If you’re a foodie wanting to clean your system out, but can’t stand the thought of a strict fast, try eating some kitchari. Ayurvedic doctors swear by this hearty dish made of basmati rice, mung dal, and aromatic Indian herbs, because it’s super easy to digest, highly nourishing and purifying, making it the ideal food for cleansing an overworked digestive system clogged up by fats and chemical-laden processed foods.

According to Ayurveda, India’s ancient holistic healing system, proper digestion is essential to good health. Eating kitchari for a period of time gives the digestive system the break it needs for it to devote itself to healing. This staple of the Ayurvedic diet is eaten regularly, as the sole food in a mono-diet cleanse, and as part of a panchakarma—acomprehensive Ayurvedic detoxification program that uses techniques such as oil massage, sweating, and enema to evacuate toxic materials from the body.

Dr. Vasant Lad’s mini-panchakarma cleanse consists mostly of eating kitchari for a few days along with ghee (clarified butter)—another healing food that Ayurvedic practitioners believe increases agni, the internal fire that powers digestion and metabolism. After many years of trials, Ayurveda has demonstrated that this simple combination will effectively detoxify the body. Refer to Lad’s book The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies for details on this simple DIY cleansing program.

Since Ayurveda suggests specific diets for individual doshasmind-body constitutional types—eating Ayurvedically inevitably translates to limited food choices, making it unpopular for those wanting access to the full range of culinary options. Kitchari, however, is safe for everyone to eat because it’s tridoshic, meaning it’s fine for all three doshas.

Health benefits aside, kitchari can be appreciated for its taste alone. The fragrant herbs that Indian cooking is well-known for impart flavour while the ghee adds richness. As with soup, vegetables can be added to the mix as long as they’re dosha-compatible, making kitchari a versatile dish that’s open to improvisation. Usha Lad and Vishant Lad include several kitchari recipes in Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing (see below for a sample recipe from the book).

Whether looking to cleanse your digestive system after years of abuse, or just looking for a new tasty dish to liven up your meal rotation, cook up some kitchari for a complete food that will fill you up without weighing you down.

Kitchari

Yields 4 servings

1 cup white basmati rice
1 cup split mung beans
1 tablespoon ghee
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon rock salt or sea salt
4 cups water

1. Rinse the rice and mung beans until the water is clear.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the ghee and add the mustard seeds and cumin
seeds. Stir until the seeds pop.
3. Add the rice, mung beans, turmeric, and salt, and stir until well blended with the spices.
4. Add the water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
5. Turn down the heat to low and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Adapted from Usha Lad and Vashant Lad’s Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing (Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 1997).

image: Ms Alex (Creative Commons BY-NC)