If, after the holidays, you want to do a little detox, lighten up, shed a few pounds save a few dollars, and begin the New Year with a healthy diet, I would suggest starting the year with a one-to three-day kitchari monodiet. Kitchari is THE Ayurvedic superfood that is easy to prepare and costs approximately $2 a bowl if you make it from scratch. The recipes may vary but the recommendation to eat kitchari is universal in Ayurvedic treatments everywhere. Kitchari is primarily used to help people restore their digestive functions, reduce unhealthy cravings, recover from illness or stress, and help clear ama (toxic sludge) from the body (signals of ama may include a thick, white coating on our tongue, a feeling of sluggishness, or a new unpleasant body odor). There’s no time like the present to treat yourself to a few days of tasty kitchari when you’re hungry and allow your body to rest after the decadent holiday season.
In addition to the kitchari monodiet, here are a few Ayurvedic herbs and spices to help reduce kapha and improve your health throughout the winter:
- Trikatu – Improves metabolism and destroys Kapha
- Triphala – Cleansing action supports weight loss
- Triphala Guggulu – Aids fat metabolism and detoxification
- Neem – Reduces sweet cravings
- Chywanprash – Helpful for colds and immune support
- Ginger – Improves digestion, circulation, and metabolism
- Garlic – Its antibacterial and antiviral qualities help knock out the common cold or infection. Add to soups or enjoy raw if your stomach can handle it
- Cardamom – Refreshes the palate and reduces cravings
- General warming spices include cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, black pepper, cayenne, and ginger
- Kitchen detox spices include black pepper and whole coriander seed. Blend together in a traditional pepper grinder and add a quarter teaspoon to meals, even sweet ones. Black pepper promotes healthy circulation. Coriander is the digestive regulating spice of Ayurveda.
Once you feel you’ve detoxified from the holidays, consider stocking your refrigerator, pantry, and spice cabinet with the following food items during the winter season:
- Lemons – Drink lots of warm water with lemon
- Soup Stock – Make soup stocks (chicken, seaweed, or mushroom), adding spicy herbs—such as garlic, ginger, onion, and chilies—to it
- Vitamin C Foods – Stock your house with foods high in Vitamin C like grapefruits, lemons, oranges, Brussels sprouts or broccoli. Their antioxidant goodness supports collagen growth, healthy tissue maintenance, and immunity.
- Nutrient Dense Foods – Eat foods concentrated in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamin D on a regular basis. Examples include almonds, black beans, bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, navy beans, pumpkin seeds, spinach, sunflower seeds, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.
- Consume foods that nourish the water element such as buckwheat, kidney/black/pinto beans, mushrooms, beet greens, nori, red cabbage, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, chia and black sesame seeds, miso, soy sauce, umeboshi plums, and pickles.
- Cut out sugar (at least for a few weeks at some point during the winter!) and carbonated beverages, which leach minerals from your bones.
- Herbal allies – Consider marshmallow root (soothes irritation and inflammation), ginger root, and nettle (tones the kidneys).
As a general rule, when you want to decrease Kapha imbalances (weight gain, depression, weak digestion, white coating on the tongue, and/or excess mucous in the body) this season, minimize sweet, sour, and salty foods and increase foods and herbs that are pungent (like ginger), bitter (like coffee and turmeric root), and astringent (like chickpeas and goldenseal) to ensure good digestive fire. When digestion is good, immunity is strong and life is full of possibilities! Om.