Detoxing and Cleansing 101

(As seen in The Telegram on Monday, May 16th 2011)

Cleansing and detoxing are areas of popular public interest, but also where a lot of nutrition and health misinformation resides. Many so called diets, treatments and products have numerous claims, among them to rid the body of harmful wastes, lose weight and generally improve health through cleaning organs such as the liver, intestines, and gallbladder. There is no clinical definition for a detox or cleanse, but it tends to involve a fasting regime followed by certain foods, an elimination of various foods followed by a strict diet, or a cocktail of herbal tablets or laxatives often resulting in diarrhea (apparently in an effort to rid the large intestine of harmful toxins). Consumers should know that currently these regimes and diet are not regulated in Canada. This means that claims made by manufactures, such as 'This product can help get rid of toxins making you store fat' or 'Product x is an all natural weight loss product' are unfounded and need not follow the same guidelines as a health claim on foods (e.g. a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, a disease associated with many factors). Not only is there no science to back claims for detoxing and cleansing, but these products, diets and procedures are often quite expensive. Consumers would be best off to spend their money on foods that are rich in antioxidants and fiber – which all work naturally to help our bodies. Foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are especially good sources. So what exactly are the best sources in these foods for maximum fiber and antioxidant punch? With fruits try papaya, red and pink grapefruit, kiwi, cantaloupe, apricots, figs and berries. For vegetables try dark greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, endive, mustard and turnip greens, brussel sprouts and artichokes, and dark orange colors like pumpkin, and carrot. Legumes include beans, peas and lentils. Generally all choices here are good as long as baked beans aren't covered in molasses and salt pork! As a suggestion try soybeans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans or another favorite bean in a dish at least once a week. Nutritionally packed nuts and seeds are those without added salt, and free of sugar, yogurt or chocolate coatings. Good choices for maximum fiber and antioxidants include pecans, walnuts, almonds, peanuts and sunflower, flax, chia and hemp seeds.

Detoxing and cleansing our bodies with pills and potions is just unsound and unnecessary for our bodies as we're already equipped with kidneys, a liver, and digestive track which help us do just so! Instead of taking that extra money to spend on the latest fad cleanse or detox, try adding a few extra of the above fresh, frozen, canned or dried foods to your grocery cart. Besides adding a few extra plant based foods to your plate seriously consider becoming more physically active as well. We all know that carrying extra weight hinder our health, but did you know that fat tissue is actually where (if any) toxins and harmful substances our bodies are carrying is usually found. For healthy living try and aim for two and a half hours a week, or 30 minutes on most days.

If you're into the idea of being your healthiest and cleaning your body for the summer, good eating choices and being active is really what you should be focusing your time on. Say bye-bye to the milkshakes and powdered cocktail concoctions and instead try a fiber and antioxidant rich smoothie recipe as a start to the new and healthy you. Remember, no cleanses, no detoxes required, just smart healthy choices.

Chocolate Almond Smoothie

1 ripe banana, peeled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup 1% milk (want to be adventurous? Try substituting this for soy milk!)
2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup ice cubes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in blender, serve immediately.

Berry Yogurt Smoothie

1/2 cup frozen unsweetened raspberries
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened blackberries
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp ground flaxseed
pinch of ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in blender, serve immediately.