by Lauren Follett, BA, RHN, Registered Nutritionist
After months of cocooning indoors, everyone’s set for spring to really arrive. You’re ready mentally, but are you ready physically? The blessing (and curse) of winter is you can hide under layers of clothes. There’s no hiding when the coats and sweaters come off though. It’s time to spring clean your diet!
The cold months tend to create the perfect “climate” for toxins to accumulate in your body. Less physical activity leads to toxic buildup. There’s more reliance on comfort foods such as beef stew, baked goods, red wine, cheese and coffee, and less on raw fruits and vegetables. Not only are comfort foods difficult to digest, they also contain chemicals. Both these factors contribute to toxic buildup and a body—yours—that doesn’t function or feel well.
Detrimental to good health, toxic buildup actually clogs vital organs and leads to poor absorption of nutrients. This can cause a variety of symptoms:
– Bloating and gas
– Skin issues such as acne, puffiness, eczema, and bags under the eyes
– Depression, anxiety
– Brain fog
– Decreased immunity (a lot of people get sick in the winter) and
– Weight gain
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms you could probably benefit from a detox.
When you hear the word detox, what comes to mind? Liquids only for a couple weeks? Cabbage soup three times a day? You don’t need to do that. Extreme detoxes are not necessary for the average person. However, there’s a healthy way to detox: it’s all about eliminating hard-to-digest, toxic foods for a period of time, and replacing them with healthy alternatives. You’ll not only improve digestion and clear out toxins, but you may notice:
– Weight loss
– Clearer skin
– Better mood
– Increased energy
– Mental clarity
– Improvement in quality of sleep
– Stronger immune system and
– A shift in how you eat on a regular basis
Step 1: Remove Hard-to-Digest Foods and Chemicals. Cut out:
Animal protein, especially red meat. Difficult to digest, it can cause inflammation in the intestines, and it requires a lot of energy from your body to process.
White flour and sugar. Stripped of their fibre and nutrients, they have no nutritional value so your body can’t use them for fuel.
Overcooked food. It contains few digestive enzymes. When your diet is high in cooked food (which is typical in winter), your body quickly uses up its natural store of enzymes to try and break it down. This results in poor digestion and poor absorption of nutrients.
Alcohol, caffeine and preservatives (such as sulphites, which are found in most packaged foods). These extras can clog up one of the most important organs in your body, your liver. When it’s not functioning properly, illness and skin issues can result.
Dairy. It’s difficult to digest. Most brands of yogurt are high in sugar, preservatives and fillers, and most cow’s milk is ultra-pasteurized and void of enzymes.
After removing all of those things, you may be wondering what to eat. In fact, there are many delicious, healthy options.
Step 2: Include Detoxifying Alternatives. Add in:
Legumes and beans. They’re not only easier on your wallet, they’re also easier to digest than animal protein. They’re rich in fibre, folic acid and iron, and when combined with a whole grain, such as brown rice, they equal a complete protein.
Quinoa. It’s gluten-free, a complete protein, and easily incorporated into any meal. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare, and can be used in place of white rice or pasta.
Eggs. They’re considered the perfect protein source because they contain all the essential amino acids and can be used by your body easily and efficiently.
Myth 1: the egg white is healthier than the yolk. The yolk contains important vitamins and minerals. It’s also a source of choline, a fat that is important for healthy brain and nervous system function and that can help prevent dementia and premature aging.
Myth 2: Eggs contribute to high cholesterol. They raise cholesterol, but it’s the good HDL kind. HDL cholesterol travels through the bloodstream and removes bad LDL cholesterol. Healthy levels of HDL cholesterol prevent heart disease. Foods that raise bad cholesterol levels are saturated fats and trans fats (such as those in red fatty meats, baked goods and fried food).
Fish is an excellent source of lean protein, healthy omega-3 fats and calcium. Look for brands that are MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified.
Nuts and seeds are sources of protein and heart-healthy fats. Walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hemp, chia, pumpkin and flax seeds are all good choices.
Complete whole grains. They have not been refined and still have all their vitamins, minerals and fibre. Brown rice, steel-cut oats, millet and buckwheat are examples of whole grains.
Natural sweeteners. Unlike white sugar, they are rich in vitamins and minerals. Coconut palm sugar looks like brown sugar and tastes similar. You can substitute it cup for cup in your favourite recipes. The best part is it’s safe for diabetics as it doesn’t spike your blood sugar. Unpasteurized honey, real maple syrup, dried fruit and bananas are also healthy sweeteners.
Water. It’s always important to drink water, but especially during a detox. Water flushes toxins out of the body, and carry nutrients to your cells. Aim for six to eight glasses per day.
Herbal tea. Drink this instead of caffeinated tea or coffee. If you drink more than one eight-ounce cup of coffee per day, I recommend replacing your second or third cup of coffee with a caffeine-free herbal tea.
Dairy-free milk. Almond, cashew, hazelnut and coconut milk are gaining popularity. They are lower in calories and sugar than cow’s milk, but are great sources of calcium.
Step 3: Move your Body!
Exercise engages the lymphatic system and causes you to sweat, flushing toxins out of your body. Exercise is important for healthy digestion (they call it a bowel “movement” for a reason!), which also rids your body of toxins. It relieves stress, gives you energy, and improves your quality of sleep.
If you’re interested in learning more about my 3-Step Detox program, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.