Kitchari Recipe for Diabetes
Kitchari is a healthy and soothing dish frequently prescribed by Ayurvedic specialists to restore digestion by increasing agni, our digestive fire. Important to restore and maintain gut balance. However, kitchari can be challenging for people with diabetes to digest because of its high carbohydrate density and the fact that it is made in large batches, making it more difficult to dose appropriately with insulin.
I love kitchari and believe in its medicinal qualities as a reset for my gut or when I need nourishment. I have come up with two adaptations for people with diabetes of a classic kitchari recipe adapted from Vasant and Usha Lad’s Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing.
The first is for people who are carbohydrate friendly, and the second for those who wish to reduce their carbohydrate intake. I have chosen quinoa as the grain in the first recipe instead of the classic rice kitchari recipe. The second recipe can present challenges if a person is eating kitchari to reduce gas and bloating, as it contains cauliflower.
Why this recipe works for diabetes:
Vata derangement is a product of type 1 diabetes. This recipe specifically helps to reduce excessive vata. Excessive kapha is also commonly associated with type 2 diabetes imbalances. Kitchari is reducing and balancing. Good for all doshas.
Instead of cooking the dal and grain together as it is done in the classic recipe, I make them separately, joining them when it is time to eat to help measure carbohydrate content.
I recommend creating the recipe in an app like MyFitnessPal and even measure the weight of the dal post cooking without liquid (if you want to get really specific) to know the exact portion size.
This recipe is high carb but low fat so it should not require a dual-wave bolus. Type 1's be sure to pre-bolus at least 10 minutes to avoid a post-prandial spike.
RECIPE 1: KITCHARI WITH GRAIN
This is a more classic recipe for kitchari. The adaptation is to cook the dal and the grain separately. This way you can measure the carbohydrates for your meal with greater ease and flexibility. I choose to use quinoa, as it is a complex carbohydrate.
1 cup yellow split mung dal, rinsed and soaked for at least 4 hours.
2-3 tbsp ghee or high-quality oil (not coconut, as it increases vāta)
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
Pinch of hing
1 tsp turmeric
3-4 cup water
1 light tsp salt
2 c veggies of choice. I like carrots!
Cilantro as desired
1 cup white quinoa
1 3⁄4 cup water
Rinse the quinoa and mung dal. Soak the mung dal for at least 4 hours to help with digestion.
In a small pot, heat up the ghee on medium, and toss in the cumin, mustard seeds, and hing. When they start to pop, add in the dal and turmeric, and stir. Add the 3 cups of water, root veggies and bring to a boil for 5 minutes and then cover slightly and reduce to simmer for about 20-30 minutes depending on how long you've pre-soaked the dal. Keep an eye out that the dal does not dry out, adding more water as necessary. If you're adding high water content veggies like zucchini, add in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Once cooked, add salt and garnish with cilantro.
In the meantime, make the quinoa. Bring it to a boil, cover and bring heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. I personally like to use a ratio of grain to water of less than 1:2. Try it out. Once finished, take quinoa off the heat, place a paper towel under the lid and wait at least 5 minutes. This absorbs any extra water and makes the quinoa fluffy.
RECIPE 2: CAULIFLOWER KITCHARI
Follow the same steps and ingredients for the dal in recipe 1 except for the quinoa. In the last ten minutes of cooking, add about 2–3 cups of cauliflower rice and another cup of water if it looks dry.
Although diabetes management technology has rapidly improved in the last 20 years, 50% of adults with type 1 and type 2 struggle to get their A1c's under 7.0%, an essential metric for offsetting diabetes risk-factors, like co-morbidities and mental health issues. Even with optimal A1c's, many are at risk for developing anxiety and depressive disorders and a reduction in quality of life.
We do not need more technology or diabetes education; we need self-awareness and adaptability. We need to know how to bring our energy back up when tired from highs and lows, calm ourselves down when stressed, and train our nervous system so that diabetes doesn't take quite a toll when we are off-balance.
It is not up to our healthcare providers to teach us this. It is up to us. Perhaps this is why the stats for co-morbid disorders and mental health issues are staggering. We rely too much on external factors like an A1c rather than internal factors like a vested interest in creating inner harmony.
But hope is not lost. Radical change starts right here with you, taking time to prioritize healing. Just as we would prioritize eating well, administering medicine, and exercise, making time every day to breathe, reflect and go inwards empowers you to change your relationship to diabetes and, consequently, to yourself.
Start with one thing. One thing every day. Meditate, journal, walk without headphones. But stick with it for 40 days, non-negotiably. See how the change happens.
Meditation is widely acknowledged to influence both functional and physiological aspects of the brain. But we cannot receive its benefits without proper training. Perhaps this is why so many people fail, give up, or do not maintain consistency when it comes to daily meditation.
The ancients recognized this, and so they developed preparatory practices to give the mind something to focus on, identify with, and eventually dis-identify, dropping into the flow-state.
You could think of it as "tricking" the mind, but it's influencing your attention. A skill that meditation trains us to do off of the cushion as well.
In a 2015 NIH study, participants who underwent a three-week mindfulness-based meditation program evidenced enhanced compassion and altruism.
Last night, I recorded one of my absolute favorite preparatory practices that will surely drop you into a deeper state of experience.
In this practice, we use a body scan, the chakras, and mantra to arrive in the state of meditation.
For beginners: use this as a stand-alone practice.
For intermediate/advanced: use as preparation, staying an extra ten minutes with the mantra so-hum.
The first 5 minutes are explanation + mini-lecture.
When I first began yoga three years after my T1D diagnosis, I thought yoga was solely about fitness. At the time, I struggled with my weight, binge eating when I was high and low and was a total emotional rollercoaster. I was extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable in my body. So I went to yoga to get fit, and I did.
Even as I gained greater flexibility and strength, the baby fat melted off, and I felt more confident in my body, I still struggled deeply to accept diabetes and stop the negative cycle of addictive behavior. Yoga postures alone could not eradicate the emotional rollercoaster and questionable actions I rationalized over and over again. I needed something more powerful to disrupt the pattern and accelerate transformation.
So I went on to study the traditional origins and philosophy of yoga, tantra, its sister science of health, Ayurveda, and learned how to integrate them into a self-directed home practice that combined some movement, mostly breath, and a lot of meditation.
The change was not immediate but gradual. Over time, I felt freer, less angry, and empowered to care for diabetes independently. When my energy was low, I noticed that I could do a practice to build it back up. If I was anxious, I could practice to calm myself down. I noticed that these energy qualities could be applied to specific diabetes challenges, addressing short-term needs, and reducing long-term complications.
If my blood sugar was running high, I could execute a practice to improve insulin sensitivity and lower the number. Even if the number did not come down, the method helped me have more energy and vitality for the rest of my day.
When I sat in meditation and witnessed my mind having a tantrum, I learned how to stay and not get involved in the chatter. This discipline informs the way I take care of diabetes today. If I test my BG and do not like what I see, I have a choice. I can freak out, blame myself, or react, or I can see the number and respond appropriately.
If I still cannot figure it out, I have a practice that always nourishes my system, calms my mind, and purifies my body. I know that no matter what diabetes or life throws at me, I always have what I need.
Yoga is a reliable and effective intervention strategy to reduce the stress hormones that increase insulin resistance, decrease willpower, and disrupt our body's natural ability to restore homeostasis.
A skillfully sequenced practice naturally creates self-awareness, self-efficacy, and physical and mental fitness, pivotal for enhanced quality of life.
Yoga, as a self-directed home practice, equips me with the skills to be aware of my needs, identify imbalances, and re-establish equilibrium. I am passionate about teaching others positive coping tools and strategies to offset the physiological and emotional burden of diabetes.
Next Wednesday at 6:00-7:00p MST, I am hosting a FREE Diabetes Masterclass: Creating a Self-Care Ritual at Home.
What is personal practice? It is a ritualized self-care practice that attends both to your physical and mental wellbeing. A combination of breathwork, meditation, yoga nidra, and journaling are all excellent examples of yoga therapy. It's a time without exertion, without stimulation, where you drop-in to yourself.
We have no lack of resources for guided practice, but a lot of the support is...drab and dull.
There is nothing more gratifying than executing your sadhana. You are your own best teacher.
In this video, I'll bring you into my home and tell you about my top four tips for starting a home practice. Now, more than ever, we need to trust in our ability to be the healer.
If you need extra support, feel free to reach out to me directly.
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Evan Rachel Soroka