During times of any sickness, it is common knowledge that some of the first symptoms to arise are a dull appetite, mild nausea, and lack of hunger. This is because the Agni or digestive fire is severely weakened due to the presence of excessive toxins, bacteria, or viruses that tend to overwhelm the system at these times. Whether you are experiencing a common cold, fever, or flu, eating the proper diet while sick is essential for healing the body, flushing away the toxins (and bugs!), boosting the immune system, and strengthening the digestion.
What is a proper diet during illness?
According to Ayurveda, one should each solely warm, soupy, mushy, well cooked, easy-to-digest meals anytime the digestive fire is weak or debilitated. The ingredients should be minimal, simple, and apart from some warming spices, fairly bland. With this in mind, this Get Well Kitchari recipe is a great option, as it follows all of these recommendations. It also has some nourishing ingredients to strengthen the system and some cleansing spices to flush out the GI tract.
When is the best time to eat Get Well Kitchari?
This recipe should be utilized for the entirety of the illness, ideally making up the main component of your diet. During times of more severe cold, fever, and flu, it can be eaten as a mono-diet (meaning no other foods are taken at this time), and served in as big or little of quantity that feels appropriate to your hunger signals. Remember that although some food is needed to keep up strength during the illness, one should avoid eating without hunger since this is a clear sign that the digestive fire is weak and needing a break. At these times, it will be best to take the kitchari in about 1 to 2 cup servings, 2 to 3 times throughout the day until the hunger begins to return.
Once the digestive fire is feeling more robust, one can slowly begin to add in vegetables and extra mung dal to make it a bit more tasty, hearty, and nutrient dense. Other foods can then begin to be added to the diet as well, although the main principles mentioned in paragraph two above should be kept until the healing period is over and optimal health has returned.
Although this is an essential recipe for times of illness, Get Well Kitchari is very beneficial during kitchari cleanses, general detox programs, post-cleanses, pregnancy, postpartum, post-surgery and throughout chemotherapy treatment, as these are all times that the Agni is weak and debilitated.
What foods should be avoided during illness?
While making this recipe a staple meal during illness, it will be equally important to avoid all raw, cold, rough, heavy, sticky, dense, processed and sugary foods. Some examples would be (but not limited to) meat (with the exception of meat broths), dairy, juice, smoothies, dry cereals, granola, granola bars, protein bars, milk, ice cream, cheese, store bought yogurt, pasta, heavy grains, fatty foods, acidic food and any food that contains added sugars (honey is alright in moderation).
Healing Benefits of Get Well Kitchari
Bone broth, chicken broth or veggie broth:
By using one of these broths as a base, you are providing the body with easy-to-digest nutrients that are readily available for absorption. Ideally a homemade broth should be used to receive the full healing benefits; however, if store bought is necessary a sodium-free, organic brand is best. **Some grocery stores and restaurants are now proving some freshly made broth options!
Click here for our Healing Ayurvedic Bone Broth recipe.
Mung dal is the split version of the mung bean and is used in any traditional kitchari recipe for its high nutrient content and easy-to-digest nature. This recipe utilizes an exaggerated amount of liquid making the mung dal even more digestible and easy on the stomach. If mung dal is not available, one can replace this with an equal amount of split red lentils.
Basmati rice is a kitchari essential due to its soft nature and easy-to-digest properties. Eating the basmati rice along with the mung dal creates a “perfect protein” meaning it provides all of the 9 essential amino acids. If basmati rice is not preferred, one can replace this with an equal amount of white quinoa.
Fresh lemon juice:
Fresh lemon juice is used to add a touch of immune boosting vitamin C while simultaneously aiding in the flushing of toxins and providing us with essential digestive enzymes.
Fresh ginger is unparalleled in its ability to heal during times of illness. Some of its major health benefits include boosting the digestion and immunity, detoxifying the system, relieving nausea, promoting sweating and alleviating fever.
Spices (black pepper, turmeric, cumin, fennel, brown mustard seed):
These spices have been carefully chosen as they all are well known for their digestive enhancing properties. Utilizing these spices during illness will aid in flushing the system, killing off unwanted bacteria and viruses, promoting sweating and reducing fever.
Ghee is another kitchari essential as it is known to boost the digestive fire, promote healthy elimination and increase our vital immunity and energy (Ojas).
When used properly, this heating vegetables is very effective at stimulating the digestive fire and detoxifying the system. Garlic is a potent immune-boosting, antimicrobial agent and is very beneficial for the system during times of illness (in moderation).
Green onion has been added to help spark the digestion, add a bit of flavor and provide us with some much needed vitamins (spec A, C, K). Studies have shown this tasty condiment to enhance immune function, making it even more of an essential ingredient for our Get Well Kitchari!
Get Well Kitchari Recipe
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.
- Doshic effect: Vata ↓, Pitta ↑*, Kapha ↓
- Serving: 5 to 6 cups (this recipe can be doubled if needed)
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time:
- Gluten Free, Vegetarian (can be made vegan)
*This recipe is overall heating, however during times of illness Pitta types can still benefit as the heat helps to kill off microbes, promote sweating, alleviate fever and detoxify the system.
- Medium-large sauce pan
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Cutting board and knife
- Ginger grater (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ghee, coconut oil or sesame oil
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed*
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed*
- 1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seed*
- Large pinch of cayenne pepper (optional but recommended)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or about 10-15 black peppercorns)
- 5 cups bone broth, chicken broth or veggie broth (ideally homemade)
- 2 cups of water
- 1/4 cup mung dal (substitute with red lentils)
- 1/2 cup basmati rice
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder*
- Fresh ginger (2 inch cube), grated or finely minced (substitute with 3/4 teaspoon dry ginger)
- 1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 2 green onions, chopped
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.
1. Place the medium sauce pan over medium heat and add in the ghee or oil. Once hot, add in the minced garlic, cumin seed, brown mustard seed, fennel seed, cayenne pepper (if used), and black pepper. Stirring constantly, sauté these spices for 2 minutes until the spices become slightly roasted and the garlic begins to turn a light brown.
2. Add in the broth and water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
3. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and add in the mung dal and basmati rice. Cover the pot, leaving a slight crack to avoid overflow.
4. Cook over low heat for 40 to 45 minutes. The final result should be a liquidy and well cooked soup-like meal. The dal and rice should be split open and very soft to touch.
5. Turn the heat off but leave the pan on the hot burner. Add in the turmeric, ginger, salt, lemon juice, and green onions. Stir well until everything is evenly blended.
6. Take a small serving for a healing breakfast, lunch, or dinner during times of cold, fever, flu, weakness, or general debility. For more severe illnesses, this should be the only meal until the hunger returns, the digestion is strengthened and optimal health is established.
- As the digestion slowly comes back, one can begin to add in some simple, cleansing vegetables such as celery, kale, broccoli, zucchini or cauliflower. Please add these at the same time as the dal and rice, making sure they are well cooked and mushy for the finished meal.
- As the digestion comes back to life and the hunger returns, one can double the amount of mung dal in order to add in a bit more strengthening nutrients.
- The spice amounts are a general recommendation, but extra ginger, black pepper and turmeric can be added for more healing power!
- If basmati rice is not digested well (often true for Kapha-types) one can replace this grain with the same amount of white quinoa. The cook time should remain the same, as long as the quinoa is mushy for the final meal. Cook longer if needed.
- For additional treatment during sickness, one should sip on Tulsi, Turmeric and Ginger Tea between meals. Get our recipe here!
7 Ayurvedic Remedies for Fighting the Cold and Flu (that really work!)
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Kitchari: The What, Why and How of an Ayurvedic Staple
Discover more healing recipes with my 30-Minute Ayurvedic Cookbook!