After the fun and games of the festive season who hasn’t thought of trying to improve their health as a New Year’s resolution? Recovering from the excesses of the Christmas period now is the time we often look for diets or detoxes. Mid-winter isn’t traditionally a well-known time for a detox and in our practice we tend to advise spring and autumn as the best time for a seasonal cleanse. But any time is a good time for a gentle detox if we design it properly according to the season.
In winter we need a nourishing, supportive detox - nothing too extreme :) So if you are feeling run-down or congested then lightening up the diet can help improve digestion and the body’s natural capacity to detox. According to Ayurveda the strength of our digestion (agni) is directly related to our capacity to detoxify.
Over the Christmas period we often eat too much heavy food - excess fat and overly sugary and starchy food. These can create congestion in the body and can also cause inflammatory responses.
We can work by reducing pro-inflammatory foods and drinks together with lightening the diet and eating more foods that contain anti–inflammatory nutrients such as green vegetables and leafy greens.
So here are some tips that I use in my clinic to help people regain vibrant health for the new year.
Give your digestive system a well-earned rest
Now is a good time to lighten up your diet. But not too much as we are still in the throes of winter and need fuel. Three meals a day is still a good idea with an emphasis on seasonal whole foods and a reduction of processed foods or those high in fat, sugar or salt. But try not to overeat – aim to leave the table when you are 80% full.
Minimise bread and dairy products – milk and yoghurts are considered damp and mucus forming so according to Ayurveda are not a good idea at this time of year. When digestive power is not at full strength then bread can sit in the intestines for longer, upsetting the bacterial balance causing symptoms such as bloating and difficulty losing weight, so it is best reduced or avoided in the short term.
Emphasise plenty of fresh, organic veggies. Pulses such as mung beans and lentils are a good source of protein. Kitchari is an Ayurvedic favourite. If you want to eat meat then lean chicken and fish are good choices. Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet and are great sources of dietary fibre but try not to eat grains every meal - you could try a grain-free breakfast such as stewed apple with cinnamon or make spiralised vegetable noodles for lunch or dinner.
Reduce coffee and alcohol
Try to reduce coffee to one cup per day. Organic green tea is an ideal substitute as it is full of medicinal properties and gives our metabolism a necessary to boost to aid the detox process; but without the ups and downs or the acidity of coffee. Herbal teas are also a great support to any detox and help keep you well hydrated.
One of the best health routines is a daily walk. A daily ‘constitutional’ in the fresh air does wonders for the body and soul and is the exercise I most often recommend. Walk at a brisk pace - so that your breathing rate is slightly increased - for 15 minutes every day. That’s all :). The positive effects include improved mood, weight loss, healthy blood pressure and much more.
Guggul formula– combing the congestion and lymph clearing properties of guggul with Triphala this is a great choice for a New Year’s detox.
Triphala – great gentle detox for all seasons and is ideal as part of a cleanse
Detox tea – containing nature’s super cleansing herbs - dandelion and nettle, Freetox tea gently supports the body’s natural detoxification process. Drink as an everyday tea or as part of your New Year’s cleanse.
Above all be happy!
Not as easy as it sounds – contentment and equanimity are the keys to a successful life. Long-term stress has a direct negative effect on our metabolism – reducing our capacity to metabolise our food properly and hampering the body’s natural ability to detoxify. Diets, cleanses and fasting can also be stressful! Our advice is to take it slowly, prepare tasty food that you enjoy, don’t go hungry; and try to foster a nurturing feeling rather than a sense of deprivation.
Here are a couple of recipe ideas to help you with your detox – good luck!
Breakfast idea: Stewed Apple Soup (Serves 2)
4 dried, stoned dates
6 dried, unsulphured apricots
2 dried figs
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Main meals: Green Veggie and Cashew Nut Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped (optional)
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 large leek
1 medium head of broccoli separated into florets
1 small courgette
1 large handful cavallo nero or alternative green such as chard, spinach or kale
1 bunch fresh basil
Handful of cashew nuts
1 litre vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute onion until golden brown. Add chopped garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add turmeric and coriander powder.
Add the broccoli, curly kale and cavallo nero or alternative greens and stir to mix in spices. Add vegetable stock and cashew nuts. Bring to the boil and simmer until vegetables are softened. If using a pressure cooker bring to pressure and cook for 5 minutes. Once vegetables are cooked add fresh herbs, salt if required and liquidise to smooth consistency.
Alternatively, steam the vegetables and meanwhile gently fry onions and add stock and cashew nuts gently simmer for 5-10 mins until cashews and onions are soft. Add steamed vegetables and fresh herbs and liquidise.
Parsley Pesto with Spiralised Courgettini
½ tbsp ghee or olive oil
3 medium courgettes, spiarlised
For the Pesto:
1 cup cashew nuts, preferably soaked for 3 hours to soften but not essential.
A large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice and rind of 1 small lemon
a small clove of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper according to taste
Spiralise the courgette into spaghetti threads. Melt ghee or oil in a large frying pan and lightly cook the courgette until they have softened slightly. Meanwhile Add all the pesto ingredients into liquidiser or vitamix, adding more olive oil or a little water if needed to make a thick paste.
Stir the pesto through the courgettini and serve.
Happy New Year and bon appetite!
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The cold and damp of our winter can often tax our bodies and lower our resistance, which can leave us feeling sluggish and open to catching viruses and bugs. So especially at this time of year our immunity can often do with a little bit of extra support.