From Maria: We spring clean our homes, so why not our bodies? After a long winter of heavy foods and hibernating, it’s not uncommon to pack on a few extra pounds. But as the weather warms up and our clothing gets lighter, wouldn’t it be nice to peel off the pounds with the winter layers?
Since spring is the time of rebirth, it’s the perfect season to reset your body. Here’s how and why to do it.
When juggling a career, family and a social life, it’s easy to rely on takeout and packaged foods to get you through the week. But too much sugar, alcohol, caffeine, animal products and processed foods (think cereal, American cheese or most things that come in a package) can leave your skin lifeless, your digestion sluggish, your energy drained and your midsection a little plumper than you’d prefer.
Our body thrives on a diet filled with whole, plant-based foods, including fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. These are the foods that give us energy, support vibrant skin and aid in weight-loss.
In our day-to-day life, although these foods should be driving our diets, sometimes they take the backseat. By embarking on a short-term food detox for three, seven or 30 days, in which you cut out all processed and refined foods in favor of nutrient- and fiber-dense whole foods, you essentially hit the restart button on your body.
Not only will you feel better and likely lose weight during a food detox, the rapid results are often impetus enough to encourage you to keep up your newfound healthier eating habits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping 87% of Americans fall short of consuming the recommended 4.5+ cups of vegetables and fruit a day. A food detox should contain at minimum that amount, if not more. You’ll find when you eat an abundance of fresh produce, you won’t feel as hungry, your cravings will begin to diminish and your digestion will likely improve.
During a food detox, you’re still eating three delicious meals a day, you’re just choosing your ingredients more wisely (and deliberately leaving out certain foods).
In general, you will include whole, plant-based foods including fresh (organic when possible) vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and spices, while avoiding meat, dairy, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol.
But don’t imagine three days of chomping on celery sticks. Meals can be cooked and flavored with spices, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
Following this type of diet floods your body with nutrients and fiber, while eliminating any foods that may be inhibiting your digestion or adding to your toxin load (for example, pesticides from conventional produce, antibiotics from factory farmed meat, PCBs and mercury from fish, etc.).
Some of the top foods noted for their ability to support the body’s natural detoxification processes are cruciferous vegetables, dark leafy greens, and the spice turmeric, so be sure to include plenty of them.
You can undergo a food detox at any point in the year, although any change of seasons is a great time, especially springtime, as you transition your body away from the heavy winter foods to the lighter foods of the new season.
While undertaking a short and focused food detox 1-4 times a year is great, in truth it’s a great idea to start incorporating these foods and spices into your daily diet, so you get to reap the benefits daily instead of quarterly or yearly!
Unlike a juice fast which requires preparation to ease your body into it, a food detox needs no such ramp-up period.
To ensure the food detox is painless, start small. Choose a three-day period when you won’t have work dinners or events planned that will make it difficult for you to stay on track. Make a meal plan and grocery shop to have all the necessary ingredients at home. And, if you feel like you may be tempted by snack food or anything not on the detox menu, be sure to get it out of your house! Either finish it off, donate it or give it to friends, but make sure the packaged stuff is out of sight.
After you complete a three-day detox, you may want to try a longer seven- or 30-day food detox down the line.
Unlike a juice fast, which can leave you longing for any sort of solid food, a food detox that incorporates whole foods should leave you so full and satisfied, you don’t want anything else.
If you feel like you want to snack between meals, opt for chopped veggies with homemade guacamole, hummus or olive tapenade. If you’re craving something sweet, go for melon, apple or other fresh fruit.
You can do anything for three (or seven, or 30) days, right? So, stick to it!
During a food detox, incorporate these practices to ensure your success:
· Eat your dinner early, so you have at least 3-4 hours before you go to bed (digestion slows at night, and this helps ensure you properly digest your food each evening).
· Aim to get 8 hours of sleep to allow your body adequate time to rest and repair.
· Drink plenty of water, at least 2.2 liters or 8-10 cups, to assist in sweeping toxins out of your body.
· Move your body each day. Moderate exercise helps to rev up your lymphatic system, which helps eliminate toxins from the body.
After the detox is up, make an effort to incorporate more whole foods into your diet. It can be as simple as swapping a 100- calorie snack pack for an apple or handful of nuts. Brown bag your lunch if you know there aren’t great options near your office. And consciously aim to consume at minimum 4.5 cups of vegetables and fruit a day!
While these rules give you a general overview of how to complete food detox, if you’d like a complete detox meal plan, with a shopping list, menu, and recipes, download my 3-day Spring Detox Meal Plan (bonus! It’s free!).
For more from Maria, read her columns on health and wellness on our site or visit mariamarlowe.com.
Illustrations: Ben Wagner