I Tried The Ayurvedic Cleanse Sweeping Social Media. Here's What Happened

Photo: Darren Muir

In January, crazy cleanses sweep the nation, but this year, a number of influencers (and mbg!) are taking a more nourishing route. A few weeks ago, super blogger Sarah Britton of My New Roots announced that she'd be doing a kitchari cleanse, and a week later, Jordan Younger—otherwise known as The Balanced Blonde—introduced her audience to the concept of a Panchakarma, a weeklong ayurvedic retreat that includes, you guessed it, a kitchari cleanse. With two of wellness's biggest names on board, I was certainly intrigued.

What is kitchari? What's the point of a kitchari cleanse?

Put simply, kitchari is a mix of rice and lentils and quick-cooking pulses, like mung beans. Sarah Britton actually shared her kitchari recipe in a post on mindbodygreen, where she explained its benefits: "Because of its simplicity and ease, many people find that doing a detox on kitchari is very pleasant and far less of an undertaking than a juice fast, for example. Eating this dish exclusively for three to five days is said to purify the digestive organs while cleansing the body of toxins. I like to do this in the winter months when the weather is cold and I need some grounding, warm food, and juicing seems out of the question."

Jordan Younger's Panchakarma is a little more intense; for a week, she'll be getting herbal oil massages, herbal therapy, rest, doing a digital detox, and eating the kitchari. The goal, according to Younger, is to balance her dosha, specifically the excess of vata energy that can cause, she writes, "digestive issues, an extreme amount of anxiety, insomnia, food intolerances, a fibroid, and right now, (a) CRAZY rash all over my entire body." For her, the kitchari is all about giving the digestive system a break. "The purpose of eating kitchari during the detox is to eat foods that your body can break down and digest with ease," she writes. "The spices and the warming foods are incredibly easy on our digestive system and assist the detox process." She buys a kitchari kit online and adds a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of tahini at the end.

There was nothing left to do but make myself a pot of kitchari.

I used Britton's recipe, which was incredibly easy to follow and relied mostly on ingredients I already had in my pantry. The result looked, to be frank, like brown mush, but it tasted incredible: faintly spicy, with a fragrance like a spice market, and a delicate sweetness from the cinnamon. I followed Younger's lead and squeezed lemon on top, and the bright pop of acid elevated the dish even further. It felt somehow both light and cleansing and warm, grounding, and deeply soul-satisfying. All right, I thought. I can do this for a few days.

I ended up eating solely kitchari for three days. It was far and away my favorite "cleanse" I'd ever done, mostly because it felt nothing like a cleanse: My stomach never rumbled in hunger; my food was steaming hot and inviting, not cold, raw, and intimidating. I love the freedom from thinking about food—instead of spending hours going back and forth with my husband about what to cook for dinner each night, I simply reheated some kitchari. While consuming lentils and rice for breakfast felt strange at first, it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the cleanse—the hearty savoriness felt like starting my day with a hug and kept me full well past noon. At the end, I felt if not cleansed exactly, then reset. I craved sugar less than I normally did, and the break from my insatiable snacking habit truly felt like it gave my digestive system a rest. And I did, as Britton writes in her blog post detailing her experience, "rejoice in the fact that there is no need to do something radical and overly derivational during the winter. This is a time for closing in, for being quiet and gentle, and nourishing oneself in a tender way."

If you're looking for more warming, cleansing food, this green detox soup will actually fill you up!

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