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Spring Cleaning: Detoxing With Whole Foods

As the days start to get longer and warmer, our diets tend to get lighter. To detoxify and rejuvenate your body and mind this Spring use the healing properties of natural, whole foods. The best way to rid your body of toxins is to reduce your exposure to them. Make a commitment to cut back or eliminate things like alcohol, highly processed foods, and refined sugar in order to limit exposure to potentially harmful pesticides; make a commitment to as many organic foods as possible. One way to make buying organic foods more affordable is to get to know the “dirty dozen” list (fruits and vegetables known to contain the highest levels of pesticides and chemicals) and to allocate your dollars to organic versions off this list.

A well-functioning body should rid itself of toxins over time. Important to this natural detoxification is fiber: the portion of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains that we cannot digest. Fiber adds bulk and promotes motility throughout your digestive system; it keeps things moving.  Soluble fiber (from oats, nuts, beans, apples, and berries, turns into a gel in the intestines and slows digestion) and insoluble fiber (from seeds, grains, and the fibrous parts of fruits and vegetables, passes through the body intact and speeds digestion) work together to support healthy digestion and can help prevent diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and acid reflux. Fiber acts like a sponge, absorbing and removing things like cholesterol and carcinogenic compounds from the body, thereby helping to prevent heart disease and certain cancers. By slowing digestion, fiber helps to prevent spikes in blood sugar which can lead to or exacerbate diabetes. If you're not used to eating a lot of fiber, increase your intake slowly and be sure to drink more fluids as you go.

Fiber is also a prebiotic which helps to attract and sustain the healthy bacteria that live in your intestines; these bacteria aid digestion, support the immune system, and may help prevent allergy development. To make sure your gut microbiota is in balance, add probiotics found in fermented foods, like yogurt, kefir, kimchee, and sauerkraut, or fermented beverages like kombucha. Choose these foods over probiotic supplements to get fiber, other important nutrients, and because they taste great!

Most compounds that enter our bodies are processed, broken down, or metabolized by the liver. The liver also processes toxins so that they can be removed from the body, usually through urination. Foods like almonds, beets, berries, brown rice, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, and wheatgerm are excellent sources of antioxidants which protect the liver from free radical damage caused by the processing of toxins. Foods like cabbage, eggs, Brazil nuts, onions, asparagus, avocado, and mushrooms contain compounds needed to shuttle toxins out of the body. Including these foods is a great way to help your liver do its work.

When planning your detox consider these meals:

For breakfast, toast a handful of rolled oats and a sprinkle of wheatgerm in a dry skillet until golden brown and fragrant. Sprinkle this mixture on top of plain yogurt and add fresh berries.

For lunch, toss together a salad of baby spinach, grated raw carrots and beets, almonds, avocado, and chickpeas with minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of fresh lemon juice.

For dinner, try this recipe for a light yet satisfying soup. Brown Rice and Shiitake in Clear Broth
Serves 4

In a medium pot, boil a piece of kombu (dried Japanese sea kelp) and 8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms in 4 cups of water for about 30 minutes. Reserving the broth, drain the mushrooms, and discard the kombu. Heat the broth again over medium heat and add 1 cup of cooked short grain brown rice. Stir in 1/4 cup of sake and 1/4 cup of soy sauce. Thinly slice the mushrooms and add them to the pot. Bring the soup to a gentle boil and drizzle 1 beaten egg over the surface of the soup. Cover and let simmer until the egg is cooked through, 1 or 2 minutes. Stir gently once more before serving.

Naima Sullivan is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in nutrition therapy for weight management, digestive health, HIV/AIDS, and vegetarian lifestyles. Get a head start on your spring cleaning with 30% off of your first nutrition counseling session with Naima at Studio 26 in April.