In every season, clients want to know my opinion on detox diets they are considering. Most often they are not concerned about ridding their bodies of toxins, as much as the excess pounds they’ve accumulated! According to toxicologist Andy Gandolfi, most chemicals are fat soluble and get stored in fat cells and the best way to get rid them is to lose weight.

The best detox diet is one that is based on natural foods including those rich is antioxidants and other key phytochemicals which support the body’s natural detoxification process.

In a recent article in Today’s Dietitian, Dr. Stephen Genuis, a key researcher of toxins and detoxification, is quoted as saying that “nutrition is absolutely essential for proper detoxification and optimal health” (ref. Diet and Detoxification by Julianne Schaeffer Today’s Dietitian Vol. 16 No. 3 P.34).

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The winter season is a time of restoration, introspection, and nourishment, a perfect time to enjoy warming and nutrient-dense foods. Your body lets you know when it is cold outside by longing for foods and beverages like soups and hot teas to ease your shivering unlike those we crave in the summer like salads and thirst-quenching drinks like iced tea.

Herbalists recommend eating foods according to the seasons so we are in balance with the forces of nature. In the winter these include simple nutrient-dense foods such as cooked root vegetables, grass fed meats, cold water fish (e.g. salmon); farm fresh eggs, cooked greens, bone broth soups; fermented foods, bitters with meals.

In addition healthy fats, e.g., coconut, olive oil; warming spices (garlic, ginger, cinnamon, pepper; immune supporting herbs like Astragulus, Reishi, and Cordyceps) are also suggested. (www.herbalremediesadvice.org)

Dr. Erin Martin recommends eating foods grown locally that haven’t lost key nutrients due to extensive shipping times. Her top 12 winter detox foods include: collard greens, garlic, almonds; cauliflower; spices: ginger, turmeric, cumin, pepper and fennel, lentils; kale; beets; onions; lemons (and limes); cabbage and apples. www.mindbodygreen.com

Since Winter is a time for introspection, it’s an ideal season to review your relationship with food. When following a detox diet note that cravings may arise. Keep in mind that true hunger arises gradually, often as an empty or burning sensation in the stomach unlike cravings which come on suddenly originating in the mind.

True hunger is more non-specific whereas a craving is usually an intense desire for a specific food, like chocolate. Cravings can be a signal that you are longing for something other than food. If you’re having a craving, try to figure out what it is you really want. Instead of eating, try a different activity like going for a walk, journaling your thoughts or calling a friend.

Cravings just after peaking, like waves, will pass. The longer you go without satisfying a craving the better you will be at it long-term.

Studies suggest that people who make a really big change successfully stick to it better than those who make small incremental changes.

Initially it may be easier to make small changes, but it is also easier to go backward from a smaller change than it is a large change according to Amy Joy Lanous, PhD, nutrition scientist. (Ref. Spring Cleansing: Assessing the benefits and risks of detox diets by Julianne Schaeffer, today’s dietitian)

Most detox diets have similar elimination lists including the following: caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, dairy, gluten (wheat, rye, and barley), processed foods and white sugar and sometimes dairy. Green tea is often included for it antioxidants but does contain caffeine although much less then coffee.

The following natural food diet is perfect for winter as it emphasizes root vegetables and other seasonal foods which support the detoxification process. This plan will help eliminate toxins and excess calories found in many processed foods associated with the standard American diet, and will add nourishment and warmth to those bitter cold winter days.

Remember to drink plenty of fluids like water and hot herbal teas like peppermint, chamomile, ginger, thyme, elderberry, etc. in place of caffeinated beverages to support the high fiber benefits of this diet. Relax, take a deep breath and enjoy!

Natural detox diet perfect for the winter months

Day 1

Breakfast: Irish oatmeal with ground flaxseed, chopped apples, cinnamon, vanilla mixed in, topped with almond slivers (use equal parts of almond milk and water to cook)
Lunch: Butternut squash soup (see recipe below)
Snack: Warm apple slices with coconut-cashew dip (see recipe)
Dinner: Brown rice and grilled chicken breast with sautéed kale (see recipe)

Day 2:

Breakfast: Oven-baked egg in avocado (see recipe)
Lunch: Tomato soup
Snack: Cantaloupe slices
Dinner: Broiled salmon kebobs with zucchini, onion and red pepper on skewers with lemon juice and dill, seasoned with salt and pepper served over couscous

Day 3:

Breakfast: Blueberry buckwheat pancakes, maple syrup; small banana sliced with peanut butter
Lunch: Lentil soup
Snack: apple and handful of walnuts halves
Dinner: Broiled sirloin with balsamic oven roasted baby red potatoes (roasted in olive oil, balsamic, rosemary, salt and pepper) served with sautéed spinach (use same recipe as kale)

Day 4:

Breakfast: 3/4 cup Greek-style (or dairy free) full fat yogurt with ¼ cup gluten-free granola, and sliced banana
Lunch: Chickpea vegetable soup
Snack: an orange and pecans
Dinner: pork stew with carrots, celery and potatoes served over basmati rice, and oven baked beets

Day 5:

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Quinoa hash browns (recipe below)
Lunch:
Snack: sunflowers seeds, almonds, and cranberry mixture
Dinner: Oven roasted turkey breast with beets and sweet potato

Recipes

Butternut squash soup

(adapted from whole foods classic butternut squash soup)

– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 large carrot, diced
– 1 celery stalk, diced
– 1 medium onion diced
– 1 leek, diced
– 1 clove garlic chopped
– 4 cups cubed butternut squash, fresh or frozen
– 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
– 3-14.5 oz. cans chicken broth
– 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
-¼ tsp. ginger

Preheat oven to 350. Place cubed squash in a pan drizzled with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, (seasoned with salt and pepper if desired), and cook for 20 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large soup pot. Add carrot, celery, onion, leek, and garlic. Cook until vegetables have begun to soften and onion turns translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in butternut squash, thyme, nutmeg, ginger, chicken broth, pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 10-15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to purée soup. Alternatively, let the soup cool slightly and carefully purée in batches in an upright blender.

Natural detox diet perfect for the winter months

Cashew-coconut creamy dip

– ¾ cup cashew butter
– ¼ cup coconut butter or spread
– ½ tsp. vanilla
– 1/3 to ¼ cup almond milk
– 1 and ½ Tablespoon agave nectar

Mix all in ingredients in a food processor or blender (if it is too thick add extra almond milk or coconut oil until texture is creamy and easy to blend). Serving size is ¼ cup. Makes about 4 servings.

Sauteed kale

(or spinach)

– 1 cup water
– 1 bunch kale
– 1 clove garlic
– 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
– 1 large lemon
– Salt and pepper

Heat skillet, fill with 1 cup water and bring to a boil; tear kale or spinach in bunches and add to pan, cook on medium covered until kale is bright green (about 5 minutes). Remove kale or spinach leaves and wipe pan dry. Add olive oil and cook garlic until fragrant, return kale or spinach to the pan and stir. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze lemon over top and serve.

Avocado baked eggs

1 small avocado halved and pitted with about a tablespoon avocado scooped out of each half to leave room for an egg in each.
2 eggs (smaller sized)
Salt, pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 F. Place each avocado half in ramekin or small baking dish. Crack one egg into each avocado half; season with salt and pepper. Place ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake in oven until egg is cooked through about-20 minutes (cooking time will depend on size of egg and avocado) (adapted from recipe www.allrecipes.com)

Quinoa breakfast hash browns,

Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

– 1/3 cup quinoa
– 2/3 cup water
– 1 1/2 cups peeled and grated raw potato
– 1 large egg
– 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
– 1/4 teaspoon pepper
– 1 tablespoon butter
– 2 green onions

Combine the water and the uncooked quinoa in a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the covered pot on the burner for another 6 minutes. Gently fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked quinoa with the egg, grated potato, pepper, and salt. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter in the pan. Scoop 1/3-½ cup of the quinoa mixture into the pan and flatten out the hash brown patty with the back of a spatula. Cook the hash browns for 5-7 minutes on each side until golden brown. Repeat process with the remaining mixture.

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