“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live”
– Jim Rohn
As we head into the New Year, many of us decide to go on a detox. Christmas and partying can leave us feeling sluggish and tired with poor skin and low immunity. January is full of adverts for starting new diets and doing drastic juice cleanses. In this article, I shall be looking at the best approach to improving your health, without resorting to a difficult to follow faddy diet that leaves you hungry and grumpy! The five simple actions below could change your health and wellbeing for good.
You will not see any reference to calorie intake as not all calories are created equally; for example, a 2-finger KitKat contains the same number of calories as an entire large punnet of strawberries, but without any of the health benefits. The approach below focuses on real foods that will nourish your body and detoxify it naturally and slowly, which is the safest way to do this.
The first thing to consider is why you want to detox? What are you hoping will change in your health and wellbeing? Make yourself a list of the changes you would like to see in your health and wellbeing and then put this somewhere you can read every day. This will help you stay on track while you are getting used to eating in a more healthful way. Your list might look something like this:
Have more energy
Have clearer skin
Be less bloated
Be more focussed
Next, rate your current levels out of 10. For example, energy 2/10. Every week re-score your motivation targets and see your progress. This will help you to keep on track as you see your scores increase. Remember, some improvements will happen more quickly than others. A traditional detox tends to last for a few days to a few weeks. I suggest that you move away from this diet mindset and consider how you can begin to embed the changes below over the longer term (lifelong) – your body will thank you for it!
Now let’s look at the five actions you can take to achieve your goals:
Hydration – aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. This can include herbal tea and green tea. Hydration is key to good digestion and energy. Too little fluids and you may feel sluggish and develop headaches. A good tip is to start your day with a mug of hot water and with a slice of lemon – this hydrates and kickstarts both your liver and digestive system.
Cut out the alcohol and reduce your caffeine intake - alcohol disrupts your microbiome, making it harder to absorb the nutrients from your food, it also places an extra load on your liver, meaning that it can be difficult to get rid of other toxins and to keep your hormones stable. Caffeine increases the level of cortisol in our bodies. While this is great for keeping us alert, it is not helpful when we are trying to get back on track as it disrupts sleep and can upset the digestive system. Try to limit your coffee and tea to just a couple of cups in the morning. Instead, try drinks that have health benefits such as a matcha, turmeric latte, kombucha, kefir or sparkling water with crushed berries or citrus slices.
Eat your greens - winter vegetables such as broccoli, kale, chard, spinach, cabbage and Brussels sprouts contain compounds that support liver function, and slow cognitive decline. They are high in fibre, so are great for supporting digestion and keeping your gut bacteria happy. In addition, they are rich in vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin E. Aim to eat 2 portions of green vegetables every day, I’ve included a recipe at the end of the article to get you started!
Fill your plate – the best way to improve nutrient intake and reduce toxins, at the same time as reaching a healthy weight, is to have the right proportion of the right foods on your plate. Aim for half of your plate being piled with vegetables (you are aiming for 7 portions a day), just over a quarter with a good quality protein such as chicken, oily fish, tofu, lentils, beans, quinoa, and just under a quarter with carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, wholegrain rice, wholemeal pasta. The image below gives you a good idea of the balance:
Cut out the sugar - eating sugary foods leads to blood sugar imbalance, which means you are on an energy roller coaster – full of highs and wobbly lows where you might get ‘hangry’ and find yourself reaching for more sugar to counteract the effect. Long-term sugar consumption increases the risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. You will find high levels of sugar in cakes, biscuits, sweets, fruit juice, white bread, white crackers, sugary drinks and of course sugar itself! It can be hard to simply give up sugar as it has addictive properties. If you find it tricky to give up, make a start by reducing the sugar in your drinks, and saying no to biscuits. If you find yourself craving something sweet, try doing something else that you enjoy, or sit with the feeling for a moment and decide if the sugar is fulfilling some other need – if so, what can you change? Swap sugary snacks for lower sugar versions such as a handful of nuts, oatcakes with guacamole or nut butter, a piece of dark chocolate, or a simple piece of fruit.
Finally, avoid spending your money on anything labelled ‘detox’ or ‘diet’ – at best you are wasting your money, at worst they can do harm.
Here is a deliciously simple health-boosting recipe to get you started:
Rocket and walnut pesto with pasta and greens:
80g fresh rocket leaves
30g bunch of fresh basil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (or parmesan cheese)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed.
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
You could substitute spinach for the rocket, and sunflower seeds or cashew for the walnuts to make the most of what you may have in the cupboard/fridge!
Place all of the ingredients in a blender, or in a jug with a stick blender, and blend until fairly smooth, you may need to add a splash of water or extra olive oil if the mixture is too thick.
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Serve with 100g wholemeal or lentil pasta per person, cooked according to instructions, topped with leftover roasted vegetables or steamed broccoli and greens.
I hope that this inspires you to detoxify your body in a healthy way. If you would like to know more about how to support your health and wellbeing through a functional medicine approach, please visit me at www.be-perfectly-nourished.co.uk.
This post was written by Melanie Jopling (BSc (Hons), PGDip, mBANT, rCNHC), qualified and registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioner based in Ackworth.