January has arrived and for many of us our thoughts turn to starting afresh with our diet and exercise plans. You do not need to spend hundreds of pounds or Euros on fancy products to detox or cleanse your body. In this article we give you some ideas for your own DIY (do it yourself) detox, using food items that you will be easily able to find in the supermarket or local store. We discuss our five favourite items to include in your diet this month to cleanse.
What is a detox?
Some people define a detox by what we take out of our diet: usually we cut out alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, nicotine, processed sugars and processed foods. You might also wish to cut out meat, fish and dairy, to give your body a rest from these products. Maybe also consider cutting out gluten and wheat products for a while (we suggest cutting out bread and pasta products), as well as reducing your salt intake. (Read more in our article: detox – what is it, how does it work and does it matter). Some people take detox a little further and argue that we should fast regularly by restricting our diet even further (for example, just using water or cabbage juice). However, this January we want to encourage you to think a little differently about your detox – not just about cutting things out, but also about adding things IN, so that you maximise your nutritional intake.
Essentially what we want to do during our detox is to limit (or eliminate) as many toxins or chemicals as possible coming into our bodies and at the same time, support our bodies to let go of any toxins or chemicals that have been stored in the body. You can do this second part by giving your body lots of fresh vegetables and plant based foods. Fresh vegetables (and fruits) as well as plant based foods contain oodles of vitamins and minerals – and its this nutrition which gives your cells a boost to enable them to repair and regenerate.
One popular way to detox is to juice. We offer guests the opportunity to try a juice detox at La Crisalida Retreats. We suggest that guests start by juicing for three days, although they can do longer if they choose. Juicing is a great way to kickstart your detox as it delivers maximum nutrition to your body in an easily digestible form. Read more about juicing retreats here and for juice recipe ideas check out our blog – search “juice recipes”.
Juicing is one of the quickest ways to cleanse and detox. We give you some tips about how to juice at home in our recent blog article All you need to know about juicing. However, not everyone wants to, or can, juice for three days, and so you can choose to detox through the food that you eat.
Five favourite items to include in your diet
Our five favourite dietary items to include in your DIY detox are: broccoli, cabbage, carrot, lemon and water. You can include these items in your juices or in your meals.
The health benefits of broccoli are huge. Broccoli is a great source of dietary fibre, so it helps to look after your digestive tract. It is high in vitamin C (so, in addition to other benefits, it limits the impact of those pesky free radicals which are responsible for causing ill health). It is also a good source of your B vitamins, like B1, B2, B3 and B6 – you need B vitamins to keep your body running well, with a healthy metabolism. Broccoli is also a source of vitamin K, the vitamin responsible for helping our blood to function properly for clotting (we need our blood to clot sometimes. For example, if you cut your skin, the blood will clot on the surface of the wound to slow down and then stop the bleed). Research studies have also shown that including a sufficient level of vitamin K in your diet is great for heart health.
You can eat broccoli raw or cooked. If you choose to cook broccoli, the best method is to steam it for 5-7 minutes (so it is still slightly crunchy) – this maximises the nutritional value of cooked broccoli. This month our food recipe is broccoli, tofu and cashew nut stir fry, packed with ginger, lemon and carrot – click here for the recipe.
It is also easy to include broccoli in your juices – keep a 4cm chunk of the stem and add it into any juice. We suggest that you cook the top part of the broccoli (the florets) and keep the stem to use in your juices – this way you use the whole of the broccoli. You can also use the stem as natural “crisps”, to accompany hummus – simply trim off the harder outer layer of the stem and cut into thin slices.
Cabbage is low in calories, fat and sodium. At the same time, it delivers a burst if vitamin C. By including cabbage as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can find it easier to maintain a healthy weight. It is also a good source of fibre (or roughage), which keeps your digestive system working well, cleansing your intestines and helping to prevent constipation. When you first start eating cabbage (or if you increase the amount that you eat), you might start to notice an increase in gas or bloating, or a little possible abdominal pain. This is one of the possible side effects due to increasing the amount of fibre in your diet. Maybe reduce the amount a little and keep going.
Cabbage can easily be added into your diet. You can steam it (best option), include it in stir frys, make it into soups or use it as a wrap (instead of rice paper for spring rolls). We love our coconut cabbage recipe, which is a great side dish to accompany any meal.
Cabbage can also be juiced. We suggest buying a large dark green cabbage, as this has the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals, but sometimes it is nice to vary it, so try red cabbage sometimes! Cabbage juice is great for a colon cleanse. Raw cabbage has a mild laxative effect, so it is ideal if you suffer from constipation. Pure cabbage juice can taste very strong, so you might choose to mix it with other vegetables: maybe add lemon and a few carrots, or lemon and courgette. Everything in moderation – don’t drink too much cabbage juice!
Javi, our Dr Coach (natural medicine doctor), suggests drinking cabbage water to help to cleanse and regenerate your digestive system and the intestinal flora. Take 3-5 leaves from the cabbage and boil in 2 litres of water for around 5 minutes. Leave the cabbage in the water for around 20 minutes then drain the water (use a strainer) into a bowl or large measuring jug. The cabbage water is then ready to drink (you can eat or throw away the leaves themselves).
Carrots are such colourful vegetables and the bright orange colour gives us a clue to their high beta-carotene content. The body uses beta-carotene to make vitamin A – that message from your grandmother about eating carrots to give you good vision is rooted in science! For our DIY detox, carrots contain antioxidants, so including carrots in your detox can help our bodies to clear away toxins. Carrots are also another great source of dietary fibre.
Carrots can also be eaten raw or cooked. Read our article ten recipe ideas for carrots for some inspiration! This month our juice recipe is detox delight where we team carrots and lemon, together with courgette (zucchini) and apple. Read here. You could easily add in some broccoli stem and/or cabbage to really boost its detox power! Pure carrot juice is also wonderful (and maybe add some lemon in for an extra zing!).
Lemons are a powerhouse of vitamins and are great for your detox. Lemon juice has been used as a natural cleaner for hundreds of years – many cultures still use lemons for cleaning around the house as natural disinfectant. Lemons contain lots of vitamins C, A, E and B6, so are great for maintaining your immune system. Putting all of this together means they are great to include in your diet when you want to cleanse from the inside.
Although lemons are highly acidic, their effect on the body is the opposite – they alkalise our body. This is what we want to achieve in our DIY detox. Many of the products we exclude from our diet during our detox (for example, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, meat, dairy) are acidic; generally the more acidic our diet is, the more acidic our body is. Research suggests that disease and ill-health are more likely to occur when our diets, bodies and lifestyles are acidic, and less likely when our diet (bodies and lifestyle) are either neutral pH or slightly alkaline. Adding lemon can assist you in bringing the body back to balance.
Sometimes lemons are coated with wax, so that the skin looks fresh and glossy, and so that they last a little longer. So, remember when you purchase a lemon in a supermarket, check if they are waxed or unwaxed (it should say on the label if they are waxed). If you do purchase waxed lemons, we suggest washing them very well (rubbing the lemon skin) to remove as much wax before zesting them to include in your food – or just use the lemon juice. For juicing we suggest cutting off the outside layer of the lemon skin, leaving the pith on.
A simple glass of warm water and lemon (slice, with some juice squeezed in) is a great way to start the day. Lemon activates your digestive system, so contributes to good digestive health (it helps to prevent constipation).
You can use lemon in your cooking, as a seasoning. We add it to most dishes served at La Crisalida Retreats, as it helps to enhance flavour, particularly when combined with fresh veggies, or herbs and spices.
Add a slice of lemon to your juice – it stabilises it and helps to slow down the oxidation process. (Oxidation occurs when a fruit or vegetable which has been cut comes into contact with oxygen – for example, if you cut an apple in half, you can see it turns brown. This apple does not taste as nice and also the vitamin content is reduced).
One extra tip: The scent from a lemon is useful for preventing mosquito bites (not a great concern for most of us in winter but something to remember for the summer!).
The human body is somewhere between 60-75% water (depending on age and sex), so you can already start to understand why we need to maintain regular consumption of water. Water is nature´s finest liquid, so it is an essential part of your DIY detox. For our detox, we can increase our water intake, so that it helps our organs and natural body systems to flush toxins out from the body.
Many people are actually a little dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when our body uses more water than we drink. The body knows it does not have enough water well before we start to feel thirsty – feeling thirst is one of the last steps! One way to tell if you are dehydrated is to check your lips – they should be full and moist. If your lips are dry then you are may be slightly de-hydrated, so drink more water! Another way to check is to look at the colour of your urine – it should be almost clear. Dark coloured urine is a sign of dehydration. During your detox your urine might change colour slightly, as your body lets go of toxins and chemicals. Keep drinking the water.
We suggest that you aim to drink between 3 and 5 litres everyday. You can include herbal teas in this count, but not carbonated sugary drinks, alcohol, coffee or black tea (sorry!). We prefer to drink our water slightly warm or at room temperature, particularly in the winter. Some researchers suggest that drinking ice cold water can slow down your digestive system, meaning that you are less likely to absorb all the nutrients from your food. Try it for yourself.
Adding a few slices (and squeeze) of lemon to your water, (and maybe some ginger too), makes a wonderful drink to consume first thing on a morning, or whenever you feel under the weather – the combination gives a boost to your immune system.
Remember, fresh vegetables also contain water, so maximise the amount of vegetables that you include.
Prescription medications and detox
Take care if you are on any form of prescribed medication – when making changes to your diet you need to check for any contraindications (these are things that you should not do when taking certain medications). Ask your doctor if you are unsure. For example, people taking warfarin (a blood thinner) need to be careful of the amount of vitamin K that they include in their diet; broccoli and cabbage are good sources of vitamin K, so you might need to restrict the amount you eat, otherwise the effect of your warfarin might be reduced.
Dealing with side effects?
Sometimes when you change your diet, or go through a detox, you can experience some side effects, like headaches or nausea. For some tips and suggestions on natural relief for these symptoms read our blog articles: natural remedies for curing headaches and natural relief from detox symptoms.
Other actions at home
Remember, what you eat (your diet) is only part of the equation. You also need to support your dietary cleanse with action, so get moving, maybe try rebounding, find a dance class, or go walking, the action really helps. Include yoga in your day – read this months article yin yoga asanas for DIY detox. Make sure you get enough sleep.
Sometimes changing your environment can help – come and try it on one of our detox retreats.
Let us know how you get on.
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).