Scroll down for an Ayurvedic Kitchari Recipe!
Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine from India that believes in mind, body, and spirit as being one, and the interconnectedness of the 5 elements (earth, air, water, fire, and ether) within us. It looks to the elements and qualities within nature (and ourselves) to create a balance of body, mind, and spirit. Ayurveda organizes these elements into 3 Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which are three categories of biological energy from the elements. Vata combines air and ether, Pitta fire and water, and Kapha earth and water.
During the winter and colder time of year, the qualities of Kapha and Vata increase, and Pitta decreases. The summer sun and heat are gone, the days are short, and tiredness follows- our whole body and mood shifts with the seasonal change. Ayurveda creates balance by incorporating opposing factors of the dominant qualities. A simple example is balancing cold with hot and dryness with unctuousness.
In Ayurveda, diet and digestion are key components of health and wellness. During the winter it is advised to avoid cold, dry, rough, heavy, and difficult-to-digest foods. This means avoiding snacks such as crackers and popcorn, raw vegetables, and smoothies. Being that the cold, dry, rough, and heavy qualities are dominant with winter, we want to create balance by consuming foods that have the opposite qualities: warm, unctuous, and light. Foods such as Kitchari (a versatile and essential Ayurvedic dish), soups, warming teas, and cooking with healthy oils to ensure food is moistened and efficiently absorbed in digestion.
Abhyanga, self-massage, is suggested as part of a regular daily routine year-round. In winter, Abhyanga becomes even more important to practice. Using warming oils such as sesame, or the classic Ayurvedic oil mahanarayana, are great for lubricating the body. This takes place beyond just the skin level and lubricates joints and muscles. Circulation increases, and the body is warmed. Additionally, and just as importantly, it connects our mind to our body, bringing us grounding. In the winter when many people are prone to experience (or experience an increase of) depression and anxiety, this self-care act can be a powerful tool to bring calm to the mind and energy to the body.
Additionally, herbs and spices prove to be invaluable allies during the winter season. They aid in digestion after eating large celebratory meals with family, warming up on cold nights, and keeping the digestive fire (known as Agni in Ayurveda) kindled and strong. Incorporating spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, cumin, and turmeric can help bring balance to our digestion. When our digestive system is in healthy operation, we have improved energy and mental states. There is a direct link between our gut and brain health in Ayurveda, and this is being recognized more by Western medicine in recent times.
By following the Ayurvedic philosophy of opposites bringing balance to each other, mental health can improve. With heavy and tiring depression, and intrusive anxiety, incorporate warming qualities (example being warming foods and massage), movement (such as yoga and walking), and grounding and nourishing practices (like meditation and focusing on gratitude). Keeping a simple focus on increasing qualities of unctuousness and warm, and avoiding cold and dry, will help to make balanced choices with self-care and consumption. This includes influencing what you choose to incorporate with your self-care routine. Be patient with yourself, enjoy time spent with family and loved ones, and always listen to your body's unique needs.
Kitchari is a cleansing and nourishing dish that warms and strengthens the body. Its base consists of mung beans, basmati rice, ghee, cumin, coriander, and fennel. Various spices and herbs, as well as vegetables, can be added. I advise soaking the mung beans and rice in a bowl of water overnight to help remove starch and make the cooking and digestion faster with improved absorption.
INGREDIENTS (4-6 servings):
1/2 cup Mung Beans
1/2 cup Basmati Rice
*Mustard Seed & Fenugreek Seeds
Ground Black Pepper
Avocado (optional garnish)
Cilantro (optional garnish)
*Optional for a more specific taste (to balance Vata & Kapha)
Fill medium/large a little more than halfway with water and set stove to low heat.
Strain the mung beans and rice, and set aside.
In a small pan and over low heat, add 1 tbsp of ghee, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. You can also add mustard and fenugreek seeds for a more specific balancing of Vata and Kapha. Increase the heat cautiously to avoid the ghee popping out, but enough to roast the spices. You'll know it's finished roasting when you can smell the spices and there is a formation of small bubbles.
Add the mung beans and rice into the pot with water on low/medium heat.
Slowly pour the ghee with spices into the pot with the mung beans and basmati rice. Give it a few stirs to amalgamate the ingredients together.
Add in salt and fresh ground black pepper. I prefer lightly salting at this point, and adding salt to taste upon completion and serving.
Grate in fresh ginger or add 1 tsp. ginger powder, and 1 tsp. turmeric. Stir thoroughly, and feel free to add other spices you enjoy- have fun and experiment!
Let cook for about 30-40 minutes on slightly lower than medium heat, until the mung beans are soft and completely cooked. Stir periodically and increase stirring towards completion to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pot. The more water used the more soupy it will be, the less water used makes it thicker, similar to a risotto texture. Traditionally, it has a thicker texture.
Garnish with avocado & fresh cilantro (optional).
Serve and enjoy!
Written for True Healers
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