Sick of heavy, hearty stews? Ready to shed all things bulky and burdensome—sweaters, snow boots, belly fat—that epitomize the long, cold months of winter? A cooling, cleansing spring menu offers a lighter, fresher approach to food, and a way to shed toxins and stored fat at winter’s end.
Cleansing foods support your body’s detoxification systems and organs, especially the liver, kidneys, and colon, helping them work more effectively to remove toxins from the body. They’re also free of additional toxins, easy to digest, and anti-inflammatory.
Cooling foods are thought to help reduce inflammation in the body and address internal heat conditions that can lead to disease. In Ayurvedic medicine, cooling foods are naturally sweet or bitter (think plums, berries, and arugula). Other cooling foods include those that have a high water content, such as melons and cucumber.
Cooking methods can have a detoxifying effect, as well. Steamed, poached, and raw foods, for example, are more cooling and cleansing than fried, grilled, or roasted dishes.
Poached Salmon with Green Herb Sauce
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fats that reduce inflammation. It’s also high in protein, which helps the body complete the Phase 2 aspect of detoxification. The sauce makes ample use of summer's cooling green herbs. For variety, try different combinations of health-boosting, seasonal herbs.
4 white tea, jasmine tea or green tea bags
2 large wild Alaskan salmon fillets, skin removed (11/2 lbs. total)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. minced basil
2 Tbs. minced parsley
2 Tbs. minced chives
1 tsp. minced oregano
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 small garlic clove, minced
- Bring 2 cups water to a boil in large skillet. Add tea bags, remove from heat, cover, and let steep 2 minutes. Remove tea bags, and discard.
- Bring tea water to a boil, and add fish fillets. Reduce heat, cover, and poach 8–12 minutes, depending on thickness, until fillets are opaque in center. Remove fish from pan with slotted spoon, draining off water.
- While fish is cooking, combine olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley, chives, oregano, thyme, and garlic in small jar with tight lid. Shake to mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Arrange fish fillets on four plates, top with sauce, and serve immediately.
per serving: 437 cal; 47g pro; 26g total fat (5g sat fat); 1g carb; 97mg chol; 92mg sod; <1g fiber; <1g sugars
Avocado-Leek Soup with Salsa Fresca
Avocados and leeks, the base of this deliciously cool and creamy soup, both encourage the body's production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. A spicy salsa fresca garnish adds color and also helps boost metabolism with capsaicin, a compound found in hot peppers. If you like, toss in a handful of gluten-free croutons for extra crunch.
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small serrano pepper, finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced red onion
1 small lime, juiced
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium leek, thinly sliced, white part and some pale green
2 large, ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup almond milk
Dash white pepper
- Combine tomatoes, serrano pepper, red onion, lime, garlic, and cilantro in medium bowl. Stir to mix, season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to 2 hours.
- While salsa is chilling, add olive oil and leeks to medium skillet, and sauté over medium-low heat 3–5 minutes, until soft, but not brown. Remove from heat, and transfer to a food processor.
- Add avocado and stock to leeks, and blend until very smooth and creamy. Stir in almond milk, and season to taste with white salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- To serve, divide soup among four individual serving bowls. Top each with a generous portion (about 1/3 cup) of salsa.
Avocados and leeks in this tasty soup boost the body’s production of glutathione, the “master antioxidant.”
per serving: 289 cal; 4g pro; 23g total fat (3g sat fat); 23g carb; 0mg chol; 311mg sod; 10g fiber; 5g sugars
Coconut Ice Cream with Blackberry Coulis
This creamy, dairy-free alternative to ice cream is rich in antibacterial and antiviral coconut. The berries in the coulis—a traditional fruit sauce—are high in fiber and healing antioxidants. You can use any type of berry you prefer, or substitute cherries and vanilla for the blackberries and mint.
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup honey, divided
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
Whole mint leaves for garnish
- Combine coconut milk, coconut flakes, 1/4 cup honey, vanilla, and lemon juice in blender, and process until smooth.
- Transfer mixture to ice cream maker, and process according to directions.
- While ice cream is processing, combine blackberries and 1/4 cup honey in food processor, and pulse until berries are crushed but still have some texture. Pour into small pan, and heat over medium heat 8–10 minutes, until thickened. Return sauce to food processor, and purée on high until very smooth. For a more traditional coulis, pass through fine sieve or mesh strainer before serving.
- To serve, place scoops of ice cream in four serving dishes and drizzle with coulis. Garnish with mint leaves, and serve immediately.
This non-dairy treat is loaded with antiviral and antibacterial coconut, plus antioxidant-rich berries.
per serving: 404 cal; 3g pro; 26g total fat; (22g sat fat); 45g carb; 0mg chol; 17mg sod; 4g fiber; 38g sugars
Dandelion Salad with Warm Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette & Toasted Pine Nuts
Dandelion greens have long been used as a potent liver tonic. This riff on a traditional wilted spinach salad uses a warm dressing to soften the aggressive flavor of the dandelion greens. Add more spinach if you prefer a milder flavor.
1/4 cup pine nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, or macadamias also work well)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 bunches dandelion leaves, trimmed and chopped (3–4 cups)
4 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- Toast nuts in small pan over low heat until fragrant, stirring almost constantly and being careful not to burn. Transfer to bowl, and set aside.
- Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and shallots to pan, and gently cook over low heat, 5 minutes, until soft but not browned. Combine shallots in small blender with remaining olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and tarragon leaves. Process on low until smooth. Return to pan, and warm through until hot.
- In medium bowl, combine dandelion, spinach, red onions, and pine nuts. Drizzle with enough dressing to lightly coat leaves, and toss to mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.
per serving: 228 cal; 3g pro; 20g total fat (2g sat fat); 11g carb; 0mg chol; 107mg sod; 4g fiber; 2g sugars
Eight traits of cleansing foods
What actually makes a food “cleansing?” Some of the main characteristics:
- It’s high in fiber. Fiber helps sweep cholesterol and toxins from the body and promotes more frequent bowel movements. You’ll find it in whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- It’s unprocessed. Cleansing foods are free of preservatives, additives, colors, sugars, damaged fats (such as trans fats and hydrogenated fats), and artificial sweeteners.
- It's (mostly) vegetarian. Meat is generally high in toxins and arachidonic acid—an omega-6 fatty acid that can cause inflammation. Salmon and other wild-caught cold- water fish can be considered cleansing because they’re low in toxins and high in healthy fats. Farmed fish may contain arachidonic acid as well as environmental pollutants.
- It's full of antioxidants. Cleansing foods contain compounds that heal the body and remove toxins. Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, collards, and cabbage contain diindolylmethane (DIM), a compound that helps detoxify harmful forms of estrogen.
- It benefits the liver. Certain foods and herbs, including dandelion, grapefruit, and rosemary, stimulate the liver and increase bile production. Others, such as whey protein, garlic, onions, Brazil nuts, and cruciferous vegetables, support the production of glutathione, often called the “master antioxidant.”
- It’s free of gluten, dairy, & sugar. Gluten is high in a protein called gliadin, which can damage the intestines. Dairy can be mucous-forming and difficult to digest (with the exception of whey protein). And sugar has been shown to alter bacterial composition in the gut, making it difficult for the colon to function properly.
- It heals digestion. Bitter foods stimulate hydrochloric acid production and promote digestion. And fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kim chi, and homemade or high-quality yogurt repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.
- It’s alkalizing to the body. Alkalizing foods balance the excess acidity caused by a high intake of sugar, grains, and animal proteins. Leafy greens and sea vegetables are especially alkalizing.
Lisa Turner is a certified food psychology coach, nutritional healer, intuitive eating consultant, and author. She has written five books on food and nutrition and developed the Inspired Eats iPhone app. Visit her online at inspiredeating.com.