By Ali Lopez
The calendar says Spring is just around the corner. Here’s hoping that’s true! After a long winter of indulging in comfort foods, maybe your body is ready for a change of pace, ready to cleanse. Our bodies store up as much as they can in the winter, trying to keep us warm. By spring our liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract are ready to let go of all that they have held on to, including toxins.
The best thing you can do is give them a break. Don’t worry though, I am not talking about a 10 day juice fast or special detox plan. I am talking about healing with real foods. You really needn’t look much further than the produce section and your own kitchen to do a little spring cleansing of your own.
Eat Clean & Fresh to Naturally Detox
A super-clean eating program can do wonders for the body and mind. The great thing about the human body is that it knows how to cleanse, instinctively. We just need to give it the right environment to succeed. For instance, feasting on fresh fruits and vegetables is great for the body and digestive system, and doing so allows the organs to do their job without interference. To get started, simply remove what is unnatural, and include what is fresh and real. When support is given to the body nutritionally, it naturally detoxes. Here are some of my favorite foods and ways to help detoxify, hydrate, and refresh your body all naturally, just in time for Spring!
Easy (and delicious) Ways to Detox
Lemon Water – Starting the day with a glass of water infused with lemon (hot or room temperature) is a proven strategy to help cleanse your body. Lemons contain lots of vitamin C and are great for digestion and alkalizing the body. Lemon juice is so versatile in cooking too. My favorite salad dressing is a simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. You can also add lemon to smoothies, marinades, and a squeeze of lemon on pasta, chicken, fish or in soup really helps bring out the flavors. And the zest is wonderful on any cooked vegetable.
Greens – Go green! Start your body’s spring cleanse by adding more greens – especially dark leafy greens such as bok choy, kale, chard, spinach and collards. Young, leafy greens such as baby lettuces or dandelion leaves, fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro as well as seasonal veggies such as asparagus, radishes, spring onions, chives, garlic scapes and peas are great for a springtime diet too. Raw veggies are highly alkalizing and high in fiber, which helps cleanse the colon and detoxify the liver.
Ginger and turmeric are two of my favorite spices any time of year but especially in the spring. Ginger is great for digestion and has strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus it tastes great. Turmeric is another spice that has been in spotlight lately. It is a powerful antioxidant that has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. I make a ginger, turmeric and lemon tea sweetened with a little honey. Yum!
A few other ways to lighten up your springtime diet:
- avocadoes for healthy fats
- juicy fruits like citrus, pineapple, apples and antioxidant rich berries
- get outside and soak up some Vitamin D
Spring Cleanse Recipes
Here are a few of my favorite springtime cleansing recipes.
Kitchari is a traditional Ayurvedic dish that’s known to assist in detoxing the body and provides awesome nutrients. The combination of beans and rice makes for a complete protein, while the spices stoke our digestive fire. And it tastes delicious! Serves 4 – 6.
1 cup dry mung dal (split yellow) or red lentils, soaked overnight
1 cup basmati rice, soaked overnight
4-6 cups water (more water will make it soupier)
2-3 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
2-inch piece fresh ginger root, minced
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon whole cumin seed
1 tablespoon whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Himalayan pink sea salt (or regular sea salt) to taste
Optional add ins: fresh greens (dandelion, spinach, kale); fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley); seasonal cooked veggies (asparagus, peas, carrots, beets); yogurt; avocado
- Drain rice and red lentils in a colander and set aside.
- Sauté seeds in ghee over medium heat until they pop, then add ginger. Add all remaining spices (not salt) and stir for about 1 minute. Put spice mixture, rice, and dal/lentils into a stock pot. Stir until well coated. Add 4 cups water, stir, and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring once or twice. You may need to add more water at this point. If you are adding greens or cooked veggies you may add now. Season with salt to taste
Spring Green Quinoa with Parsley Pesto
For the Pesto
2 cups fresh parsley
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan (optional)
2 garlic cloves
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil
For the Quinoa
2 cups quinoa, preferably soaked overnight, drained
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 lb. small asparagus cut on the diagonal, 1-inch
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 good handfuls fresh baby spinach
Olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper, to taste
- For the pesto: place parsley, garlic and walnuts in a food processor bowl and pulse until combined. Add in remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
- For the quinoa: In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over medium heat. Add quinoa and salt. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes, still covered. This will allow the quinoa to fully absorb the water and become nice and fluffy.
- In a large skillet heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add asparagus to skillet. After about 5 minutes add peas and sauté until tender but still bright green and al dente, about 10 minutes. Then add the spinach and toss to wilt slightly. Remove from heat. Add quinoa and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the pesto (or to your taste) to the skillet. Mix well. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with extra Parmesan if you like. Serve warm or at room temperature. The leftover pesto keeps great in the fridge.
Detox Spring Salad
2 cups baby spinach (or mixed greens)
2 cups arugula
1 avocado, pitted, diced
1 clementine, grapefruit or blood orange, peeled, sectioned
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
- Toss spinach and arugula with avocado and citrus.
- For the dressing, place the lemon juice and honey in a small jar with a lid. Shake to dissolve the honey. Add the oil, salt and pepper. Replace lid and shake until combined. Pour some of the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat it lightly. (You may have extra dressing.)
- Top with seeds.
Roasted Beets and Carrots over Greens
4 beets, peeled and diced medium
6 large carrots, peeled and diced medium
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
4 cups beet greens (or swiss chard, leaves only), washed, chopped
1 tseaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
juice of 1 lemon
1/ 4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine coconut oil, beets and carrots together well and spread on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast beets and carrots until tender (approximately 30-40 mins.) Meanwhile, combine all dressing ingredients together and shake well.
- Wilt greens briefly in a pan over low heat, with the water that clings to them. Toss the beets with dressing and serve atop wilted greens warm or room temperature.
Ali Lopez is a wellness chef and health coach. She has been cooking, feeding and teaching others about real food for over 20 years. She was Chef de Cuisine at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY, one of the largest vegetarian kitchens in North America. Ali is also a Certified Health Coach and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Email: [email protected]