Twice a year, every spring and fall, I take a week or two to cleanse my body and prepare for a new season. This spring, I did a 10-day raw juice and broth fast paired with some deep healing herbs. When the weather is warm after the equinox, I like to do my longer juice fasts as a way of releasing stagnant energy, reconnecting with myself from a place of clarity, and setting new intentions for the coming season. But this year, the cooler evening weather has me craving warming, cooked foods and my body opted to add more meals alongside my juice routine.
Honoring this request my body made, I signed up for Maria Lalita’s Ayurvedic Fall Cleanse. Maria is an incredible functional yoga therapist and an Ayurvedic practitioner. Each spring and fall she leads this cleanse, both locally in Tuscon and online through webinars and downloadable Ebooks. You can find more info on Maria and her programs here.
I’m 11 days into the program now, with an 8 day pre-cleanse period of eliminating certain foods, establishing meal times and restorative routines, and taking time to rest. Today, I’m on Day 3 of the official cleansing period, sticking strictly to a Kitchari diet with a few homemade chutneys and several purposeful Ayurvedic herbs, along with plenty of water and cleansing teas.
Kitchari, a soupy porridge of mung beans, rice and spices, is a healing dish often prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians alongside the traditional panchakarma practice, a rejuvenative series of natural holistic treatments that cleanses toxins stored in bodily tissues as it restores systemic balance.
The Ayurvedic system believes that all healing begins with the digestive tract. Consuming kitchari alone can provide rest to our digestive systems from having to break down processed foods, while nourishing our bodies with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It is said to nourish all three bodytypes (doshas). The combination of beans and rice makes for a complete protein, while the spices stoke the fires of Agni, our innate digestive fire that becomes weakened as a result of poor food combining and constant grazing. The goal of this entire cleanse is to bring balance to our bodies and boost our digestion by consuming 2-3 small, easily digestible meals of kitchari during optimal times of the day and allowing plenty of time for rest and restorative routines.
Kitchari is good for all bodtypes – for the cold, dry and spacey vata types, the warm soup is grounding; for fiery pitta types, its spices are calming; and for chilly, slow kapha, it provides healing warmth. However, with a few minor tweaks and additions, if you know your constitution you can make these adjustments for a more dosha specific meal. For example, if you have a kapha imbalance, the water element that tends towards having excess mucous and sluggish digestion, it’s best to omit the extra ghee or coconut oil. If you have a pitta imbalance, the fire element that tends towards overheating and loose bowels, avoid adding too many heating spices like ginger, mustard seed or peppers. If you’d like to find out your overall dosha (prakriti) and your current tendencies (vikriti) you can take this two part quiz here.
For this recipe specifically, I focused on using herbs that would balance my Vata constitution – especially because we are in Fall now, the time of the year characterized by vata. Avoiding raw foods in the evenings, focusing on warming, soupy cooked foods and heating spices help keep us spacey vata types from floating off into the ether on those cold, blustery fall days. If you take the quiz and find you have a vata imbalance, even though your primary constitution may tend towards pitta or kapha, then you might consider trying this recipe this time of the year. I’ve really boosted the spices up quite a bit in this recipe, because I can never get too much spice in my life! But if you find yourself craving a more watered down version of this, you can reduce the spice quantities by half.
So many wonderful options with this recipe! It doesn’t have to be eaten in a cleanse setting either, it’s a good year round recipe that you can eat whenever you need to give your digestion a nice break and crave something comforting. Top it with this nutrient-rich, detoxifying cilantro coconut chutney and you have yourself a seriously satisfying meal.
CILANTRO COCONUT CHUTNEY
2 bunches cilantro, stems removed
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup water
1 cup shredded dried coconut (unsweetened)
3 in. fresh ginger
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
Remove the stems and wash the cilantro well. Add cilantro, lemon juice and water to a high-speed blender. Pulse until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and blend into a paste. Store in an airtight glass container for up to one week.
**Recipe adapted from Lalita’s Ayurvedic Cleanses Ebook.
VATA BALANCING KITCHARI
1 cup sprouted mung beans (moong dal)
¾ cup brown rice
2 pieces kombu
2 bay leaves
10-12 cups water
2 tbsp ghee (use coconut oil for vegan variation)
2 tbsp yellow mustard seed
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp ginger, fresh grated or powder
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp asafoetida
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
1 cup kale, chopped
1 cup zucchini, diced
2 carrots, diced
Combine the mung beans, rice, kombu and bay leaves in a large pot. Add 10 cups of water to start, or enough to cover mixture with 3-4 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Then, heat a separate sauce pan. Add in your ghee or coconut oil, then stir in all your spices and heat gently on low to release the flavors – careful not to burn. Transfer spices into your pot of rice/dal, stir until well combined. Continue to cook on low for about 45 minutes. If adding vegetables to the mix, add after 30 minutes of cooking. Check occasionally and stir to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. For very well cooked and soupy kitchari, add more water and continue to cook until desired consistency.
To serve, garnish with a squeeze of lime juice and a big dollop of cilantro chutney.
Variations for Pitta:
Avoid mustard seeds and ginger
Increase fennel seeds
Variations for Kapha:
Add ¼ tsp clove powder and cardamom powder
Omit ghee/coconut oil