accident. It was even more difficult than it already is anyways to get into dharana.

    What do you think, am I paranoid, have I learned something wrong and it all just depends on the tradition one is based on?

    Cheers from Germany
    Sat Nam
    Stef

    • Hi Stef
      Thanks for your comment. You are not paranoid. Many yoga traditions consider onions and garlic a super big no-no! At the ashram I visit they are forbidden, same with in the Krishna community. But Yogi Bhajan was a huge fan of these foods though and he encouraged householders who practiced Kundalini Yoga to eat these roots and I tend to use his kitchari recipe for cleansing. He said that because the yoga itself is so fiery, the more rajasic energy of these roots is actually good for Kundalini Yoga practitioners. If your practice is much quieter or more oriented on just meditation and not asana, then these foods should be avoided as they are not sattvic. For a kitchari recipe without vegetables or these roots, try this one – http://nomoredirtylooks.com/2013/02/meatless-monday-my-easy-kitchari-recipe/
      Blessings,
      Frances

      • Thank you very much for this other recipe and for your reply, Frances. Actually, my practice consists of asana, pranayama and meditation and my asana practice should be less rajasic, I am afraid… I always want to be able to do everything immediately.
        My Yoga teacher training is based on Sivananda Yoga and we have intensive seminars when we practice a lot of Kundalini Yoga, and especially THEN it is recommended to not eat garlic and onions in order to have the nadis (in this case the sushumna, of course) free and clean so that the is able Kundalini to rise at all.
        It is very interesting that for Bhajan Kundalini practitioners it seems not to be a problem. I really wonder who is right here and wonder whether I should really be that strict in my diet. (You can imagine that my relatives and friends think of me as a terribly difficult eater: a vegan who does not eat onions, garlic and mushrooms and vinegar and yeast either.) 😉
        I wish you a great time in San Diego.
        Cheers
        Stef

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  3. Sat Nam!

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on the Kitcheri Cleanse. I’ll be starting any time soon this monodeit and I’m quite excited, since I’m in a need on a reset of my eating habits. The sugar is my weakness! Oh, my!

    Anyway, just to add to what you’ve just said about the trinity roots, Yogi Bhajan did recommended to have them since that, as householders, we have to live in everyday world and we need a litle a bit of those rajasic qualities to make us grounded and active. He argues that if we were to be on a monastery or if our pratice would be more ascetic, then they should me omitted.

    Well, thanks again for all your great work with your blog!

    Many blessings,
    Gurukiret

    • Sat Nam

      Thanks for your comment Gurukiret. I appreciate that addition about the trinity roots, great info to share.
      Sugar is my weakness too, but I’m eating more macrobiotically now and I notice that my sugar cravings have significantly reduced.

      Thanks for reading.
      Have a blessed solstice.
      Frances

  4. Pingback: Top 13 Posts Of 2013 | Lila

  5. Hello, this will be my first time going through a cleanse. I landed upon this idea after I made the decision to get healthy (eat better, begin workout routine, spiritual health, etc.). Before I begin on my new journey of a healthy lifestyle, I would like to cleanse my body.

    What do you recommend for a first timer? Can I begin with your recipe?

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