How does your body feel after you eat that double cheese and pepperoni pizza? What about that full rack of ribs? Or chicken-fried steak?
Yes, it tastes good (to some of us), but it very well could be wrecking your gut and asking your digestion for serious favors that will never be paid back. What if you gave those heavy, rich foods a rest, at least for a few days, and tried something that not only tastes delectable, but is oh so soothing to your poor, overworked digestive system?
Kitchari. It’s what’s for dinner. And breakfast and lunch, if you really want to get serious.
Pronounced kitch-uh-ree, it’s Ayurveda’s most traditional food, which is the traditional medicine of India that seeks to balance the body through diet, herbs and lifestyle choices. It’s often called the sister science to yoga.
What’s in it, you say? Nothing but Gaia’s goodness: basmati rice, split yellow mung beans and spices galore, including ginger, turmeric, cumin and coriander. It’s all cooked in ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil. You can add chopped vegetables to the mix, too. You almost over-cook it, so it has the consistency of porridge, and down the hatch it goes.
“It has the proper digestive species that make the body able to assimilate it really easily,” says Colorado Springs registered nurse and clinical Ayurvedic specialist Leslie McWilliams, who’s also owner and founder of Conscious Roots Ayurveda. “It contains carbohydrates, protein and fat, and has all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, pungent). That’s really important and ideally what we’re going for in all meals, regardless if you’re eating Ayurvedically.”
A traditional Ayurvedic cleanse features 30 days of kitchari, eaten for all three meals. That’s the extreme. Many will do a five-14 day cleanse instead. And it’s also fine if you only want to do a day of eating kitchari or even just one meal.
“I’ve been making it once a month recently,” says McWilliams. “When you really want something easy to digest that you don’t have to think about and is going to be good for you and is cellularly replenishing and makes you feel good from the inside out.”
Ayurveda prizes fresh food. That means leftovers are frowned upon and so is using the microwave to reheat something. It’s best if you can make kitchari shortly before you consume it. Another suggestion is to cook the dish the night before and put it into a thermos to keep it warm for a meal the next day.
It’s all about preserving the prana in the food.
“(That’s) the energy that gives you vitality and the magnificence of you cooking it,” says McWilliams. “You’re putting your love into it. When you reheat things in the microwave you decrease the amount of prana. It’s like eating dead food.”
Kitchari also can be eaten when you’re feeling down and out, stressed, constipated or you have a cold, the flu or, hey, the coronavirus.
“There’s something magical that happens, no matter if you’re following the recipe or you’ve made it 100 times,” says McWilliams. “Each time you make it, it will be different. One of the beautiful things about it is it’s taking on the form your body needs. If you really embody love in the process of cooking and are present in the process, kitchari will come out the way your body needs it to be.”
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