Cleaning Up For the New Year

February 11, 2014

It’s the new year. You’ve made the decision to clean up your eating habits, de-tox your body and get fit. Maybe you’ve made this resolution before, but what if it could really ‘stick’ this time? What if you re-thought the way you approached food and eating and really changed your life?

It all begins with cleaning things up. But before we get into details, understand this…the best de-tox program can’t replace healthy eating and living. De-toxing helps, but the real keys to longlasting vitality are a consistently maintained healthy diet, regular exercise, stress reduction and adequate consumption of water.

So what exactly is de-toxing? Well, toxins came in many forms…in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat; in plastic containers, carrying excess weight, pesticides, herbicides, chemical household cleaners to name the worst offenders. Now your body tries to eliminate as much as it can.

Your kidneys and liver work double and triple time just to keep up. But over time, these various toxins build up in tissue and organs and the bloodstream faster than your natural cleansing can handle, so your body needs a little boost…a de-tox. This process involves ridding the body of those compounds so that we have a fighting chance at vitality and health. And while we have little control over the polluted air, water and other environmental toxins surrounding us daily, we do control the food we eat…every bite. The most important part of cleansing the body is making the commitment to live a healthier, more natural life, making food choices appropriate for humans. If you can do that you will feel great, look fabulous, with de-toxing becoming a once-a-year ritual to give your body the added benefit of a deep cleanse.

There are three key factors to a successful cleanse: lots of healthy liquids, like vegetable juices to flush out the body while piling on nutrients; you’ll need lots of fiber to keep your digestive system functioning at its peak; you’ll need to consume foods that stimulate the cleansing enzymes in your liver, to aid the body in the de-tox process.

Depending on your health condition, a cleanse can be anything from a full on fast to a light eating plan that includes lots of vegetables and whole grains. To cleanse the system, you need to consume foods that break up accumulated compounds in the body as well as aiding in the discharge of said unwanted compounds.

A typical cleansing diet consists mainly of raw and cooked vegetables, a small proportion of whole grains, small amounts of fresh, seasonal fruit and very often vegetable juices. Protein is kept at a minimum and fat and flour products are minimized and sugar is all but eliminated in order to allow the body to relax and rid itself of toxins more easily. And remember that a cleanse is temporary. You’ll soon re-introduce foods like whole grain breads, avocado, more protein, olive and other oils and move on to a richly flavored and varied healthy eating plan.

While a cleanse needs to be carefully planned and thought through, there are some vegetables that are, in my view, the stars of cleansing the body.

These top ten foods for a successful cleanse should also find their way into your day to day eating, so that your body is consistently cleaning itself and your vitality is maintained easily.

1). Leafy Green Vegetables: Raw, cooked, in soups, salads or juices, greens like kale, collards, watercress, arugula, spinach, bok choy, broccoli (to name a few) are jam-packed with chlorophyll which is essential to ridding the body of environmental toxins, as well as working to protect the liver. Lightly diuretic, leafy greens, especially watercress and arugula will work with the liver to flush out toxins, but their rich mineral content keeps you strong.

2). Daikon: Known as ‘icicle radish,’ this peppery flavored root veggie looks like a large white carrot, but it packs a cleansing punch. Rich in the best vitamins and minerals to stimulate weight loss including riboflavin (for normal thyroid function), niacin (part of the glucose tolerance factor that releases every time blood sugar rises), pantothenic acid (assists in energy production and adrenal function), vitamin B6 (essential to thyroid hormone production and metabolism), choline (not really a vitamin, but a compound made in the liver; responsible for fat metabolism), vitamin C (aids in the conversion of glucose to energy in our cells), chromium (a mineral required for the metabolism of sugar), manganese (which also helps regulate the metabolism of sugar) and zinc (which helps regulate appetite and the release of insulin), daikon is a valuable tool in cleansing.

3). Lemon: A rich source of vitamin C, the ultimate de-tox vitamin, lemon helps convert toxins into their water-soluble form so they are easily flushed from the system.

4). Garlic: Not only used to ward off vampires, garlic activates liver enzymes that aid the body in filtering out anything you don’t want hanging around. On top of that, garlic stimulates circulation and contains anti-bacterial compounds to help the body to cleanse efficiently.

5). Whole Grains: In their unprocessed form, whole cereal grains like brown rice, barley and quinoa are rich sources of soluble fiber, which mops up toxins and helps clear them out, while strengthening digestion so you assimilate nutrients and de-tox more effectively.

6). Green Tea: An antioxidant-rich tea, but only when brewed…forget the bottled, pre-made versions…green tea is one of the healthiest liquids around. Loaded with catechins, which speed up liver activity, green tea is the perfect de-tox and relax brew.

7). Broccoli Sprouts: While all sprouts aid the body in breaking down fats, broccoli sprouts are at the top of the heap. With up to 50 times more cancer-fighting, enzyme-stimulating activity in each bite than the grown up veggie, broccoli sprouts should have a proud spot atop salads and sandwiches on a regular basis.

8). Cabbage: This humble peasant vegetable can be the key to a healthy liver that functions at its peak. The most potent anti-inflammatory food, cabbage powerfully activates both types of de-tox enzymes in the liver, making it a powerful tool in a cleanse. Puts coleslaw (sans mayo, of course…) in a whole new light.

9). Fresh fruit: While high in simple sugars, the fiber, vitamin c, antioxidants and nutritious juices present in them trump the downside of sugar any day.

10). Water: When all is said and done, if you aren’t properly hydrated, all your cleansing efforts will be compromised. Making up about 60% of your body weight, every system in your body relies on water. Responsible for everything from great, supple skin to regular bowel function to flushing out toxins and carrying nutrients to cells, it is essential that you keep your body properly hydrated. The formula? You lose about 12 cups of water a day through urine, sweat, breathing and bowel movements. Food accounts for about 20% of your intake of fluid, but only if you are eating lots of veggies and whole grains. You need to drink water to make up the rest, hence the ‘8 glasses a day’ rule. So base your water intake on your consumption of veggies, fruits, grains and exercise level.

And now…some great recipes to get you going…deliciously…

Green Rolls
A unique and beautiful way to serve leafy green vegetables. Chilled, these beauties make a most refreshing snack. You’ll find yourself whipping them up whether you are cleansing or not!

Makes 4-5 servings

6 long thin carrot spears, 1 for each roll
12 leaves Chinese cabbage, rinsed and left whole
12 collard greens, rinsed and trimmed of stems
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and left whole

1 teaspoon pure flax oil
1/3 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper

2 teaspoons hempseeds, chia seeds or ground flax seeds

Bring a pot of water to a boil and separately boil each vegetable in the order listed above. Cook each until just tender, not too soft. Plunge each into cold water to stop the cooking process and drain well.

To assemble the rolls, place 2-3 collard leaves on a bamboo sushi mat or tea towel. Top with 2-3 cabbage leaves. Then place a thick strip of watercress and 1 carrot spear on the cabbage, closest to you.

Roll, jelly-roll style, using the mat or towel as a guide. When completely rolled, squeeze gently to expel excess water and seal the roll.

Slice into 1-inch-thick rounds, arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle the tops of the rolls with toasted black sesame seeds for garnish.

Whisk together ingredients for dressing, adjusting salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon dressing over each roll and sprinkle with seeds of your choice.

Carrot, Lemon, and Wheat Grass Juice
You can purchase this powerhouse of nutrition at any natural food store or juice the veggies fresh at home, in your own juicer. You’ll love how you feel. Rich in vitamin C, de-toxing was never more delicious. Note that you can buy wheat grass juice in the freezer section of a natural food store. They are generally sold in 12-packs of 1 ounce shots of wheat grass.

Makes 1-2 servings

6 medium carrots
1 fresh lemon
1 ounce wheat grass juice

Put carrots through a juicer into a glass.

Juice lemons in a citrus juicer or by hand.

Whisk lemon juice and wheat grass juice into carrot juice and enjoy.

Variations: Any of these juice combinations will aid your body in cleansing while giving you toms of nutrients. All recipes serve 1-2 people.

Carrot-Apple-Celery-Parsley-Beet Juice
3 carrots
1 stalk celery
1 apple, cored
_ beet
1 small handful parsley

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer.

Carrot-Apple-Orange Juice
1 apples, cored
1 orange, peeled
3 carrots

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer.

Carrot-Spinach-Lettuce-Turnip-Parsley Juice
5 carrots
3 leaves spinach
4 lettuce leaves
_ turnip
Small handful parsley
(To add sweetness, add _ fresh orange)

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer.

Carrot-Strawberry Juice
5 carrots
6 strawberries

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer.

Carrot-Ginger-Lemon Juice
5 carrots
1 apple
1 thin slice of fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter)
_ small beet
_ fresh lemon, juiced

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer. Whisk in lemon juice.

Greens Juice
1 kale leaf
1 collard leaf
Small handful fresh parsley
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
1 apple
1 broccoli floret

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer.

Spinach Delight
4 apples
6-7 leaves spinach
_ fresh lemon, juiced

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer. Whisk in lemon juice.

Sweet Kale Juice
2-3 kale leaves
1 parsnip
_ red pepper
3 apples

Juice ingredients one by one in the order listed in a standard juicer.

Daikon-Shiitake Consommé
This simple broth is a great starter course for any meal, so add this to your repertoire even after your cleanse is over. Deeply cleansing and relaxing, this delicate soup keeps your body at its peak.

Makes 4 servings

4 cups spring or filtered water
_ red onion, thinly sliced
_ cup thinly sliced fresh daikon pieces
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until tender, thinly sliced
_ cup finely shredded green cabbage
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Soy sauce
3-4 sprigs fresh flatleaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Place water and onion in a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil.

Add daikon, shiitake, cabbage and lemon zest, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 7 minutes.

Season lightly with soy sauce and simmer for 3-4 minutes more. Serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Note: You can also add some chili spice or cayenne to this soup to stimulate circulation and intensify your cleanse. Just a scant pinch while the soup is cooking will do the trick.