A kitchari cleanse is an eating plan that’s designed to reset your eating habits and give your body a break. The cleanse focuses only on a handful of easy-to-digest foods.
Kitchari cleanses are common in Ayurvedic medicine and wellness practices. The food you eat during a kitchari cleanse is hearty enough to give your body the energy it needs to realign your doshas, or your body’s three many sources of energy). The rest of the energy, Ayurvedic practitioners say, is spent on eliminating toxins that build up in your body.
In fact, any cleanse can help you change your habits and rest your digestive system. Cleanses are often promoted as a way to reset after a period of overindulging, such as during the holidays.
However, some cleanses, including a kitchari cleanse, promote themselves as a way to rid your body of toxins. Some add other benefits to their list of claims, such as mental clarity and weight loss. But there’s limited scientific evidence to back these claims.
As with any cleanse or restricted eating pattern, there are potential problems and precautions you should consider. What’s more, many of the benefits of a cleanse can be achieved with less restrictive means.
Read on to find out what the kitchari cleanse is like, what you’ll eat, and how you can incorporate some aspects into your wellness goals.
The word “kitchari” means mixture, and the kitchari dish itself is usually a combination of a grain and a legume in a warm soup. The dish commonly uses rice and mung beans. Other whole grains and legumes like lentils can be used too.
Though legumes, in general, are difficult to digest for many people, lentils and mung beans are on the easier-to-digest list.
A bowl of kitchari is ideal for the cleanse because it’s easy to digest, and it provides plenty of nutrition for healing. It’s the primary dish in a kitchari cleanse, but other foods may be incorporated too.
Easy-to-digest, well-cooked vegetables like leafy greens and carrots can be eaten during the cleanse. Grain dishes like oatmeal are often a part of it too.
What’s more, hydrating teas and specific herbs may be selected for helping balance your doshas. Water and tea are the preferred beverages during a cleanse.
A kitchari cleanse can be 3 to 10 days. Before it starts, however, some people will practice a pre-cleanse.
A pre-cleanse is a period of up to 1 week before the start of the cleanse. During this time, you may cut back on sugar, caffeine, coffee, alcohol, and anything else that won’t be allowed during the cleanse. You can also begin to shift the foods you’re eating to eliminate processed food or food habits.
When you begin your cleanse, your daily meal plan depends greatly on what you’re looking to achieve. At a minimum, you should be eating a grain dish at breakfast and kitchari for lunch and dinner. You can add approved foods at those meals too.
Snacking is limited, but you can reach for fresh fruit or raw nuts if you find yourself hungry between meals and unable to wait. Hydration is important, so you’ll want to aim for 8 to 12 servings of water or tea during the day.
Other activities, like self-massage and exercise, aren’t necessarily a part of all kitchari cleanses. Any activities or wellness practices you do during the cleanse will depend on the outcome you want.
After the cleanse is complete, you may wish to adopt a post-cleanse plan. This involves slowly reintroducing foods and ingredients back to your diet over a week to 10 days.
You may keep eating kitchari for a few days, even after the cleanse is over, but you can begin to add other foods to your eating plan. Doing this will help make sure you don’t upset your digestive system or return to old habits too quickly, potentially reversing the effects of the cleanse.
People who practice Ayurveda believe the kitchari cleanse and the broader Panchakarma cleanse can help you reset your body’s agni, or metabolic fire. In Ayurvedic medicine, the body’s wellness comes back to your digestive health. If it’s not well, you’re not well.
Practitioners claim a kitchari cleanse may help:
- eliminate accumulated toxins from the mind and body tissues
- improve digestion and restore regular bowel movements
- remove heaviness or congestion in the body
- support a healthy body weight or weight loss
- improve energy and vitality
- promote overall health and wellness
What the research says
Most of these benefits are reported by people who’ve done the cleanse. As such, their claims are anecdotal and not supported by research or scientific evidence. In fact, research into the benefits of Ayurveda is very limited. Less is known about the potential impacts of a kitchari cleanse.
This is true for many detox diets and cleanses. Recently popularized, these diets lack evidence or research to support claims like reducing toxins, eliminating waste, or promoting health.
The body has its own cleansing system
What’s more, the body has a built-in cleansing system, which includes the kidney and liver. These organs are capable of cleaning and removing any natural waste. If they’re not working properly, a cleanse or detox diet will not repair them — you’ll need to seek medical treatment.
Likewise, any toxins that can’t be cleared through your kidneys or liver are likely highly toxic and should be treated by your healthcare provider.
Cleanses give your body time to reset
The true benefits of a kitchari cleanse, or any cleanse for that matter, is the period of time they give you to reset what you’re eating and doing. Poor habits are easy to make over the course of weeks or months. A detox or cleanse, whether it’s the kitchari cleanse or another type, helps you break those ingrained practices.
Eliminating alcohol, sugar, and processed foods will make you feel better
You may use the kitchari cleanse to reset what you’re eating and realign with healthier choices.
But just eliminating alcohol, sugar, and processed foods — which is a vital step of this cleanse and others — is likely to give you a feeling of rejuvenation and improved wellness. This feeling is less about the type of cleanse you’re doing and more about eliminating foods and chemicals that may make you feel ill or sluggish.
As long as you undertake a kitchari cleanse or a program like it with an understanding of its limits and proven benefits, you can embrace the idea of using it as a reset, or a chance to focus on healthier choices you want to make. If you feel ill or believe you’re experiencing symptoms of disease, see your healthcare provider.
A basic kitchari begins with rice and mung beans. Alone, that may not be the most flavorful option, and that may discourage you from sticking with your cleanse.
That’s why you should look for kitchari recipes that incorporate spices, herbs, and other flavoring ingredients that make kitchari more appealing.
Basic kitchari recipe
This kitchari recipe is made warming and inviting with the use of:
- cumin seed
- sesame oil
- serrano pepper
These ingredients add dosha-balancing elements as well as flavor and texture to the dish.
Breakfast kitchari recipe
For breakfast, you can eat oatmeal with warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or you can try your hand at this breakfast kitchari. Sweetness comes from natural sources like dates and honey. Ghee adds agni-boosting richness.
Quinoa kitchari recipe
If you don’t like rice, some kitchari recipes are made with other whole grains. In this kitchari recipe, mung beans are combined with quinoa for a light but filling dish.
Cleanses can be quite restrictive. That makes them hard to stick to, so you may want to start with a shorter cleanse to get a taste for what it’s like. While the kitchari cleanse is designed to be days long, many detox plans are only 48 or 72 hours.
Sticking with a cleanse can be difficult because of potential side effects or other issues. You may experience cravings or symptoms that make you physically uncomfortable. For example, you may experience caffeine withdrawal during the cleanse if you didn’t limit your intake before starting. Cleanses can also be mentally exhausting.
What’s more, people who are menstruating should avoid the cleanse, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should too. If you already have issues with energy or stamina, it’s a good idea to skip the cleanse.
If you have any concerns about taking part in a cleanse, talk with your healthcare provider or a nutritionist. They can help you assess the risks and decide if the kitchari cleanse is a good choice for you.
A kitchari cleanse is considered an introduction to the Ayurvedic diet. In addition to realigning your digestive health, practitioners believe the cleanse can also help balance your doshas.
During your fast or cleanse, your body resets itself. You also give your digestive tract a bit of a break. The end result, practitioners claim, is a healthier, more balanced digestive system that’s potentially less problematic.
Another potential benefit, according to practitioners, is that the diet may boost vitality and strength, two things that are necessary to promote healing and wellness.
Again, many of these purported benefits can be experienced with less restrictive means. In fact, alcohol can interfere with the brain’s communication pathways. That may affect how you feel, think, and respond. Cutting back or eliminating alcohol from your diet may provide an increased sense of wellness.
The same may be true for eliminating processed foods.
Using herbs and spices to align your body and promote balance
If you’re taking part in a kitchari cleanse as part of Ayurvedic eating, you may need to align the herbs, spices, condiments, and teas you consume to your dominant dosha. That way, what you’re eating during the cleanse is working better to align your body and promote balance.
For example, for vata and kapha, you’ll want to eat warm dishes like soup. For a pitta imbalance, warming spices like cinnamon and cardamom work well. These dishes and spices can help you refocus your body on healing.
If you’re not sure which herbs or spices you need, it’s a good idea to meet with a clinician well-versed in Ayurvedic medicine. Together, you can decide what’s right, and you can get to cooking.