Seasonal detox, liver cleansing, body purification, gut healing, fasting…The buzzing words popping everywhere these days. The world seems to have become obsessed with radical programs that offer a quick-fix solution for already abused bodies. We have been convinced that for some mysterious reason our body has turned against us, and by creating an intense metabolic stress through food deprivation we can restart its normal functioning. Truth be told, I was convinced too. I fell down the rabbit hole.
I have tried almost every cleansing therapy under the sky. I remember being so obsessed with this whole idea of purifying the body, that at one point I began to think that having a clean body is just a myth. In my strivings to support and care for the body, I have turned against it. I forgot that the body has its own wisdom of correcting the damage that inevitably happens on a daily basis.
The body works for the benefit of the mind. The imbalance happens when the mind starts to work against the body.
DO WE ACTUALLY NEED DETOX
During sleep, the brain – which is using 20% of the body’s energy in its awakened state, is resting. All metabolic activities slow down, including digestion which now operates only with one third if its capacity. Controlled by hormones, the body now diverts all this energy into the process of purification and reparation of damaged tissues. To do this remarkable process, that forgives all the small “offences” we do to our body on a daily basis, we need to be gentle, respective and supportive, by:
- Eating seasonal – Each season delivers foods which are energetically most supportive for the body. For example, spring is the season when excess mucus can be felt in the body. The abundance of wild greens, pungent in taste, help to liquify and eliminate the mucus.
- Choosing clean as much as possible – Whether you’re choosing organically grown fruits and vegetables, clean cosmetic and make-up products, or natural cleaning products for your home, you are significantly reducing the absorption of toxic chemicals into your body.
- Making food choices which are supportive for your constitution. What is a nectar for one person, might be a poison for another. Listen to your body. Observe which foods are supporting you, and which ones are weakening your body.
- Prioritising restful sleep – Six to eight hours of restful sleep, depending on your constitution, are crucial to set your body into the rest and reset mode. It’s for a good reason we call the restful sleep – the beauty sleep. Going to bed earlier and waking up at the same time every morning creates a ritual that finely coordinates the hormones in charge during the night shift.
- Practicing meditation, especially in the evening, soothes the nervous system. When the stress hormone levels are high, the body chooses to postpone all the reactions that are not crucial for survival in that moment. If that moment turns into a week, a month, even years of chronic stress, body becomes filled with toxins, exhausted of constant fight-or-flight mode, and unable to restore homeostasis.
- Consuming foods which are cleansing and rejuvenating as part of your everyday diet. Sattvic diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, healing herbs and spices, nourish the body and promote gentle everyday cleansing.
- Practicing regular short periods of metabolic rest and cleanse. Celebrating Mungday!
MONDAY BECOMES MUNGDAY
As my knowledge and understanding of the body’s inherent wisdom expanded, I began to realise the importance of our daily micro rituals in creating a long lasting effect on our wellbeing. Unless having a serious health condition that might require a period of intense cleansing regimen, I strongly believe that the key to a strong immunity, resilient body, calm and focused mind, and graceful ageing, lies in embracing a simplified diet that will allow the body to use more energy to do its magical work of reparation and rejuvenation. This is how our ritual of celebrating Mungday was born.
My diet is by no means “perfect” in the sense most people perceive the word “perfection” and/or what “diet” means to them. As a modern Mediterranean family, we like to celebrate with food, perhaps occasionally enjoy a glass of wine (or two) and treat ourselves with a rich dessert. After all, it is the emotional nourishment that matters most to us. But, when the celebration is over, often after a weekend, it is time to allow the digestive system to rest and cleanse. And the idea of Mungday was born – Mondays are for easy-to-digest meals that will support the body in its impressive work of removing toxins and rebuilding the tissues.
All our body needs is time
and a decluttered digestive system.
MUNG BEAN KITCHARI
Kitchari, also spelled kitcharee, kitchadee, khitchadi…is the Ayurvedic staple dish recommended in a range of conditions when the digestive strength is low or disturbed. It is an easy to digest healing stew, commonly given to sick, emaciated people, elderly, new mothers in the postpartum period, nursing mothers, and it is usually the first solid food given to small children after weaning. Most Ayurvedic treatments are accompanied with a period of mono-diet, when only simple kitchari is to be taken.
The main ingredients of kitchari are basmati rice and mung beans – regarded as Ayurvedic superfood. It is a simple one-pot comforting meal with many health benefits:
- balances all the doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha
- supports renewal of tissues
- promotes detoxification of the body
- supports the digestive system
- kindles the Agni or digestive fire – the cornerstone of our overall health
Have I told you it’s delicious too?!
Nothing tastes more nurturing, soothing and healing as a bowl of kitchari when feeling exhausted, weak, after travelling, after festivities, when your body feels heavy and your mind is cluttered. During the transition of seasons, Ayurveda recommends practicing a few days of mono-diet fasting, taking only kitchari to allow the body (and the doshas) to recalibrate.
Embracing the Mungday ritual when you will take one day per week to eat nothing but Kitchari can have tremendous health benefits. Without starving yourself (Ayurveda, and my experience tells me the same, doesn’t recommend riding the body of nourishment), you can support and even accelerate the amazing process of natural body detoxification. More importantly, you will feel mentally stable, peaceful and inspired to care for your body, your community and the environment. How many wins are there? 😉
SPRING MUNG BEAN KITCHARI
- 1 cup mung beans
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 1 cinnamon stick
- vegetables of your choice – 2 cups altogether
- 2 tablespoons ghee – clarified butter, for vegan version use coconut oil
- 1 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, roughly crushed with a mortar and pestle, or 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds, or 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder, or 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, optional
- 2 pinches of asafoetida, optional
- black pepper, to taste
- salt, to taste – less is more!
- 1/2 can coconut milk, optional
- Fresh cilantro leaves, parsley can be used instead
- lime juice
- toasted sunflower seeds, skip if your digestive system is weak
- Or: cooling, Pitta balancing Cilantro (Coriander) Chutney
Wash the mung beans in a fine mesh strainer using plenty of water and look carefully for any grit that might be amongst the beans. Soak the beans in fresh water for 8 hours or overnight. Wash the basmati rice as well, soaking for the same amount of time in a separate bowl. Not only will it cook faster, but both – the beans, as well as the rice, will be much easier to digest.
When ready to cook, drain the beans and the rice, and wash them well under cold running water. In a heavy bottom cooking pot put the rice and the mung beans. Add bay leaves, turmeric, and a cinnamon stick. Add 8 cups of water and cover with a lid. Bring to a simmer then cook over medium heat, with the lid on.
When the beans are halfway cooked, approximately after 15 minutes, add hard vegetables of choice, such as diced carrots, cauliflower and broccoli flowers or sweet potatoes cut into small cubes. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
In a separate pan, melt the ghee over medium-to-low heat. Add the mustard seeds and fry until they start to pop, no more than 10 seconds. Add coriander, cumin, fenugreek seeds, ginger powder and the asafoetida. Spices should be fried just enough to release their fragrant aromas, not longer than 30 seconds. Otherwise they will burn and turn bitter.
Add the spices into the pot with beans and rice. Give it a got stir, and cook covered until the beans and the rice are well cooked, almost mushy like. Kitchari is not a risotto type of meal and shouldn’t be al-dente. Usually it will take 30-40 minutes of cooking from the beginning till the end.
At the very end of cooking pour the coconut milk into the stew to reach desired consistency. Alternatively, you can use water. Season with salt and black pepper, followed by leafy vegetables, such as spinach or collard greens, cut into thin stripes. Bring the stew back to a low simmer, then remove from heat. Add chopped cilantro, and allow to sit for 5 minutes, or until ready to serve.
Spoon into serving bowls, top with toasted sunflower seeds and a sprinkle of fresh lime juice.
- If you’re just discovering the world of spices, you could slightly reduce their amount stated above. Slowly, adjust their quantity to your taste.
- If you can choose, whole spices are superior than in their powdered form, quality wise. You can crush the whole spices using mortar and pestle or in a coffee/spice grinder just prior to cooking.
- Fresh is best! Consider this dish as the most delicious medicine you will ever take. Make it fresh and consume within 12 hours.
- Feeling heavy and clogged from the inside? Eat only kitchari for a couple of days until you start to feel better. Eat only when you’re hungry, no overeating please!