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.
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.
- Poached Salmon with Green Herb Sauce
- Avocado-Leek Soup with Salsa Fresca
- Coconut Ice Cream with Blackberry Coulis
- Dandelion Salad with Warm Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette & Toasted Pine Nuts
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.