One of the most commonly used buzzwords at this time of the year is embarking on a ‘detox’. There are many different ways you can detox these days: you can for example detox your living space, your relationships, your habits, your thoughts, and last, but not least, your diet.
If you have landed on this blog, chances are that you are looking to reboot your system after taking a bit too relaxed approach with your eating during the holiday season. I have to admit, I started the New Year a bit heavier than I wanted to (I just love mince pies, Christmas puddings, Panettone and Lebkuchen way too much), so I rocked up at the gym like this on the first week of January:-
I decided to do some research about the best ways to detox my diet to help myself get back on the healthy eating bandwagon. I have never believed in quick fixes or approaches that promote an extremely restrictive diet and build on the principle of deprivation. The British Dietetic Association says that “there are no pills or specific drinks, patches or lotions that can do a magic job.” Besides, let’s face it, these approaches are never enjoyable, often feel like a punishment and are very rarely sustainable for these reasons. This can often lead to frustration and guilt, with your purse getting slimmer and your waistline thicker as you put all the weight back on after a period of intense dieting.
In fact, embarking on a radical New Year detox programme can be dangerous, if you dive into it head on, forgetting about educating yourself first. It is not unusual at this time of the year to hear about people in the news who get hospitalized because they had overdone it.
Instead, I am in for the long game (and I hope you are, too!) so I have been looking for a longer-term solution, which I can eventually turn into daily habits.
Do we really need a detox?
…was the first question I asked myself. According to the nutrition experts at Food Revolution Network “supporting your body’s ability to detox is truly necessary in today’s society. Based on scientific and medical literature, everyone is toxic– toxins exist in every aspect of our lives, from the air we breathe, to the food we eat, even to the thoughts we think.” Looking at the wider picture, unfortunately, it seems that detoxing is more like a must, rather than an option these days, due to the foes of modern life. Quite a shocking revelation, I am sure you agree!
Beware of the detox fads
Detox products and programmes are very heavily advertised at this time of the year; a new fad diet, a weight loss drug, a revolutionary food supplement, foot detox patches, colon hydrotherapy clinics crop up here and there. Supplement companies are trying to mimic Mother Nature with their newest “green” formula (pills and powders alike). I personally don’t feel there is enough scientific evidence behind the claims some health food/supplement companies make about their products so I would tread very carefully here.
For example, Nicola from the ‘Nic’s Healthy Life’ blog unravels the truth behind the ever so popular ”teatox” products which claim to ”cleanse” your body and ”restore natural balance” after a bout of indulgence.
So what is the best and most sustainable way to detox, after all?
Phytonutrients and antioxidants to the rescue!
Thankfully, God has created antioxidants and phytonutrients. These are powerful natural compounds found in plant based foods. (The word ‘phyto’ comes from Greek and it means ‘plant’.) Their role is to support your health and detox in every part of your body. Hallelujah!
Phytonutrients give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colours and they act as antioxidants, which means they bind to heavy metals in your body, and facilitate their removal through peeing. This helps your natural systems (your liver and kidneys) to clear of these nasty toxins more efficiently, and equip you with a defence mechanism against cancer causing agents. Regular consumption of antioxidant rich foods will also help slow down the aging process, gives you a healthy glowing skin and a longer life span. Say Amen!
*Breaking news alert* therefore all you need for a successful detox is a liver and pair of kidneys in good working order, and some plant-power. Boom!
I am sure that by this time, you are itching to find out which foods have the highest content of phytonutrients and antioxidants.
The ultimate detox shopping list
Here is an infographic I created to list these foods – as you can see, all of them are household fruits and vegetables which will give you the most bang for your buck. You can always refer back to them easily when you do your next round of grocery shopping:-
A couple of tips to help you reap the full benefits of these power plants:-
- Eat your fruits and vegetables raw or lightly steamed – overcooking may drastically reduce the bioavailability of the compounds.
- Avoid eating too much fruit because they are high in (natural) sugar.
- One serving of matcha tea contains 70 x the antioxidants of orange juice, 137 times the antioxidants of regular green tea- although not the cheapest tea on the market, I have found it to be a great investment.
- Lots of nutrients are concentrated in the skin of fruits and vegetables – eat as much of the skin as possible (remember to wash them well first). Only remove the outer paper-y skin from onions.
- If you prefer to juice your veggies and fruit, juice first thing in the morning as the vitamins and minerals in it absorb more easily on an empty tummy. Always consume your drink fresh as contact with oxygen may deplete the nutrients.
- Dicing or smashing garlic is the best way to release these compounds. important to let the garlic sit for ten minutes after slicing and before cooking, as heat may inactive the healthy organosulfur compounds.
- Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day; this helps your kidney and liver further with the removal of toxins from your body and also aids digestion.
Make detox part of your daily life
As the saying goes ‘it’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.’
Here are a few pointers on how you can increase your daily antioxidant intake:-
- Get experimental adding some fruit to your salads – for example, spinach, avocado and mango make a perfect couple as well as strawberries and rocket or basil. Crumble some walnut or peanuts on the top of your salad for an extra crunch. Add some citrus zest (shredded bits of the peel) for a kick.
- Have a green smoothie as often as you can – load it up with vegetables which do not taste ‘too green’ such as kale, spinach, celery, or even add some matcha tea.
- Juicing is a great way to bring life-force energy very quickly to your cells and tissues. It was Dr Norman Walker who first popularised this. You may also want to check out Jason Vale aka The Juice Master, Neil Martin aka the Natural Juice Junkie, and Joe Cross, the face behind the epic documentary movie ‘Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead’.
- Be generous with adding vegetables into stews, crock pot dishes, chilli, and curries.
- Sprinkle turmeric in your salad dressing, on stir-fries or add it to hot drinks – it does not have a strong flavour but will lend a beautifully vibrant colour.
- Before or after your workouts, consume a plant-based protein smoothie blended with dark berries.
- Start your own garden as a new hobby – albeit I appreciate this may not be everybody’s cup of tea!
- Talking about tea – green tea is a great alternative to soft or heavily caffeinated drinks; go for flavoured green teas if you do not like the bittery taste, such as ginger or mint. Some of these are great crowd pleasers in the summer, served chilled with some fruit pieces floating in the jug.
Finally, here is a selection of recipes from some of my favourite foodie bloggers. These are all based on healthy staples to get you psyched about eating well (again).
This matcha power smoothie is a great alternative for my morning coffee as it fills me with energy without the jittery side-effects you get from drinking a strong cup of coffee sometimes.
This deliciously mild and fruity green smoothie created by Rachel at the “Healthy and Psyched” blog is also an excellent immune system booster and promotes digestion. Jade’s go-to green juice at the “Mindful Menu” blog is an ideal wake-up drink in the morning to give you an instant hit of goodness.
All you need to keep you cosy and warm this winter is this turmeric, ginger, lemon and honey drink, created by James at the ‘Healthy Living James’ blog. It might just chase away those flu bugs, too!
Finally, this cleansing green gazpacho soup filled with some green goodness and lots of herbs by Stefanie at the ‘Wholesome Stef’ blog is a light, refreshing, yet incredibly creamy lunchtime treat, thanks to the avocado. Also perfect for a post-holiday-indulging kick start.
I hope you have found this article useful. Do you have a favourite ‘detox’ or cleansing recipe? Share your link or recipe in the comments!
Photo credits: www.freepik.com, www.pexels.com, Instagram.