Nutrition: Kitchari for a Healthy Liver

Image credit: Peppergrasss

Everything that you ingest passes through your liver via the blood. Since the body does not know how to get rid of many of the unnatural toxins we ingest daily, such as chemicals, preservatives and additives, many toxic substances end up stored in the liver. Once overloaded, the liver begins to have trouble digesting and eliminating wastes from the body. This can then lead to a buildup of toxins in other organs and tissues. Illness can manifest as a result.

Diet and exercise are essential for a healthy liver. A daily yoga practice that is balanced and well-rounded provides an excellent way to detoxify and tonify the liver, as well as all of the internal organs.

During the winter, we tend to eat heavier foods to keep up the internal heat and keep us warm. In the spring, we must change our diet to help the liver flush out toxins and meet the challenge of the summer heat. We need to start eating more raw foods, lighter foods. If we enjoy fried foods, we must let go of this till next winter. Include lots of fresh, leafy greens in your diet. Avoid red meats, fatty foods, alcohol and congesting foods like cheeses. Your liver will love you for it.

Here is a recipe for an Ayurvedic stew known as kitchari. Kitchari is designed to be easily digested and give nourishment to the system without placing demands on it. This particular recipe, from the Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai, is especially supportive to the liver. 

Preparation time: 1½ hours

Serves: 5-6

1 tablespoon sunflower oil or ghee (or less)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

⅓ cup dry split mung dal (yellow dal)

1 cup dry pearl barley

6 inch burdock root, peeled and chopped (available in produce sections and Asian stores)

1 parsnip, chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon dry dandelion root, chopped (available in herb sections of stores)

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root

½ stick kombu

½ pound fresh broccoli and/or 1 bunch fresh dark leafy greens (dandelion greens are especially good if you can get them)

¾ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon coriander powder

Warm ghee in 4 quart saucepan. Add cumin, mustard and coriander seeds. Saute until mustard seeds pop. Add turmeric and split mung beans and stir-saute 30 seconds. Add 6 cups water and barley, then burdock, dandelion, ginger, and kombu. Bring to a boil, then cook covered over medium heat for 50 minutes or until barley is tender. Add additional water (about 4 cups) to keep the kitchari moist, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking on the bottom. Wash and chop the broccoli or greens. Fifteen minutes from serving, add the vegetables, salt and coriander powder. Stir, cover again and cook another 10 to 15 minutes.

– by Parvati Magazine staff