Ayurveda Kichari | Mung Bean Soup (GF/DF/V)
Ayurveda Kichari is a balancing staple food of Ayurveda. It is served regularly at clinics all over the world because it both cleanses and nourishes the body without supporting imbalances of any kind. Typically it is a one pot meal with mung beans and rice and a rotating selection of vegetables and spices depending on the season.
Ayurveda is loosely translated as “the science of life.” It is considered the oldest formal health system in the world. It started over 5,000 years ago in India and still thrives as a holistic health practice all over the world today. If you know a little about Ayurveda, you know it is all about naturally supporting the balance of energies within the body through food, herbs, bodywork and lifestyle practices.
The world operates in a rhythm. Just think about the rhythm of the sun, the oceans, the moon and the seasons. Ayurveda believes that we also operate in a rhythm and when we stray too far from that rhythm we become out of balance and disease states can occur. Ayurveda views the body as being formed of the 5 elements: air, space, fire, water and earth. It also believes in 3 energies called doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. We want to make sure that all of these energies are balanced. When one or more is out of balance, our life is also out of balance. In our modern society, we all tend to be a bit off balance. Am I right? We all have what is called a “dosha type” which just means the energy that we tend to have too much of. We can take a look at these a little closer:
Vata is the energy of movement. Healthy vata insures that the body has consistent elimination, free breathing, good circulation and keen senses. But if we have too many vata qualities, we might see gas and constipation, constricted breathing, anxiety, or cold hands and feet.
Pitta is the energy of transformation. Healthy pitta is responsible for good appetite and metabolism, steady hormones, sharp eyesight, comprehension and good skin tone. But high (imbalanced) pitta could cause acid reflux, dysmenorrhea, red dry eyes, acne or other skin problems or a tendency to overwork themselves.
Kapha is the energy of cohesion. It provides a strong body, well lubricated joints and mucous membranes, and a hearty immune system. But if out of balance you might see weight gain, water retention, sinus or lung problems, lethargy or depression.
Ayurveda Philosophy & Book Recommendations
Ayurveda recommends certain eating and lifestyle practices to straighten out these imbalances. One thing they always recommend is eating with the seasons. For example, in the spring, the body needs light foods. In the winter, the body needs rich fatty nourishing foods. They also recommend seasonal cleansing, which includes everyday kichari like the recipe you see here (more on why it’s cleansing below). And there are specific recommendations to help fix any dosha imbalances. Ayurveda goes further to fostering agni (digestion), prana (life energy) and ojas (immunity).
There is a lot more to Ayurveda than this, but I am just giving you a glimpse into this really cool ancient health system. A few years ago, I took a yoga retreat vacation in the mountains of Costa Rica where I learned a lot about Ayurveda and their philosophy. Intrigued, I came home and read a bunch of books on the subject. If you are interested in learning more, here are some of the books I liked best:
- Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom by Acharya Shunya
- The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell
- The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad
Why Is Kichari Considered Cleansing
The main ingredient in kitchari is mung beans. Mung beans (or yellow lentils) are a legume that has been used for centuries in traditional and ancient medicine to cleanse the liver. Why? They have special enzymes which enhance the detoxification process involving the biosynthesis of phenolic compounds. Mung beans also produce several liver protective compounds including flavinoids and chlorogenic acid.
The Health Benefits of Mung Beans
Mung beans are a great source of plant based protein. They are high in various amino acids such as phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, and arginine. They are also high in folate, maganese, magnesium, B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, copper, potassium, zinc and selenium. They have been used for thousands of years to help cure chronic diseases. Mung beans are eaten stewed, stir fried and sprouted. It’s important to note that sprouting the seeds increases their antioxidant value and reduces the anti nutrient phytic acid (which prevents our body from absorbing all the nutrients in the food.)
Specifically, mung beans have shown to be:
- The easiest legume to digest.
- Enhances detoxification of the liver by
- Protects the liver from damage (it has even been shown to reduce fatty deposits in the liver)
- Can reduce hepatic stenosis, fibrosis and inflammation in those with Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- High in resistant starch which is good for your microbiome and digestive health.
- High in antioxidants which fight free radicals in the body and can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- Preventative for heat stroke (mung bean soup is often consumed on hot summer days in Asia for this reason.)
- Anti-hypertensive and has specific enzymes that can lower blood pressure.
- Anti-diabetic. Mung beans are high in fiber and protein which slows down the release of blood sugar into the blood stream and has specific antioxidants which can lower blood sugar and help insulin work more effectively.
- Anti-hyperlipidemic. Daily consumption can lower your “bad” cholesterol LDL.
- Anticancer, anti-tumor and anti-mutagenic
- May help with satiety. A review of 9 studies found people who eat legumes are 31% more full after a meal.
Ready to try them? I turned mine into a delicious bowl of comfort food, loaded with indian spices. I added coconut milk for some creaminess and topped it all with a bit of fresh veggies and herbs. Enjoy!
Ayurvedic Kichari (Rice Free)
- 2 cups yellow mung beans (dal) soaked overnight
- 4 shallots, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced
- 2 tbs fresh tumeric, minced
- 2 tbs coconut oil
- 1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbs dried cumin
- 1 tbs salt
- 2 tbs garam masala
- 5 cups broth of your choice I used bone broth, but vegetable broth works well too if you are plant based
- 1 bunch swiss chard, washed and chopped
- 5 large carrots, sliced
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- Turn the instapot to "saute" and cook coconut oil, shallots, ginger, tumeric and garlic until soft.
- Add all other ingredients and mix well.
- Pressure cook for 5 minutes, longer (10 minutes) if you didn't soak your mung beans. Let vent naturally before opening the lid.
- Scoop out the fat of the coconut milk and stir into the soup. Adjust seasonings as needed. Add a bit of water if it's too thick for your liking.
If Using Crockpot
- Turn on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
If Using Soup Pot
- Yellow mung beans should cook in about 30 minutes.
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Absolutely delicious but i made it exact to recipe in the crockpot and it turned into a side dish of beans not a soup. Can you help me adjust something?
Kichari is a thick soup almost like a stew. If it is too thick for you, I would add more broth. If it is too many beans, I would add some of your favorite chopped veggies. Hope this helps!