With the festive season upon us, it will soon be that time of the year when many of us start talking about flushing our systems and starting crash detox diets to recover from the seasonal fatty food and alcohol binge; not to mention shedding all those unwelcome extra pounds that have made their yearly appearance.
Do you really need to detox?
There has been an explosion in crash detox diets, fuelled in no small way by the glowing testimonies from such rake-like celebs as Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. No doubt you’ll soon be bombarded with a flood of new do-it-yourself detox books offering miraculous weight loss, and a fully rejuvenated system in a temptingly short period of time. Most are simply variants on the same tried and trusted formulae of short periods of fasting while consuming a heady mix of liquids and laxatives.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of such diets is questionable and in some cases may even be harmful. Indeed, many intestinal experts believe that crash detox flushes are unnecessary as the body is already well equipped to get rid of toxins on its own. The liver, kidneys, lungs and skin make up their own highly effective detoxification system, which when properly cared for, is more than capable of keeping your body healthy and toxin free.
Perhaps the best way to help detox and cleanse your system, without the unfortunate side effects of a crash diet, is to provide your organs with the right fuel to keep them functioning at their optimum rate . There is a wide range of natural foods that have been shown to possess great detoxifying qualities, and can give your organs the extra boost they need to rid your system of the inevitable build up of toxins around this time of year.
So while it may not sound as glamorous as taking the latest celebrity endorsed liquid diet; if you don’t fancy spending January glugging down gallons of lemon juice and maple syrup between frequent trips to the loo, take action now and make sure your festive shopping basket contains these ten best detoxifying and cleansing foods. In doing so you can protect yourself from the usual January blues, and go skipping into 2013 as if the Turkey dinners and eggnog bingeing never happened:
You can’t beat a bit of beet! Beets are jam packed with vitamins B6, B3, C and beta-carotene. They’re also a great source of iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium. All of which are vital in the elimination of unwanted toxins in the body. Beets also work to support the gallbladder and liver, which themselves work to break down and remove toxins. Beetroot is the king among beets due to its ability to not only support the liver, skin and hair; but also to lower cholesterol levels. But the reason it is at number one in this list is that it also contains Betaine. This chemical helps to protect the liver from alcohol poisoning, making it the best line of defence at this time of year. To get maximum benefit from this delicious and seasonal vegetable, try adding raw beetroot to your salads or break up the day with a glass or two of pure beetroot juice.
Lemons always play a vital part in any detox diet and with good reason. For starters, lemons contain high levels of vitamin C which helps fight disease and keeps your skin looking great. But consuming this fruit also provides a range of detoxifying benefits. Lemon helps to stimulate the release of enzymes in the body which then convert toxins into a more soluble form that can be easily excreted. It also has an alkaline effect helping to restore the PH balance of the body, and counteracts any acidic foods you may have eaten. Try forgoing your morning coffee, and replace it with a cup of hot lemon water with a pinch of ground flaxseed. This will give your body an energising flush ready for the day ahead.
This brings me to one of my favourite “superfoods”: flaxseed and flaxseed oil. When you’re detoxifying your body, it’s especially important to make sure that all of the toxins are properly eliminated from your system. Containing essential fatty acids, including Omega-3, flaxseeds are a great way to help the cleansing functions of the body. Flaxseeds also provide a fantastic source of fibre that will bind and flush toxins from the intestinal tract. As I mentioned before, drinking ground flaxseeds in lemon water every morning is a great start to the day, but they can also be added to cereal or muesli with a sprinkling of our next ingredient….
Blueberries act as an antibiotic by blocking a bacterial build up in the urinary tract, and as a result help prevent infection. They are also rich in phytochemicals, which can strengthen your defences against cancer. What’s more, blueberries have also been shown to possess antiviral properties that help to block toxins from gaining access to the brain, keeping you thinking, as well as feeling, alert and healthy. Blueberries are, of course, fantastic in a wide range of desserts, or you can simply add them to yogurt or cereal for a great detox breakfast.
An apple a day….well you know the rest. Many of the old adages still hold true however, and apples continue to be one of the best natural sources of nutrients, minerals and fibres. In terms of cleansing your body, apples contain high levels of the fibre pectin, which helps to bind heavy metals and cholesterol, and prevents any toxic build ups in your intestines. Apples also contain Phlorizidin, which can help stimulate bile production in the liver. One thing to remember is to always eat organic, because non-organic apples can contain high levels of pesticide residue.
I was recently on a long haul flight, when a sudden and overpowering stench of garlic filled the cabin. I looked round to see the source of the odour was a young gentleman merrily chewing away on raw garlic cloves from a packet like they were candies. While this approach may be a little extreme for most people, especially if you’re planning on lingering round the mistletoe this Christmas, raw garlic is another key ingredient in any good detox plan. Long known for its health benefits, particularly in the heart, garlic also helps to cleanse the arteries and contains the chemical Allcin. Allcin boosts white blood cell production to help fight against toxins. Garlic can also prevent a build up of mucous in the lungs and sinuses and has strong antibacterial qualities. It is always more effective to eat garlic raw, but if you (or your loved ones) can’t handle chewing through a few cloves with your afternoon beetroot juice, try adding a little crushed garlic to your salad dressings instead.
Like all leafy green vegetables, this wonderful winter vegetable is rich in iron, calcium and magnesium, as well as cell-protecting phytonutrients. Cabbage is worth singling out as it also helps the liver to break down any excess hormones, and cleanses the intestinal tract from unwanted toxins.
Artichoke leaves are a great way to get your body back on track after a period of heavy overindulgence. This antioxidant and fibre rich food increases your ability to digest fatty foods. The artichoke has also been seen to help increase bile production in the liver, helping to protect and purify the organ to better carry out its detoxifying duties. The best thing about artichokes is that they taste great, and are easy to incorporate into almost any meal
This distinctive bright yellow spice gets its colour from the active ingredient Curcumin. Curcumin has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various liver and digestive conditions, and more recently, scientists have found it to help regenerate liver cells and increase bile production. By including turmeric into your diet, you can even start to undo some of the damage you have been inflicting on your liver over the years.
OK, so the last item on the list is not technically a food, but no detox plan is complete without regular consumption of healthy liquids. Fluids are essential to flush toxins from the body and keep the organs healthy and functioning. Green tea, rich in antioxidants, protects the liver and fights disease making it a essential in a detox plan. But don’t stop at green tea, you can incorporate a variety of other cleansing foods, that didn’t make this list, by drinking them in different varieties of tea. Two good examples are: dandelion tea, a strong diuretic that flushes the system; and fennel tea, which can rejuvenate and stimulate the liver.