The Khichri Cleanse
There are absolutely no risks in eating a complete, nutritious, gentle and natural food for three days — only potential benefits — so I recommend this age-old cleanse to everyone!
Khichri is a basic Indian one-pot dish consisting of lentils cooked with rice, spices and clarified butter (ghee). This dish has ancient origins, deriving its name from the Sanskrit word khiccha, meaning a meal of rice and legumes. It has been documented in texts dating back several hundred years, such as accounts of foreign travelers visiting India, as well royal court documents from the Moghul dynasty.
Khichri has survived up until modern times and is still a staple in most Indian households. In addition to being a typical everyday meal, it’s also known as a “sick person’s food” since it is often served to people experiencing stomach problems or general weakness. For a lot of people (including myself), khichri is a “lazy” meal because large amounts of it can be made at once, as well as a comfort food, as it has a way to soothe your body and soul, connecting you back to your family and childhood.
Ayurveda (India’s ancient health philosophy) deems khichri as the ultimate detox food, a claim that can now be backed by modern nutritional research. Unlike most foods, it’s recommended for all body compositions at any time of the year. The dish is most commonly made with mung beans, which are easy to digest, low in fat and rich in fiber as well as many key vitamins (B, C and E) and minerals (potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium). When cooked with rice, the two combine to form a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Turmeric and ginger reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. The spices in khichri aid digestion. Ghee contains significant amounts of oil soluble vitamins (A and E) and essential medium-chain fatty acids.
Khichri is a free-form dish, allowing for many variations. Although any type of lentil can be used, the most common version (prescribed for the cleanse) uses mung beans. White (basmati or jasmine) rice is traditionally used in khichri since it is the easiest to digest, but brown rice can also be used for greater fiber and mineral content. The same is true for the type of mung bean; whole mung beans provide more nutrients while split (unhusked) are easier to process. Any ratio of rice to mung beans can be used. The spices are also variable depending on one’s taste. The consistency can be as runny or dry as desired.
Below is my absolute favorite khichri recipe that I’ve perfected over several years. I recommend trying different amounts and types of ingredients (especially the spices) to personalize it for an extra comfort feel. The mung beans, all spices and ghee are available in any Indian grocery store. (I’ve included their Indian names to help identify them).
½ cup whole or split mung beans (mung daal)
½ cup white or brown basmati or jasmine rice
½ inch grated ginger
1 chopped medium tomato
¼ teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
1 medium fresh chopped chili, or 1 dried chili or 1/8 teaspoon chili powder (mirch)
Salt to taste
Water to fill 3 inches above all ingredients in pot
2-3 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
½ chopped medium onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
½ teaspoon carmon seeds (ajwain)
1/8 teaspoon asafetida (hing)
Combine all base ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium/low and continue to cook until the rice and beans are soft (about 30 minutes). Add or evaporate water to attain the desired consistency. Prepare the tempering by adding the ghee to a pan, then heating on medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add the spices, allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the onion and fry until golden brown. Add tempering to the base mixture. Stir well. Add garnishes to taste.
A khichri cleanse consists of eating khichri for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three consecutive days. Oatmeal can be substituted for breakfast. The “cleanser” can eat as much khichri as he/she desires, without overeating. Snacks between meals consist of fruits or cooked vegetables.
The theory behind the cleanse it to give the digestive tract a chance to rest, regulate and heal itself. Khichri is the primary food consumed during the cleanse because it provides the body with essential nutrients while being exceptionally gentle on the digestive system. After the cleanse, stagnation in the cleanser’s digestion and metabolism is alleviated, allowing him/her to resume a normal, healthy diet and lifestyle. The cleanser can choose to incorporate a spiritual element into the cleanse by practicing meditation and yoga to tap into the mind/body connection. Additionally, the cleanser should allow him/herself to relax as much as possible in order to rest the entire body.
Drink one cup of hot water with lemon upon awakening. Allow 30 mins before eating breakfast. (Stretching/light yoga is recommended in the break.) For breakfast, each khichri or oats cooked in water and fruits. For lunch and dinner, eat khichri until full, avoiding overeating. For snacks, eat fruits or cooked vegetables.
- Plan to do the cleanse over a slower weekend (Friday to Sunday) so as to not exhaust yourself.
- Remove all temptations from your kitchen and avoid passing by restaurants, grocery stores, etc.
- Prepare lots of khichri the day before, or cook fresh for added benefit.
- Buy your favorite fruits and veggies. Cook the veggies beforehand or cook fresh for added benefit.
- Incorporate a spiritual aspect to improve results.
The recommendations above are from my personal experience on the cleanse. Although I didn’t have any digestive problems, I had been wanting to try a diet plan and thought this one was more reasonable than any other diets, juice cleanses or fasts I had read about because there was no element of extreme deprivation. The hardest part was keeping disciplined when sugar cravings hit on the second day and not getting tempted by food when in public places.
After the cleanse I didn’t have an opportunity to feel any noticeable difference to my digestion since it was relatively strong before, but I had an improved sense of self-control and connection with my health. I felt a sense of accomplishment having completed a diet plan. It gave me confidence to explore other cleanses in the future. There are absolutely no risks in eating a complete, nutritious, gentle and natural food for three days — only potential benefits — so I recommend this age-old cleanse to everyone!