The Health Benefits of Khichdi: A Desi SuperfoodLuke Coutinho
The Indian superfood we want to talk about is not a seed, flower, herb, or spice. Yet it is one of our favorite meals. If you grew up in India, chances are you love and adore this too. Yes, you guessed it right. The desi superfood that we are talking about is khichdi. This blend of rice and lentils has been a staple for Indians for centuries. Almost every city, state, and region in India has its name and twist for khichdi.
From the travels of Jean Baptiste Tavernier in the 1600s to the kitchens of the Mughal era that gave the humble dish an imperial twist, khichdi has found various mentions throughout history. Did you know that Ayurveda sings its praises for its healing abilities? Ancient texts call it a tridoshic food because it helps adjust the three doshas or energies that influence your physical and mental processes.
A complete protein that packs a nutritional punch, khichdi is super beneficial for your gut and digestive system. It cleanses and rejuvenates your system, can help improve liver function and fight conditions like ulcers and acidity.
Want to give it a nutritional boost and upgrade its healing properties? Cooking it within the framework of nature and adding anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric (haldi) and cumin (jeera) can upgrade its healing properties.
Why do I call Khichdi a superfood?
It is one of the most simple yet effective superfoods our ancient Indian wisdom and culture have blessed us with. It is high time that we redefine superfoods. When we allow food lobbies to define what a superfood is, these are repackaged and sold at exorbitant prices overnight. So, we need to reclaim our power to start labeling superfoods.
Look at our traditional Indian cuisine, where our ancestors used food as medicine for years and years. When we say food as medicine, this doesn’t mean that you jump off all the meds and use them as a replacement. It works hand-in-hand. Believe us, when you start using food and lifestyle as medicine, there is a huge possibility that you can work with your doctors to wean off your medication in most cases. There is immense value in going back to our roots and relishing khichdi.
How did Khichdi work for me?
After practically eating khichdi for two months, here’s what I observed:
- I haven’t gotten bored of it.
- I have also been in the best health possible ever. There have been positive changes in my body.
- When I have khichdi for lunch, I feel satiated for a longer time. I am not hungry by three or four o’clock. The hunger only sets in by dinner time.
- It proves that khichdi is a wholesome meal and a perfect balance of carbohydrates, good fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It has all the nourishment your body needs to thrive at a deep cellular level.
What are the learnings?
Technically most of us should all be eating less. If we have two wholesome meals, they can keep us full throughout the day. If you’re not intermittent fasting, then a great breakfast as well.
Stop constant grazing
One of the biggest problems that most people grapple with today is constantly grazing snacks every two to three hours. It primarily happens when we don’t eat wholesome or sufficient meals.
Remember, digestion best happens when it is slower. While a regular vegetarian meal roughly takes about three to three and a half hours to digest, a non-vegetarian meal between four to six hours, depending on the animal protein you eat. If you are snacking every two to three hours, you are not giving your body enough time to digest your previous meal.
When you keep adding more food, you produce more stomach acids and use more digestive enzymes constantly to break it down. It can lead to acidity and gut issues.
It is a myth that you need more snacks and more eating to boost your metabolism. Your metabolism does not depend on how frequently you snack but on how well you slept last night and how wholesome your meals are. It depends on whether you have the right vitamins and minerals, the right kind of activity, and how you are managing stress.
Now, are there exceptions? Yes. A small population of people like diabetics and others may need constant food every two to two and a half hours because of their health condition. Also, if you are engaging in heavy workouts, you need a pre-workout meal or post-workout meal. But everyone else needs to go back to the discipline of how our ancestors ate who did not snack throughout the day. If they had a lot of physical labor during the day, they had their meal at noon and an early dinner. It was all they required.
Can you eat khichdi if you have diabetes?
The moment you mention khichdi, most Type 2 diabetics say – But my doctor said, ‘Don’t eat rice. It will spike your blood sugar levels.’ And suddenly, rice is demonized like it is the cause of diabetes. Please know that khichdi did not cause diabetes, cardiovascular problems, or cancer. What did was a change in your lifestyle. Being sedentary, consuming poor quality oils and ingredients, overeating, and sleeping too less lead to lifestyle conditions.
There is also a chance you have been eating khichdi the wrong way, without combining it with the correct lentils or vegetables. Perhaps your diet is out of balance. Only then can food possibly be a factor that contributes to your health condition. So yes, you can eat khichdi, but cook and consume it the right way and in moderation.
How does eating khichdi help?
Khichdi aids digestion and promotes healing
There is a reason why your doctors and your parents probably changed your diet to khichdi when you were sick. It is easily digested, assimilated, and absorbed, whereas hard-to-digest foods use tremendous digestive energy to break down. When you divert energy meant for healing towards digestion, you slow down the entire process. Eating light foods like khichdi ensures that most of your energy can go towards healing your sickness and recouping.
Khichdi is a complete protein
We grew up learning that rice is a carbohydrate and lentils are protein. But we often forget that food works in synergies. Combining two foods the right way can amplify their health benefits. For instance, turmeric is good. But turmeric mixed with black pepper is even better. Black pepper has piperine that helps you absorb the goodness of turmeric. Similarly, when you intelligently mix rice with lentil and combine it with the right fat, it becomes a complete protein.
A 300-gram serving of a simple lentil khichdi can give you 17 to 18 grams of clean protein. Mixing it with a bowl of curd or a glass of buttermilk brings this up a notch to 23.4 grams of protein. You can even add a salad to the side to enhance its nutritional factor. What makes a hot khichdi a complete meal is a teaspoon or two teaspoons of pure melting ghee.
So, if you have the mindset that khichdi is pure carbs, you need to change it. Yes, it has carbs, but it also has lentils and good fats like ghee. This synergy makes it a complete protein.
Khichdi is good for your gut
Whether you have an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s, lupus, psoriasis, eczema, or Crohn’s or are struggling with IBS, indigestion, flatulence, bloating, constipation, or other gut or digestive issues – eating khichdi can help. It suits your intestinal linings and reduces inflammation when combined with anti-inflammatory ingredients like spices, green leafy veggies, etc. Even a single serving of khichdi a day can benefit your gut.
Khichdi is gluten-free
Many people today are gluten intolerant or have labeled themselves gluten intolerant. Khichdi has no gluten in it. Since it is a tridoshic food, it also helps cleanse your system and brings balance to your gut at a cellular level.
Khichdi keeps you full and curbs cravings
As you read this, hundreds of people have moved to khichdi and are reporting weight loss for the first time. They have experienced reduced acidity bloating, flatulence, and other digestive issues. Eating a wholesome khichdi keeps them full for longer durations (four to five hours) and curbs cravings.
So many people eat a bowl of salad and feel deprived. They become an easy audience for the food lobby to sell sugar-free biscuits and healthy snacks. Know that food is love to the human brain. It is why most ceremonies in India and around the globe happen around food. People socialize around it.
Hopping onto fad diets that deprive you of macro and micronutrients does not help. These make you irritable, frustrated, and snappy. They put you in a vicious cycle of losing two to three kilos at the beginning and then putting it all back on when you start binging. So eat wholesome meals. Khichdi could be a good start.
Simple High-Protein Lentil Khichdi
Total protein with a bowl of curd – 23.2 grams
- Horsegram – 10g
- Moong dal – 10g
- Lentil dal – 10g
- Moth beans – 10g
- Kidney beans/Rajma – 10g
- Fenugreek seeds – 5g
- Samai – 15g
- Moringa leaves – 15g
- Onion – 25g
- Tomato – 25g
- Cauliflower – 25g
- Capsicum – 25g
- Carrot – 25g
- Ethically sourced organic A2 ghee – 10g
- Garden cress seeds (Halim) – 10g
- Curd – 150g
1. Soak the dals for 12-18 hours
2. Take a vessel, add 1 tsp ghee, add spices, ginger-garlic paste, and onions. Sauté.
3. Once onions turn golden brown, add chopped tomato, and sauté for a minute. Add capsicum, cauliflower, and carrots next.
4. Now add washed chopped moringa leaves, then add dals and samai (pre-soaked for 3 hours). Add water and pressure cook for 6-7 whistles.
5. Add a tsp of ghee to the khichdi and relish with a bowl of curd with pre-soaked garden cress seeds in it!
1. Soak the dals for 12-18 hours, this process makes them more digestible, speeds up cooking times, and prevents bloating and flatulence.
2. Soak the samai for 2-3 hours.
3. Wash the leafy vegetables in salt water, followed by plain water twice to clear the impurities if any. (You can also add peanuts if you are not allergic to them)
Preparation time – 20 minutes
Cooking time – 10 minutes
Total time – 30 minutes
Serves – 2
- 1/2 cup parboiled rice, soaked for 3-4 hours
- 1/2 cup split moong dal, soaked for 6-8 hrs. (You can also choose a mix of chana dal, split moong dal, and yellow moong dal to make it protein-rich.
- 2 tbsp ethically sourced organic A2 ghee
- A pinch of Ceylon cinnamon
- 2 cardamom pods/elaichi
- 1 clove/laung
- 1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
- 1 inch grated ginger/adrak
- 1/2 tsp immunity powder
- 1 pinch asafoetida/hing
- Half cup veggies bottle gourd, carrots, peas – any vegetables available
- Salt – to taste
- 4 cups water
- Rinse and soak rice and dal for 3-4 and 6-8 hours respectively to make it more digestible and get rid of anti-nutrients.
- Heat ghee first and roast all the whole spices in it.
- Now add ginger, immunity powder, and asafoetida.
- Add the veggies.
- Add salt and water.
- Pressure cook for four whistles.
- Relish it with a dollop of ghee.
ALSO WATCH: Moringa Khichdi – A Simple Protein-Rich Meal
Check out our recipe for Beetroot Khichdi here. Want to add meat to it? Try this Chicken Khichdi Recipe.
Break the notion that khichdi is food for the poor and the sick
While working on a malnutrition project in the hinterlands, we realized how khichdi was one of the most powerful foods for children from the age of six up to young pregnant women. Not only did it help them with protein, carbs, and fats, but also calcium, iron, beta-carotene, omegas, B vitamins, folates, and more.
Understand that malnutrition is not restricted to those living below the poverty line. We have malnourished people in urban areas, too. Despite munching on the priciest superfoods, many have malabsorption in their gut. This means that they are eating but unable to not absorb and assimilate vitamins and nutrients the right way.
We need to move away from the mindset that khichdi is the poor man’s food or food for sick people. Exciting packaging and variety draw the human mind and excite us, but these hardly have any nutrition. They only satisfy your psyche but your body does not care for it. Simple, staple and nutritious foods are what your body craves to survive and carry out all your functions efficiently.
Should you eat khichdi every day?
Does this mean you should eat khichdi 24×7? NO. But if you are going through a condition, try as many variations of this healing food as you can. A 300 gm portion is great. If you are a bigger person and engage in a lot of physical activity, increase your serving size as per what suits you. Yes, there will be days when your body needs more food. Eat it as long as you know that it is physical hunger and not emotional hunger.
In our experience consulting clients across the globe, we come across children who are heavily dependent on junk food and facing colic, acidity, skin issues, and low immunity, among other health conditions. Equipping ourselves with the correct knowledge of foods and setting an example by eating healthy is our responsibility as parents. Feeding your child junk is not adding value to their lives. It is creating a platform for them to fall sick at some point. So, strive to strike a balance.
ALSO WATCH: Why Is Khichdi One Of My Favorite Meals
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