Spring Cleanse

Green spring tonics are a time-honored tradition to encourage gentle liver and gall bladder renewal. 

Leafy greens, both wild and cultivated, are some of the most nutrient dense vegetables of all, and we’ll discuss their nutrition as well as many other health benefits. 

This is a time when we transition from Winter hibernation to Summer growth. Because we are part of the earth and it cycles, it’s crucial to align with this seasonal change by strengthening digestion and immunity.

Certain foods and culinary herbs are specifically indicated for supporting this transition. They tend to be ones that promote digestive and eliminative function, or strengthen the immune and endocrine (hormonal) systems.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring's flavor is sour. The sour flavor and the wood element influence the liver and gall bladder. Sour foods include vinegar, horseradish, sauerkraut (and other lacto-fermented vegetables), lemon, rye, turnips, greens, quinoa, millet, fennel, and caraway seeds. Sourness has an astringent and consolidating effect in the body. It can control diarrhea and excess perspiration or help focus a scattered mind. Sour foods will help us harmonize Spring.

In India’s time-honored tradition of Ayurvedic Medicine, spring is known as the Kapha season. Kapha, the earth element, is heavy, grounded, and can feel stuck when it is out of balance. While spring waters are flowing and mud is everywhere, uplift your body, mind, and spirit, with a daily walk, deep breathing, and sour food.

I was raised in the Mediterranean tradition, where we harvested dandelion greens each spring to make a bitter and delicious salad with olive oil, salt, vinegar, and grated carrots. I remember how much my grandmother loved vinegar. She dressed our salads generously with this sour liquid. Thank goodness for the carrots to temper the sour and bitter flavors for an overall harmonious effect.

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Food-Based Cleanse

Spring is wonderful time to cleanse the internal organs with delicious fruit and vegetable juices. If you do not have a juicer, just use a food processor and strain out the pulp before drinking the juice. You can keep juice in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Juice recipes and health benefits:

  • To strengthen digestion - 1 granny smith apple, 2 carrots, 1 beet

  • To support the liver - beet greens, 1 beet, 3 stalks celery, 2 inches fresh ginger root

  • To cleanse the blood - 1 beet, 2 carrots, 1 granny smith apple, 2 handfuls fresh parsley

Enjoy! Drink a small glass of juice three times daily, from just after you wake up to times of low energy between meals.

Regardless of whether or not you are able to drink fresh juice, you can lighten your diet and include more lacto-fermented vegetables, bitter greens, lemon juice, and whole grains in your meals.

For a week, try to eliminate the following foods, which can tax the liver, gall bladder, and lymph over time:

  • alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages

  • meat: white fish is ok once during the week if it helps you meet your protein needs

  • cheese, cream, ice cream: choose avocados, coconut milk, roasted root vegetables, baked apples

  • popcorn, crackers, cookies

  • products containing sorbitol or xylitol (sugar-free gum and candies)

  • refined sugar: choose raw honey or maple syrup

  • gluten and processed grains like pasta/bread: choose spring grains like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet

Instead, enjoy the fresh nourishment of fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains. Garnish food with high quality olive oil or flax oil and lemon juice.

Breakfast ideas:

  • Quinoa porridge with carrot spread and almonds

  • Baked sweet potatoes with hard-boiled eggs

  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and quinoa

  • Roasted roots with hard-boiled eggs

  • Baked acorn squash with tahini (roasted sesame seed butter), coconut butter, and cinnamon

Lunch and Dinner:

Use recipes from the "spring" category of this blog.

Keep these on hand along with chopped carrot and celery sticks when you need a snack as you are cooking! Remember that flavor, which comes from spreads and spices, is crucial to enjoying your food.

Snacks:

  • Miso broth

  • Granola bar

  • Smoothie or juice (more juice and smoothie recipes on my blog)

  • Apple or orange

Liquids:

  • Dandelion root tea and a glass of warm water with lemon juice in the morning

  • At least 3 quarts water daily

  • Herbal tea in the evening: Traditional Medicinals’ Detox tea is a nice choice

Would you like more specific guidance, meal plans, and recipes for your cleanse? Try my two-week, food-based cleanse.

Juice for Renewal

As November makes its way to the new moon, you can renew your body, mind, and spirit by enjoying nutrient-dense juices. These blends will awaken your senses each morning and help cleanse your internal organs after savoring the rich foods of holiday feasts.

If you do not already have a juicer, click this link to view Williams-Sonoma's options for purchasing your own juicer.

Whole foods are rich in fiber, which can ease constipation by building bulk in the stool. Fiber also helps starches to metabolize more slowly so that blood sugar remains stable. When juicing, we remove the fiber from food and concentrate its nutrients, which can cause blood sugar spikes. 

In addition, because we do not have to chew juice, saliva's digestive secretions are reduced. Hence, I like to pair juice with a protein-packed popover or a home-made banana almond bar for optimal digestion and balanced energy.

Regardless, drink small glasses (8 ounces or less) of juice and see how your stomach tolerates it. The more green foods you put in your juice, the more your blood and skin will glow. Ginger and carrots in juice will heal the digestive system and increase pancreatic secretions.

Try these recipes and see what you think!

REVIVE + DIGEST

Ginger is a digestive aid, which stimulates digestive secretions, increases the amylase concentration in saliva, and facilitates the digestion of starches and fatty foods. It stimulates the immune response and reduces inflammation and anxiety. Use smaller amounts if you have excessive heartburn or an ulcer.

You will need:

  • 2 inches of fresh ginger root, chopped

  • 2 grapefruits, peeled and chopped

  • 2 green apples, chopped

  • 1 packed cup of fresh spinach

  • pinch salt

  • 3 cups water

Place all ingredients in the order listed in a blender. Blend well until everything is completely liquefied - about 1 minute.

As long as the ginger is organic, please blend it with the peel, which is rich in nutrients.

This juice keeps in the fridge in a sealed glass jar for 3 days. Shake before drinking.

Enjoy it with a glass with a whole grain breakfast such as amaranth flatbread

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LIVER LOVE

Beets cleanse the liver and flood the cells with iron. They provide the most concentrated source of phytonutrients called betalains, which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Beets' high betaine content lowers the presence of inflammatory markers in the system. These powerful roots are a wonderful winter food.

You will need:

  • 1 packed cup beet greens

  • 1 beet, washed and chopped

  • 3 stalks celery

  • 2 inches fresh ginger root

Put all ingredients through a juicer* and store in the fridge in a sealed glass jar for 3 days. Enjoy a glass either in the morning or before bed. It will help to rejuvenate the internal organs and encourage effective metabolism.

To re-invent the vegetable pulp that's leftover after juicing, try this vegetable bread recipe.

BLOOD BUILDER

Carrots are high in omega 3 essential fatty acids to tonify the internal organs and strengthen immunity. They are rich in carotenoids and omega-3s, whose anti-oxidant content offers anti-inflammatory support; high in vitamin C to boost immunity and cleanse the blood. Carrots also offer a healthy dose of B vitamins to reduce stress.

You will need:

  • 1 beet, washed and chopped

  • 2 carrots, washed and chopped

  • 1 green apple, chopped

  • 2 handfuls fresh parsley

Put all ingredients through a juicer*. This juice stores well in the fridge in a sealed glass jar for 3 days. It makes for an uplifting afternoon tonic. Drink a glass at work if you are feeling lethargic during the waning daylight hours. 

*If you would like to make this juice without a juicer, just grate the beet, carrots, and apple to shred them. Then, place them in a blender with the parsley and 2 cups of water. Blend well for 1 minute, or until the mixture is uniformly liquid.

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