Kitchari is a staple Ayurvedic healing food.
Kitchari is a famous Indian superfood that is both cleansing and nourishing. Kitchari means “mixture,” usually of rice and beans. It is commonly eaten while undergoing panchakarma, a therapeutic cleansing process used in Ayurveda to remove excess doshas, or imbalances, from the body. It is a complete protein that is easy to digest, and with vegetables, it is a very easy to make one-pot meal.
Rice and beans have been a staple diet around the world for thousands of years. Together, rice and beans form a complete protein. This means that it has all of the amino acids our body needs to obtain from our food.
There are 20 amino acids that our body needs, 10 of which can be synthesized by the body. The other 10 must be obtained from food sources. Animal proteins are “complete”, containing all 10 of these essential amino acids; but plant sources must be combined to form a complete protein.
For example: rice and many other grains are high in the amino acids methionine, tryptophan, and cystine, but they are low in lysine. Fortunately, legumes and lentils are high in lysine. When rice and beans are combined, they provide all of the necessary amino acids to create a complete protein. This allows a plant-based diet to be nutritionally sustainable.
Why White Rice?
Long-grain white rice is easier to digest than brown rice. While cleansing, food that is taken should be very easy to digest in order to alleviate the digestive burden on our digestive system. White rice has had the outer hull (which can irritate the intestinal lining) removed to enhance digestion and absorption of minerals and nutrients.
Traditionally in kitchari, long grain white rice such as basmati was used because it was believed to be more nutritious and stable than short grain white rice. Studies have now shown that long grain white rice actually has a lower glycemic index than short grain.
Additionally, it has been shown that arsenic, a carcinogen, accumulates in the outer hull of brown rice. The outer hull is removed to make white rice, which has on average 80 percent less arsenic than brown rice of the same variety. White basmati rice (particularly grown in India, Pakistan, or California) has been shown to have the lowest levels of arsenic in any rice.
Why Mung Beans?
Split yellow mung dal is traditionally cooked along with white basmati rice to make kitchari. Mung dal is an easy to digest legume (even for vata-types) that, unlike many other beans, will not produce gas and bloating. Split yellow mung beans have their husk, which is difficult to digest, naturally removed through the splitting process, making them much easier to digest and assimilate.
Kitchari for Cleansing
While cleansing, it is important to stabilize blood sugar with adequate protein. Many fasts and juice cleanses actually destabilize blood sugar by sending the body into starvation mode. This actually increases feelings of stress, and causes the body to store fat.
Kitchari provides the protein your body needs to stabilize blood sugar. This prevents a starvation response, keeps your body calm, and allows you to burn fat and stored toxins.
Traditional Indian Kitchari Recipe
1 cup White Basmati Rice
1/2 cup Mung Dal (split yellow)
2 Tbs. Ghee, sunflower, or coconut oil (or optionally you can dry-roast the spices)
1/4 tsp. Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp. Cumin seeds (or powder)
1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. Coriander powder
1/2 tsp. Fennel Powder
1 pinch Asafoetida (hing)
7 cups boiling water
Salt to taste
Seasonal Vegetables, Chopped (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro or mint, unsweetened shredded coconut, and a wedge of lime (optional, to garnish)
Pick over rice and dal to remove any stones, then wash the rice and dal, separately, in at least 2 changes of water.
Saute the seeds in the ghee (or other oil) over medium heat until they pop. Then add the other spices.
Add the mung dal, and saute for 1 or 2 minutes.
Add boiling water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the dal is about 2/3 cooked.
Optional: Prepare any vegetables that suit your constitution, cut them into smallish pieces.
Add rice and any vegetables. Stir to mix, adding extra water if required.
Bring back to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Aim to have minimal water remaining, leaving the lid on the pot to allow excess to be slowly absorbed.
Add salt to taste before serving.
Optional: I also like to garnish with unsweetened shredded coconut, fresh cilantro (or you could use fresh mint), and lime juice.