Kitchari for Gut Health
Happy first day of SPRING!!!!
I am so longing for the first colors of spring to paint the evergreen Pacific Northwest. Although thankful for the pine needles, bright green moss, and ferns that have brightened the dreary gray skies over the last months, the pinks, yellows, blues, oranges, and reds that are yet to come are a magical sight.
I recently read in Komo News that Seattle has officially only had 9 sunny days from October through to March. Wow! I must have been having a lot more fun this winter, learning how to ski and playing in the unusual large amounts of snow that we received this year, because I didn’t notice. Yes, when the sun rays come out, I feel more awake and excited, and ready to conquer the day. But the beautiful snowy winter days brought such comfort and relaxation. For me each season is both exciting to say hello and goodbye to. So now, I am thrilled to say hello to Spring and thankful to say goodbye to Winter…it’s been a good time.
Lately, I have been obsessed with Kitchari. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have noticed my recent posts about my various ways of using this super easy, delicious, and uber nourishing side dish. Some of you, who are interested in Ayurvedic traditions, may have heard of this rice and bean mixture before. Or perhaps in your local yoga studio they have encouraged a Kitchari fast. I personally simply got inspired by my all time favorite Sarah Britton to make my very own version of kitchari. Turns out, it can very easily be made into a low fermentable dish, that all my patients or readers with digestive distress can tolerate well.
This recipe encourages a traditional 12-24 hour soaking method to enhance digestion and absorption of the nutrients found in both the brown rice and mung beans. By soaking the beans and rice in warm water with a splash of apple cider vinegar, it encourages the seeds to start sprouting. In the initial stages, soaking activates enzymes to break down phytic acid. Phytic acid can bind to minerals in plant based foods and increase their elimination via stool. Therefore, soaking beans and grains increases the body’s ability to digest and absorb important minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and iron from plant seeds. Plus, mung beans are a great source of plant based protein, and together with the brown rice offers plenty of plant fiber to support healthy bowel movements and encourage good bacterial growth in the colon. Furthermore, the spices and herbs utilized in this recipe (such as ginger and turmeric) are potent anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients.
Why is Kitchari Good for Gut Health?
If embarking on a low FODMAP diet, Kitchari can be a great kitchen staple for multiple reasons. Firstly, in Ayurvedic Medicine, garlic and onions are classified as rajasic and tamasic (foods which increase passion and ignorance) and are often avoided, especially by yogis. Therefore, these ingredients are commonly replaced by asafetida, a resin-like spice that provides a sulfur taste and/or aroma into dishes that otherwise may have used garlic or onion. Either way, if you are a yogi or not, you can easily replace onions and garlic with this spice during your low FODMAP challenge. Asafetida is only needed in small amounts (a pinch or sprinkle) sautéed in oil to enhance the flavor. Ask your local herb and spice shop if they carry asafetida. Make sure it is gluten-free, as it can often be cut with wheat instead of rice. **If you are not following a low FODMAP diet, garlic and onions can be very therapeutic and healing foods if tolerated. Therefore, you can add some into this recipe if desired in place of asafetida.
Secondly, Kitchari is often made with hulled mung beans, otherwise known as Chana Dal. These beans are one of the only low FODMAP beans that can be tolerated in larger amounts per the Monash University. A ½ cup serving size is consider low fermentable. **If you are not following a low FODMAP diet, regular green mung beans with the hull can be used to increase the fiber content of the dish. This is typically what I use.
And finally, because Kitchari is soaked (as mentioned above) and well cooked, it is very easy for the body to break down and digest the ingredients.
How Do I Use Kitchari?
Although traditionally Kitchari is often used in Ayruvedic fasts, I use it as a staple around the house in many dishes. Firstly, it is very easy to prepare and tastes great with a lot of different foods. Honestly, I have yet to come across a savory combination that did not go well with Kitchari. So here are some of my favorite ways to use it:
Top it with Roasted Veggies and a Protein
Lately, I have been reheating kitchari and topping it with roasted asparagus or broccolini, and either a fried egg or baked salmon. Super easy, delicious, and well balanced. This meal keeps me satisfied for the long haul.
Mix it With a Boxed Soup
When pressed for time, I like to mix together some cooked kitchari with Imagine Organic Soups like Creamy Tomato, Tomato & Red Pepper, or even the Cashew Butternut Squash. Often I pair it with an avocado toast as well. Quick, easy, and tasty. If on a low FODMAP diet use the Cauldron Broths GutRxGurus Low FODMAP bone broth for a quick and easy meal. If you live in Bellingham, you can find these at Terra Organics or the Community Food Co-op.
Roll it Up in a Wrap
My husband is an avid backcountry split boarder and needs easy, transportable fuel for the mountains. He loves making a whole wheat wrap with kitchari, avocado, sprouts, and random stuff we may have in the fridge. I personally love eating kitchari in place of white rice or quinoa in homemade sushi rolls. I am sure it would taste great in steamed collard wraps too…but I haven’t don't that yet :)
Make a Veggie Dip
Use it as a base for a quick veggie dip. Add some kitchari, olive oil, and lemon juice to a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with your choice of additional spices.
Now, are you ready to make a batch of Kitchari?? Please use this base recipe to adjust it to your taste buds. I have added cinnamon and cardamom before in the past. I have also increased the amount of grated ginger (for extra heat) and turmeric. What ever floats your boat, works! If you are following a low FODMAP diet and are sensitive to starches I encourage you to try 1/2 cup first to test for overall tolerance. If this is well tolerated then you can increase up to 3/4 cups, and then up to 1 cup max. Please make sure to use the Chana Dal instead of the green mung beans and optional asafetida for best tolerance. Some individuals with very sensitive guts may do better using white jasmine rice in place of brown rice.
However, if you are not on a low FODMAP diet or struggling with GI sensitivities go ahead and use the green mung beans and brown rice for added fiber and nutrients. You can even add some sautéed onions or garlic into the recipe as noted below in place of the asafetida. Your call!
1 cup brown basmati or short grain brown rice (use white jasmine rice if sensitive to whole grains)
1 cup green mung beans (or Chana Dal for a low FODMAP version)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1-2-inch piece of peeled ginger root, grated
1-2-inch piece of turmeric, grated (or 2-3 teaspoons ground turmeric)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Pinch of gluten free asafetida (**optional)
1 tablespoon oil (ghee, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil)
4 cups filtered water
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Place the rice and beans in a large glass bowl or measuring cup and cover with water and stir in 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Allow to soak 12-24 hours or overnight. Rinse. There is no need to soak white jasmine rice is using this in place of the brown rice.
Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer for 20 to 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from burning. The amount of cooking time depends on how long you soaked the rice and beans and what type of rice you are using. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired and serve. Store in the refrigerator for a week.
**Note: If you would like to omit the asafetida, you can sauté ½ yellow onion (diced) and 1 clove minced garlic in the tablespoon coconut oil until glassy. Then add the remaining ingredients and cook as recommended above.
Nutrition Facts (~1 cup serving): 290 calories, 50g carbs, 19g fiber, 13g protein, 5g fat