After all of the rich, indulgent food and drink we consume in the month of December, eating better almost comes as a relief. There is nothing more I love in January than loading up on salads and green tea. This kind of food just tastes better to me right now and I certainly feel better for eating it. In the post-excess hangover, the idea of doing a more formal cleanse or detox program may pop up in peoples’ minds. While a thoughtful cleansing program can be helpful to some, cleaning up your act for two weeks and then going back to the burgers and fries might not be exactly what the dietitian ordered.
If you are thinking of doing a cleanse this January, or perhaps the cleanse program you started is almost over and you need a maintenance regime, why not consider making cleansing foods a daily habit? Eating well day in and day out has the most powerful effect on your overall health so resolve to simply eat at least one food daily that has powerful cleansing effects. Here is our list of 5 foods that, when consumed daily, will support your body’s naturally ability to cleanse itself.
Green, leafy vegetables: No surprise here…top of the list are the greens. We love kale but there are plenty of other greens to tempt your taste buds and nourish your cells. Spinach, chard, collard or dandelion greens, arugula, rapini, beet greens or kale in all its forms are supremely cleansing foods. Greens top our list because they are incredibly nutrient dense and contain multiple compounds such as glucosinolates and betalains which support detoxification mechanisms in the liver and are potently anti-inflammatory. Anti-oxidants such as kaempferol and quercetin help protect our cells from the effects of daily stress. Go raw in salads and smoothies and wraps, bake up some kale chips, sauté into soups, stews and casseroles.
Citrus fruit: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes are a welcome dose of sunshine throughout the drizzly, grey winter. Of course, citrus provides immune-boosting vitamin C but it also offers other helpful compounds to support cleansing. Limonins in citrus fruit are potent anti-carcinogenic substances that help prevent cell proliferation. Pectin, a soluble fibre found in citrus, helps lower cholesterol in the blood. Naringenin, a compound found in grapefruit might help repair DNA damage. Lycopene, also found in red grapefruit, helps protect against DNA damage in the skin. Always a great snack, don’t forget to try citrus fruits in salads and smoothies too. When you enjoy them, be sure not to over-peel citrus – the white spongy substance called pith is nutritious!
Foods rich in soluble fibre: Your digestive tract is a key site of detoxification. When it works well, you are able to digest and absorb the nourishing aspects of food and excrete what you don’t need. Your digestive tract turns over roughly every three days and that gets sloughed off, along with dead bacteria, in your feces. Fibre is key in cleansing. While insoluble fibre from cereals acts like a ‘broom’ to sweep the intestines, soluble fibre forms a gel-like sponge in your digestive tract, helping attach to cholesterol, fats and other substances and carry them out through the intestine. We need 25 – 38 g of fibre a day and if we can get at least 10 grams of soluble fibre, we are in good shape. Barley, oats, legumes such as lentils, psyllium, citrus, apples, eggplant and okra are all good choices.
Deep blue and purple foods: Berries, pomegranates, red onions and purple cabbage all have their own unique properties with respect to cleansing too. Ellagic acid, a compound found in these dark blue and purple pigments, helps support detoxification in the liver and sulfur compounds in red onions and cabbage boost the liver as well. These pigments all offer numerous anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds to support overall health and defend against the stressors of daily life.
Water: Water is the real staff of life. Our cells bathe in a liquid medium and keeping water flowing through our system allows all the metabolic wastes that cannot be excreted in our digestive tracts to be cleansed. Despite plenty of advice to the contrary, our best guess at how much water you need to drink daily is just that – an educated guess. Your water ‘prescription’ is as individual as you are depending on your activity level, the weather, stress and your diet. If you eat more plant foods, which contain more water, you will need less than someone on a heavily processed diet. Your cleansing goal? Drink as much water (fresh juice, seltzer or tea too) as you need to have clear or almost clear urine.
Pineapple Lime Smoothie
This smoothie is a perfect start for those new to drinking their greens. The pineapple lends an almost creamy quality to the smoothie and the spinach is chock-full of green goodness. This is a thick, fibrous smoothie…if you want it thinner, thin it out with water or more apple juice.
1/2 medium cucumber, broken into chunks
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1 medium apple such as gala or braeburn, cored and sliced
1 cup unfiltered, not-from-concentrate apple juice
2 cups (or handfuls) baby spinach
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined and frothy.