How to do a kitchari cleanse
First of all, I'm going to start by saying that I am no way certified in Ayurvedic medicine. I am familiar with some of the concepts, but only from what I've read or learned from others. So, if you come across any information in this post that is incorrect based on your knowledge or experience, please feel free to comment below.
Ayurvedic Medicine in a Nutshell
Ayurveda is rooted in India and revolves around the five elements: earth, fire, water, air, and space. It is believed that when these elements are paired together they form 'doshas' which influence who we are and our overall well-being. There are three doshas: pitta (fire and earth), vāta (air and space), and kapha (earth and water). According to Ayurveda, agni (our digestive fire) and prana (our energy) are fundamental to holistic health. Because of its Indian roots, Ayurveda is often closely connected with yoga, so it's common to hear reference to some of these concepts in traditional yoga classes. Personally, there are certain aspects of Ayurveda that I believe in, and others which I choose to leave behind. However, a kitchari cleanse is based in Ayurvedic medicine, so I wanted to provide some context before talking about the cleanse specifically.
If you are interested in reading more about Ayurveda, these are two books that I enjoyed. They are both available on Book Depository, which has free shipping worldwide!
My Thoughts on Cleansing
To be honest, I've never bought into the cleansing fad. There are SO many different versions out there - raw food, juices, water, soup - and I think a lot of people choose to jump on the bandwagon because of flashy infographics telling them how they will 'shed water water in just three days!' Also, I can't seem to understand how severely limiting your food intake for multiple days is a healthy choice, especially if you live an active lifestyle. However, I have struggled with a sensitive stomach for years. I'm lactose intolerant, a lot of fruits upset my stomach, sometimes red meat doesn't agree with me, and I can't really figure out the whole gluten thing. One of my friends, who regularly sees an Ayurvedic doctor, suggested I try a kitchari cleanse to give my digestive system a break. I was skeptical, but when I found out I would still get to eat real food - and food that I actually liked - I decided to give it a try.
The Kitchari Cleanse
This is a monodiet cleanse, which means you eat only kitchari - made of rice, yellow mung dal, and spices - for at least three days. During this time you drink a lot of warm fluids, and you can also choose to consume triphala in the evening to support digestion. The theory behind this cleanse is that your digestive system gets a 'break' from processing a large variety of foods, therefore promoting regular elimination, better sleep, and overall well-being. For me, I also notice that my intense sugar cravings significantly decrease after I complete a cleanse. Like most types of cleanses, there is an endless amount of information available online about doing a kitchari cleanse. I find this post by Banyan Botanicals to be the most comprehensive. I have provided some of the basic instructions and recipes below, but read the previously mentioned post if you want more information.
When To Cleanse
Although this cleanse does not focus on restricting the amount of food you eat, you will likely have lower energy while you are cleansing. Make sure to schedule your cleanse when you know you have ample time to prepare your food, and also when you don't have too many other obligations. And definitely don't schedule a cleanse if you're going to a social event that involves food! For me, I usually cleanse after I've spent a period of time indulging in foods that upset my stomach (e.g. after the Christmas holidays).
What You Need
Here is a list of all the ingredients you will need for a 3-day cleanse. The dry ingredients on this list are all linked to the brands I use, and can be purchased on iHerb. Use the code NEW10 for 10% off your first order - they have free worldwide shipping! If you are buying your ingredients locally or in bulk, I have listed the approximate amount you will need beside each item for the entire 3 days, with some leftover.
- White basmati rice (3 cups // 600 grams)
- Yellow mung dal* (1 1/2 cups // 300 grams)
- Spices (1/4 cup of each // 70 grams whole spices // 8 grams powdered spices)
- Peppermint tea or fresh mint ( 1/4 cup // 8 grams)
- Produce: Fresh ginger (1 large root), 3 limes, easily digestible vegetables e.g. carrots, zucchini, green beans, squash (6 cups chopped)
- Detox tea (enough for at least 3 cups of tea - any brand is fine, but I've linked my favourite)
- 1 lemon
- Sesame seeds (1/2 cup // 75 grams)
- Fresh cilantro i.e. coriander (1 large bunch)
- Unsweetened shredded coconut (1/4 cup // 15 grams)
- Raw honey (1 teaspoon)
- Triphala (either one bottle in capsule form or 6 oz. of powder)
* Sometimes Yellow Mung can be hard to find, so you can substitute red lentils instead
Tridoshic Kitchari Recipe
This recipe makes enough for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You may need to make the portions slightly smaller or larger depending on your appetite, but start with this recipe and then adjust accordingly. It is recommended to store your daily kitchari in a pot on the counter, rather than the fridge.
1 cup white basmati rice
½ cup yellow mung dal (or red lentils)
2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)
¼ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1½ teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon natural mineral sea salt
6 cups water
2 cups easily digestible vegetables (eg. carrots, zucchini, green beans, squash)
1. Soak the dal overnight.
2. Strain, then mix with uncooked rice and rinse and until water runs clear.
3. In a medium pot, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds; cook until mustard seeds begin to pop.
4. Add tumeric, coriander, and fresh ginger. Stir in rice and dal.
5. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add salt, then bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Add vegetables and cook for an additional 20 minutes, or until vegetables and dal are fully cooked.
Note: If you are using lentils, the cooking time will be shorter, and you don't need to soak them overnight.
You can choose different toppings for your kitchari, which helps add a little variety into each meal. This is what I typically use:
Breakfast: Coconut oil or ghee, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Lunch: Coconut oil or ghee, roasted sesame seeds, and cayenne.
Dinner: Fresh Coriander Chutney (see below). It tastes amazingly fresh, and I actually use this regularly even when I'm not cleansing.
Fresh Coriander Chutney Recipe
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves and stems (also known as cilantro) - finely chopped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, chopped
1 teaspoon raw honey
1 teaspoon natural mineral salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1. Mix lemon juice, water, and fresh coriander. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
- You can also blend the ingredients to make a smoother paste.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
The Importance of Warm Fluids
During this cleanse, drinking warm fluids throughout the day is crucial - but no coffee. Hydration is important for healthy digestion, and warm fluids are believed to be even better. I always drink either tea or warm water before I eat any food in the morning, and I notice it has a positive effect on my digestion for the rest of the day. When I am doing a kitchari cleanse, this is my approximate daily fluid consumption:
Before breakfast: 3 cups of warm water
After breakfast: 3 cups of CCF tea (see recipe below)
Before lunch: 2 cups of warm water
Mid-afternoon: Rehydration tea (optional - see recipe below)
Before dinner: 2 cups of warm water
After dinner: 1-2 cups of detox tea - I like this one, but you can use any variety or make more CCF tea instead
Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel Tea (CCF)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
4½ cups water
2 teaspoons peppermint or fresh mint
¼ teaspoon natural mineral salt
¼ cup lime juice
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
1. Bring water to a boil; remove from heat and add ingredients.
2. Steep for 10 minutes and strain.
- I recommend that you ease yourself into the cleanse. For example, begin eliminating processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine a few days before you plan to start so that your body has an easier time adjusting. This will be important for anyone who normally drinks coffee.
- During the cleanse, you may notice that you develop a headache or have low energy. These feelings are normal, and could be caused by the lack of caffeine or your body's natural detox process, although the scientific evidence behind this is limited. In my case the second day is always the hardest, so I usually plan my cleanse over a weekend when I can curl up with a book.
- Some resources suggest that you should cleanse for five days, but I have a very active lifestyle and cannot realistically commit to cleansing any longer than three days. I still feel the benefits of cleansing for three days, so I believe that time frame is sufficient for me.
- Make sure to limit your physical exercise while you are cleansing. I usually do 30-40 minutes of gentle yoga in the morning, 20 minutes of yin yoga in the evening, and go for a walk at some point during the day.
- You should also ease yourself out of the cleanse; this means you shouldn't celebrate with a hamburger and cake after three days! Slowly start adding in other foods that are easy to digest (e.g. oatmeal, eggs, other fruits/vegetables), then gradually return to your regular diet.
If you have questions about this cleanse, please comment below or contact me directly!