Category Archives: nutrition

Tips For Boosting Your Metabolism

What exactly does “metabolism” mean? We hear it talked about enough, but do we really know what it is or what it needs to stay vibrant and healthy? I’d venture to guess that most of us have no clue. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! 🙂

Metabolism: the chemical processes by which a plant or an animal uses food, water, etc., to grow, heal and make energy. Hmmmm… sounds important. A properly functioning metabolism ultimately means the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy body. How can we get our metabolism to function optimally? Implementing the following tips into your daily diet would be a great start!

Metabolism Boosting Tips:

  • Eat whole foods and lots of veggies- the more you’re able to eat unprocessed foods that come from the earth and animals, not labs and factories, the more your metabolism will like you.
  • Eat and drink the right foods-
    • Broccoli
    • Asparagus
    • Lemon and lemon water
    • Celery
    • Apple cider vinegar
    • Green tea
    • Garlic
    • Berries
    • Grapefruit
    • Apples
  • Exercise to get your metabolism up and running (literally!)
  • Plan ahead- Try to stick to a somewhat set eating schedule. This will allow your body to be more aware of when it’s actually hungry. It also helps maintain hormonal balance. This is essential for weight loss, as an imbalance in certain hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, will cause “false hunger”.
  • Aim for 3 small meals and at least 1-2 small snacks throughout the day. When we go too long without eating, our metabolism slows down in an attempt to conserve resources aka FAT. Our body doesn’t want to give it up easily, unfortunately. From an evolutionary perspective, this was advantageous because sometimes we would have to go long periods of time between meals. When you’re hunting and gathering, obtaining food on a consistent basis isn’t exactly a sure bet. So, the metabolism slows, as does weight loss. FEED your metabolism, don’t starve it! In small quantities throughout the day, of course.
  • Don’t cut calories to under 1200 per day. As I just stated, we need to eat in order for our metabolism to function. If you’re consistently feeding yourself too little, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. And you’re hungry, which probably pisses you off. Learn to listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs and in what quantity. As a result of all the crap we eat on a daily basis- with all the additives, fake ingredients, and inflammatory oils, many of us are highly imbalanced hormonally and don’t get the signal to stop eating. Luckily, with time and effort, this can be fixed!
  • Incorporate heat-generating spices into your daily meals. Cayenne, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon are all excellent choices.
  • Drink your water! You’re probably not drinking as much as you think. Measure out your water each morning for a week to determine exactly how much you should be consuming. You should be drinking roughly 60-70 oz./day. I recommend filling up a water bottle with measurements for ease. After awhile, it will become second nature to drink that amount.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast. I know, I know. You’ve heard this one a million times, but it really is true! It doesn’t have to be a huge meal, and in fact shouldn’t be, but simply something to get your metabolism running for the day. Also, what we eat first in the day sets the stage for the rest of the day. So don’t go for the donuts at work; that cup of yogurt with berries would be a much better bet.
  • Get adequate sleep. Another one you’ve probably heard a million times and scoffed at, but again, it really is true! Some people say they can live off, and even thrive, on less than 6 hours/night. This is what I say to that: you’re either lying or you’re kidding yourself. Study after study has shown that quality sleep positively affects our hormonal signaling, leading to less feelings of false hunger. If you have chronic sleeping problems, it would greatly behoove you to figure out why.
  • While I strongly believe in starting with diet when engaging in self-improvement measures, targeted supplements can be a helpful metabolism-boosting tool for some people. Here are some great examples:
    • Vitamin B6- helps with water retention, reduces sugar cravings, and helps supply fuel to cells, which then burn calories more efficiently.
    • Chromium- stabilizes blood sugar and reduces carbohydrate cravings.
    • CoQ10- generates cellular energy and increases body’s ability to transform food into energy.
    • Turmeric- excites the production of bile juice which breaks down fatty foods.
    • Vitamin D- studies have shown a strong correlation between obesity and low vitamin D levels.
  • If you’ve tried all of the above for more than a few months and your weight is hanging tough and you feel sluggish as ever, then you should consider getting your thyroid checked.

The sum total of your efforts will certainly be rewarded. However, like most things in life, it’s not going to happen overnight. Way too many people expect to feel magically healthier, more energized, and automatically slimmer simply from eating a salad. Once. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, or reality, but it simply doesn’t work like that. You have to make your health a top priority, be consistent in your behaviors, and put in the effort! It will pay off though, of that I’m certain. 🙂

Supplements: What You Need To Know

b6

Nutritional supplements produced $32 BILLION in revenue in 2012, proving they are quite a lucrative business. But are they necessary? The answer to this question is pretty complex. Depending on who you talk to, you will usually either get an enthusiastic “YES!” or a emphatic “NO”! So who’s right?!

The ultimate answer lies in each individual and is dependent on a number of variables specific to that person. To put it simply, some people benefit from them and some people don’t. If you’re in great overall health and eat a nourishing, whole foods diet on a regular basis, then you are probably someone that falls into the “don’t” category. If you have a host of health problems and have a less-than-ideal diet, then yes, supplementation could be highly beneficial. However, thinking that taking a few pills 1-2x/day will magically make you healthy, slim, and glowing, while still eating like crap is… magical thinking. It will not work. You MUST eat a whole foods diet; you may not necessarily need to supplement.

There are a few reasons why someone would benefit from supplementation though:

First, in the case of vegans and possibly vegetarians, one would need to take B12 and would likely benefit greatly from vitamin D and a B complex, as all of these nutrients are difficult to impossible to get from plant sources. Without adequate B12, one stands the chance of developing irreparable nerve damage. In addition, some vegans may need to take an iron supplement, though one should get their iron levels tested prior to supplementing, as it can oxidize in the body if not needed.

Secondly, in the case of nutrient deficiencies. As a result of our poor diet, these deficiencies are quite rampant in our population. This can be assessed with a simple blood test or hair mineral analysis of vitamin and mineral levels in the blood or hair. If any of them are low, then supplement! If not, then don’t! Easy, peasy.

Lastly, in the case of certain health conditions. Targeted nutritional supplementation can be incredibly effective at resolving specific issues. For example, someone with joint pain and inflammation could likely benefit from some fish oil, glucosamine, and vitamin D; someone with IBS would be advised to take probiotics, L-glutamine, and digestive enzymes.

Some Considerations:

  • Quality– Not all supplements are created equal. Buying in bulk from drugstores isn’t a good idea, as these companies typically use the lowest quality forms of vitamins and minerals, which aren’t going to be assimilated into the body and are basically worthless at best and inflammatory at worst. Health food stores can be a better bet, but you should still remain wary of quality. What’s the expiration date on the product? Are there any knowledgeable people working there to assist you? Pharmaca is great source for high quality supplements. They are also online. Speaking of online- this is usually your best way of getting the best deal and the best selection of products. Can you tell I recommend this route? 🙂 Make sure you do your research though. To reiterate- not all supplements are created equal!
  • Ratios– It’s very important to not over-supplement with one specific nutrient. For example, women are told by their doctors to take calcium for osteoporosis. What we’re not told is that we need to supplement this in conjunction with magnesium. Not doing so could actually result in WEAKER bones! Do your research before supplementing with one lone nutrient- doing this for long periods of time usually isn’t necessary and can sometimes even be harmful.
  • Duration– Most supplements don’t need to be taken indefinitely. The exceptions might be probiotics, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 for certain individuals with chronic situations. For most of us though, we only need to take a particular vitamin or mineral until our levels of that nutrient are back to optimal levels, again determined by a blood test or hair mineral analysis. However, if your diet is poor, then supplementing long term with certain products, such as a high-quality multi-vitamin and mineral, vitamin C, and calcium/magnesium, could be beneficial. Again though, there is no true substitution for a healthy, whole foods diet.

Here’s a list of a few reputable companies:

  • Designs for Health
  • Metagenics
  • Thorne Research
  • Natural Factors
  • Garden of Life
  • NOW

If you’d like further elaboration on this topic or advice on your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to post in the comment box below or message me! I’m always happy to provide nutritional knowledge to those genuinely interested.

Moral of the story– Do your research before buying to make sure you’re getting quality and that you actually need it! Don’t waste your money on something you saw on TV or your friend said she took… will it be helpful for YOU? That is the question.

Ways to NOT Gain Weight Over the Holidays

It’s that time of year again.

While most people use the holidays as an excuse to become gluttonous, ravenous beasts, it’s really pretty disgusting. We only have one body- why do we repeatedly treat it like crap?! I know, I know. Food tastes good. And many people feel rather entitled to these displays of grandiose gorging and overindulgence. “It’s the holidays. I’m suppose to eat like a pig.” The thing is, doing so makes you look like crap AND feel like crap.

Does this sound crappy to you? Then abide by the following tips. I have a little secret to share with you too- food can actually taste good AND make you look and feel good! Spread the word!

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

  • Don’t go to a party on an empty stomach. You’ll be tempted by… pretty much everything. If this isn’t realistic, then be sure to drink lots of water to trick your stomach into thinking you’re not hungry.
  • Scope the appetizer table for the healthiest foods, i.e. vegetable trays, hummus, smoked salmon, guacamole, kabobs, sushi, salad, etc., before picking up a plate and go for them first. On that note, use a small plate always (even non-holiday times) to maintain portion control.
  • Chew your food slowly and enjoy every bite. It takes the brain 20 minutes to get the message from the stomach that it’s full, so the slower the better!
  • Allow yourself a “splurge” meal and dessert 1-2x/week so you don’t feel deprived. It’s especially tough during the holiday season to see everyone enjoying cookies and cake- you want to get in on the fun too! And that’s ok… IN MODERATION!
  • Bring healthy options, such as vegetable trays and salads, to holiday parties.
  • Drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks, both to lessen the load on your liver and to rehydrate. Plus, you’ll likely drink less because more time will be spent consuming water.
  • Treat the appetizer table like it’s a snake about to bite you. Stay away, stay far, far away.
  • Though I’m not a huge fan of gum due to their artificial ingredients, it can be really helpful at assuaging one’s hunger. Chew it while cooking dinner to avoid nibbling and tasting everything. OR, better yet, chop up some raw veggies and chomp on those.
  • Don’t starve all day so you can rationalize indulging at a holiday party at night, as many people do. If no food is eaten throughout the day, the blood sugar drops, leading to intense cravings and complete loss of control. You will definitely overeat if you starve yourself. Not to mention completely shut down your metabolism.
  • Walk after large meals. Hell, walk whenever you feel like it. You need to move frequently to keep your body at its appropriate weight.
  • Are you an emotional eater? Take control! Write out a list of reasons you think you are prone to overeating and using food as a crutch. Be honest with yourself. By doing so, you’re making it apparent what isn’t working for you in your life at this moment. Then fix it. Yes, this is much easier said than done, but every day is a new day that brings with it new opportunities for self-improvement. Stop making excuses and just do it.
  • Think about how horrible you feel the morning after a food binge. If you never want to feel that way again, then stop doing it to yourself! Again, this is another “easier said than done” situation… you probably won’t be able to break this cycle overnight, but with time, diligence, and introspection- it IS possible. Believe me, I know from extensive personal experience.
  • Make healthy desserts made with whole food ingredients, such as raw brownies, coconut cake, and chocolate walnut fudge. The great thing about these types of desserts is that they satisfy the sweet tooth without messing with brain signals and hormones, as white sugar laden and/or artificially flavored desserts are able to do, causing us to eat them well past the point of satiety.
  • Only eat foods you REALLY like. You don’t want to waste the calories on so-so junk food.

Holidays don’t have to ruin your waistline OR your health. Think of these last couple months of the year as a great time to socialize with the ones you love, not as an opportunity to rationalize eating way too much food. Being a member of the “Clean Plate Club” is ridiculously overrated. AND IT’S MAKING US GAIN WEIGHT. We, as a culture, need to change our mind frame about what’s really important over the holidays. Hint Hint: It’s not all about food.

Don’t Diet… Eat for Health!

Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, L.A. Weight Loss…. What do these companies have in common? Well, besides the fact that they force you to buy low-quality food with loads of artificial ingredients… You may lose weight on them, but will likely regain that lost weight as soon as you start eating normally again, which will lead to greater overall weight gain in the long term. I don’t know about you, but paying to gain weight doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.

BUT GREAT NEWS! There is a simple solution… eating for health! This means that you focus on eating the most nutrient-dense foods available, as much as possible. By doing so, you’re giving your body the fuel it needs to burn that fat off. Enough with the starvation diets- We need to feed our metabolisms in order for weight to come off.

If you give the body what it needs, you’ll see the scale drop. It may not happen overnight, but it WILL happen.

Also, by focusing on optimal health instead of weight loss as the main objective, you’re ridding yourself of the guilt you get after eating anything that’s not “diet friendly.”

I’m a perfect example of this concept- While I have never been overweight, I have ALWAYS wanted to lose 5-10 (or more!) pounds. I tried everything: vegetarianism, calorie-counting, excessive exercise (followed by excessive binges on junk food), etc. The minute I stopped caring about my stomach roll, it went away! I believe it’s because I used to be more concerned about my appearance than my health. When optimal health and disease prevention became my focus, the pounds slowly fell to the wayside, never to return.

What do I eat on a daily basis to maintain my weight loss? Whole foods. It’s really that simple. Oh, and lots of fat. Interesting observation- When I started eating meat again and began buying exclusively full-fat, whole milk products, I lost 7 pounds in roughly 2 months. That’s quite a lot for someone that’s short and already pretty slim. Because I was a veggie, I ate way too many starches and carbs and not nearly enough fat and protein. My macronutrient ratios were all out of whack. By balancing these important ratios, I was able to not only lose weight, but get rid of various health problems as well. I used to have mood issues, low energy levels, joint pain and inflammation, and horrendous allergies. I no longer have any of these issues. Well, except these damn allergies! The point is I stopped focusing on calories and started focusing on nutrients. And it worked tremendously.

We, as a society, need to stop punishing ourselves for any alleged deviation from “a healthy diet”. Times are a changin’ and our definition of what constitutes health food has dramatically evolved over the years. Gone are the days of margarine, 6-11 servings per day of bread and grains (thank you Food Pyramid for steering people in the wrong direction for decades), and low-fat everything. Today we know that fats are good for us, red meat is not the devil, and too much bread makes us feel like crap. Let’s get back to the basics people! Traditional foods are the way to go.

By consistently eating fresh, unprocessed, whole foods, weight loss WILL happen. And it’s not as hard or time-consuming as you might think! It simply takes advanced planning and commitment. It is TOTALLY worth it, trust me 🙂

Whole Foods Grocery List

whole foods 1

Want to achieve optimal health and vitality? Then buy these foods and ONLY these foods. Packaged, processed foods are largely devoid of nutrients, contain ingredients we can’t pronounce and the body doesn’t recognize (because it’s man-made food!), and can alter our brain chemistry so we ravenously crave them. GET OUT OF THE BOX!! Your health depends on it.

Vegetables4-7 servings per day

Brassica family

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

Carotene Family

  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Corn
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squash- acorn, butternut, spaghetti
  • Radicchio
  • Red pepper
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomatoes

Allium Family

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Scallions

Other

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Green beans
  • Mushrooms, especially maitake and shiitake
  • Jicama
  • Okra
  • Parsnip
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Summer squash- yellow and zucchini

Fruits- 2-3 servings per day

Flavonoid Family

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Figs
  • Purple grapes
  • Plums
  • Pomegranate
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Carotene Family

  • Apricot
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon

Citrus Family

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Tangerines

Other

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Pineapple

Beverages

  • Filtered water
  • Chai tea
  • Green tea
  • Herbal teas- ginger, chamomile, liver detox, slippery elm, rooibos
  • Vegetable juices
  • Coconut water
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk

Whole Grains- 1-4 servings per day

  • Whole grain breads
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa

Nuts & Seeds1-2 servings per day

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

Legumes– 1-2 servings per day

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas, hummus
  • Edamame
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Tempeh
  • Miso soup

Cold-Water Fish– 3-5 servings per week

  • Salmon- wild
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Tuna- eat sparingly due to high mercury content and unsustainable fishing practices
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Trout

 Animal Foods2-4 servings per week

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Turkey

Dairy– 1-2 servings per day, if tolerated

  • Butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Cheese- feta, goat, asiago, parmesan, romano, mozzarella
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt

Herbs & SpicesUse liberally

Fresh Herbs & Spices

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Ginger root
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon

Dry Herbs & Spices

  • Bay leaves
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Pepper
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric

Miscellaneous

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Maca powder
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Sea veggies- hijiki, nori, wakame, dulse
  • Olive oil
  • Salsa
  • Sea salt
  • Stevia
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup- grade B
  • Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • Vanilla extract

Notes

  • Eat organic, fresh, seasonal produce as much as possible. Farmer’s markets are a convenient and cheap way to accomplish this.
  • Eat organic animal products and pastured/grass-fed, if possible. Full-fat dairy is preferable as well.
  • Wild-caught fish are usually preferable to farmed.
  • It’s all about quality over quantity. It’s going to be more expensive to buy organic, but well worth the additional costs.
  • Check the ingredients labels on all packaged goods- don’t buy anything with names you can’t pronounce.
  • Diversity of foods is key. Buy different fruits and vegetables each week for a varied nutritional profile.
  • Shopping primarily at Whole Foods and farmer’s markets will help make the above suggestions easier.

Macronutrient Superstar: Protein

The building blocks of our muscles, skin, tendons, bones, hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters- protein is an essential nutrient for the body. We hear lots of paradoxical reports concerning how much protein we should be eating… Some people would advise unlimited amounts, while others think we, as a society, eat way too much. This is why you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet- it’s just too damn confusing and conflicting!

The answer is this: there is no “right” amount of protein. It depends entirely on each individual and their specific constitution and biological make-up. While height and weight certainly play a part, they are certainly not the ONLY parts. Current health and immune status, genetics, activity level, and life stage all fit into the equation as well. Eat what works for YOUR body.

Major Roles of Protein

  • Used to build, maintain, and repair cells, enzymes, immune system, and hormones
  • Helps maintain volume and composition of bodily fluids
  • Transports nutrients to various parts of the body
  • Can be used for energy is necessary
  • Responsible for pigment of eyes
  • Provides the raw materials for collagen and elastin, which literally hold us together and are a primary component in our skin
  • Immune system and nervous system require protein to make their messengers

Healthy Sources of Protein

  • Eggs
  • Meats and poultry
  • Fish
  • Tempeh
  • Cheese- cottage, cheddar, feta, etc.
  • Whole milk yogurt (plain)
  • Whole milk
  • Spirulina
  • Nuts and seeds- almonds, chia and flax seeds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, pistachios, pecans, etc.
  • Protein powder
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Beans
  • Quinoa
  • Peanut and almond butter

Ways to Increase Intake

  • Eat meat or fish (almost) daily. More specifically, aim for a 3 oz. portion 6x/week, with a 1 day break. Think meatless Mondays! It gives your body a break- proteins are the hardest of the macronutrients to digest- AND gives the environment a break- animal food production is notoriously energy exertive and greenhouse gas emitting.
  • Consciously try to eat a protein-packed food at EVERY meal.
  • Add nuts and seeds into your daily diet.
  • Make sure you always make or order salads with your choice of lean protein, i.e., fish, steak, chicken, or tempeh. Quinoa is a great addition as well.
  • Put a scoop of protein powder into your smoothie or yogurt each morning. You could also make a protein “shake”- simply put a scoop of the powder (chocolate would be preferable) and 1-2 Tbsp. of almond butter into a glass of almond or whole milk and stir. It’s really that simple. And tasty!
  • While any type of full-fat plain yogurt will do, Greek yogurt is great because it typically has double the protein. Add cinnamon, protein powder, walnuts, and chia seeds for a delicious, healthy, and filling breakfast.
  • Eat eggs for breakfast (or dinner!). Eggs are one of the world’s most nutrient dense foods, so feel free to eat 1-2 daily. Don’t worry about the cholesterol content- studies have shown that there is no clinically significant relationship between dietary cholesterol consumption and heart disease.

Reflections on a Cleansing Meal Plan

Spring has arrived! And with it, hopefully, a renewed desired to eat healthy. At least that’s what I was thinking. Though my eating habits never seriously stray into the realm of bad choices, I felt that my boyfriend, Greg, and I were due for a period of conscious clean eating. Nothing too extreme was necessary; this was not a true cleanse- we still ate food! I just wanted to help relieve some problems that were most likely stemming from food choices.

Specifically, Greg has been having some pretty severe gastrointestinal issues lately, which I suspect is a result of his dairy consumption… Actually, he’s had these problems for quite some time, and I am anxious to get to the bottom of it. So, I eliminated dairy to see if this is indeed the culprit. In addition, I basically took out any commonly allergenic foods, such as wheat, soy, and corn, in order to give the digestive system a rest. This is probably pretty obvious, but processed foods, sugars, coffee, and alcohol were also avoided. All animal products, with the exception of fish, were eliminated as well.

Overall, the purpose of this whole foods-based “cleanse” was to provide our bodies with an influx of nutrients through the consumption of organic, unrefined, alkalizing, allergen-free foods that are easily digested and absorbed by the body. Out with the crap and in with the nutrients! SO, I made this 5-day cleansing meal plan to make my goal an empirical, easily obtainable reality. First, let me go over several of the food choices listed on the plan. I want you guys to know there is a method (and reason) to my madness!

  • Smoothies: This is probably a pretty obvious one… These delectable treats are a great source of concentrated nutrients in an easy-to-digest form. Remember, you still have to “eat” your smoothie though! The more you chew your foods, and even liquids, the easier it is to digest them, allowing the body to focus on more important things, like immunity, detoxification, and energy production.
  • Oatmeal: Though this may seem like an unlikely food choice for a whole foods cleanse, I included it for its excellent fiber content and, to be quite honest, its ability to enhance my bowel movements exponentially. TMI. Also, I know some of you are probably anti-agave, so feel free to skip that ingredient and just add cinnamon. Or maple syrup, whatever 🙂 
  • Sardines, Salmon, and Cod: While this meal plan is mostly vegan, I thought adding a little fish into the mix would be good idea because of their high omega-3 content. These fatty acids are a powerful source of anti-inflammatory properties, which are important for me to consume due to my active lifestyle. I want to reduce the incidents of stiff and swollen joints as much as possible! In addition, there are virtually no other significant sources of protein in the diet, except nutritional yeast, and I didn’t want to go hungry (or increase the potential for succumbing to cravings). I don’t necessarily believe in starving oneself during a cleanse. 
  • Beets: These sweet, albeit messy root veggies contain a group of phytonutrients called betalains that have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory, detoxification, and antioxidant support. Detox and cleanse are two words that go hand-in-hand, so I obviously included lots of beets in the plan. And who doesn’t love red poop?! Sorry, there are way too many references to bowel movements in this post. 
  • Dulse: If you don’t know about the wonders of dulse (and sea veggies in general), then listen up! They contain pretty much every trace mineral known to man in super concentrated amounts. You only need a little sprinkle of dulse flakes… so put it on everything!
  • Cilantro: This is another potent detoxifying food. Cilantro can actually chelate (remove) heavy metals from your body so eat this tasty herb often for maximum benefit.
  • Soup/Broth: Liquids are easy for the body to digest and assimilate and soups/broths are mineral rich, warming, calming, and of course, cleansing!
  • Fruit: Though I didn’t want to over-do it with sugars, fruit is a natural source of the sweet stuff so I allowed a little into my plan. Also, fruit is a great snack and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 
  • Various Veggies:The meal plan is predominantly a plant-based diet because these are the foods we need for cleansing/detoxifying the body. The more the merrier!
  • Chocolate: I know what you’re thinking… Chocolate?! Really?! This is definitely not a usual suspect when undertaking a cleanse, but I included it for several reasons. First, like I already said, I don’t believe in depriving or starving oneself when cleaning up the diet. Having a small piece of chocolate at the end of night was a pleasant reward for how hard we were working on eating optimally. Also, dark chocolate contains minerals and antioxidant properties, so the calories are actually quite nutrient-dense. Finally, recent research shows that chocolate is fermented in the gut by our friendly bacteria into usable antioxidants and fiber. Pretty cool, huh?!

Example of Shopping List

Yours doesn’t have to look exactly like this… but try to think lots of fresh. organic, veggies in a variety of different colors and shapes. Don’t just buy broccoli and carrots. Expand your horizons and try a few vegetables you’ve never bought before. Different vegetables have different nutritional profiles, so eating the rainbow is encouraged for maximum nutrient intake.

  • Ginger
  • Green onions
  • Lemons
  • Mushrooms
  • Cilantro
  • Spinach
  • Red pepper
  • Red onion
  • White onion
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Radishes
  • Mixed greens
  • Arugula/bitter greens
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Nori sheets
  • Brown rice
  • Spirulina
  • Flax seeds
  • Canned salmon and sardines with bones (bones=calcium)
  • Miso paste
  • Chickpeas
  • Coconut oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Dulse flakes
  • Cod or other cold water fish
  • Almond milk
  • Hijiki

Strengths of Cleansing Plan

  • Lots of smoothies! I drink them regularly, but not necessarily daily, so it felt great to consume them every morning and notice the extra boost of energy they give me. The alkalizing properties of the veggies offset any excess acidity in the body.
  • Lots of veggies! Actually, that’s pretty much all I ate for the week. There are just way too many reasons why veggies rule to even explain… just eat them. They cleanse, nourish, detoxify, and improve overall health.
  • Lots of bowel movements! Geez, again with the BMs. However, with all the fiber I was consuming, its hardly surprising that this would be the case. If you have any issues with constipation, then this short-term diet is for you! Eating an abundance of vegetables, fruits, and non-glutinous grains is your healthiest and cheapest option in correcting this problem.
  • Some fish! I included three servings of fish for the week because of their lean, easily digestible protein, non-allergenic qualities, and potent anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Just to stress the point: Deprivation wasn’t my intention- eating a variety of the healthiest foods possible and eliminating all the crappy ones sounds more like it.
  • No meat! Though I have a new-found love and appreciation for carnivorous foods, I excluded them from the plan because of their acidic, digestion-challenged nature. I only had five days to really cleanse and detoxify my body, and keeping meat in the equation would hinder these efforts. Giving the digestive tract a little break every now and then is always a good idea. However, small amounts of pastured, organic meats and poultry can be a welcome part of one’s regular diet and is encouraged.
  • No dairy! It’s allergenic, irritating to the GI tract, constipating, acidic, and unnecessary. Not that I don’t eat it… I just consume in moderation and definitely think that complete elimination from the diet is essential during any period of clean eating. Also, Greg is likely lactose intolerant and NEEDS to give his system a break. I suggest that you do the same if you are prone to a dairy allergy or intolerance as well. Sometimes, if you are able to properly and thoroughly repair the gut, then you can eat dairy products on occasion even if they have caused you problems in the past. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed for Greg!
  • My health goals are being realized. I strive to live a positive, energetic, and comfortable life as much as possible and, though I make mistakes and bad decisions just like everyone else, I don’t make it a habit. The point of this cleanse was to inch a little closer to that goal, without killing myself.

Weaknesses of Cleansing Plan

  • The food items should have been more general. For example, there really was no reason to specifically list the vegetables needed for the lentil soup or sauteed veggies in coconut oil. When I was at the grocery store, I took pains to get everything on my list and in the perfect quantity. This was both time consuming and superfluous. Just buy whatever is in season, on sale, and/or tastes good to you, as long as its organic! However, some of the foods are listed for a specific reason, i.e., their detoxifying and antioxidant properties, and should continue to be explicitly stated on the plan.
  • I included way too many liquids. Did I really expect to drink 6+ glasses of water, hot water with lemon in the AM, 3 different types of tea, milk thistle seed extract with water, and apple cider vinegar in water before meals? Oh, and throw in a cup of miso soup or mineral broth and a smoothie while you’re at it. I was literally drinking something all day, every day. And urinating. A LOT. Frankly, it’s just not realistic. In the future I will limit the beverage intake to 1-2 cups of herbal tea/day and allow for less water consumption if broths, soups, and smoothies are on the menu.
  • There was way too much required prep time. Luckily, I had plenty of time at that point to prepare the meals, but someone with a hectic work schedule would definitely find this plan unrealistic to implement. However, making everything for the week on Sunday night is a possibility, as is including leftovers on the next day’s menu.
  • I wouldn’t recommend eating this way for long-term, simply because there is not enough protein. Add in some pastured meat, tempeh, organic chicken, and beans and you’re golden.

Overall, my experience with this cleansing meal plan was generally positive and left me with a greater sense of vitality and energy. There were a few improvements to my health that I noticed:

  • I felt whatever the opposite of bloated means. You know that feeling of “skinniness” you get when you haven’t eaten for awhile? Not that I’m encouraging such behavior, but you know what I mean. Well, that’s how I felt all week, even though I was actually eating quite a lot! This is because I wasn’t consuming allergenic, bloating substances, such as bread and cheese.
  • My energy levels were steady and high all day, every day during the cleanse. I believe this may have been because I wasn’t drinking coffee and, therefore, spiking my cortisol levels. These spikes will lead to an eventual crash and can affect one’s circadian rhythm. Also, eating such healthy foods certainly helped as well.
  • Though the first couple days were kind of rough, things improved each day from there on out. This is a pretty common occurrence when eating such a detoxifying diet because the body is flushing out all the built-up toxins, which is obviously going to feel a little unpleasant. Bear with it and keep in mind the ultimate reward. Sometimes things have to uncomfortable before they’re comfortable.
  • While I experienced gastrointestinal bliss, Greg wasn’t so lucky. I suspect this may have been because of his body’s need to adapt to the new foods he was and wasn’t eating; namely, the increase in veggie intake and elimination of dairy products. Sometimes adding vegetables to the diet in large quantities can initially cause bloating and gas, but this usually subsides after a few days, as it did for Greg. Also, when the body is used to eating an allergenic food, such as cheese, on a regular basis, it builds up a “tolerance” to such foods. When taken out of the diet, the results can initially be uncomfortable, but again, this is usually a short term issue. In addition, after suffering GI damage, it takes the body awhile to repair itself, especially when one is feeding it irritating substances at the same time. Simply eliminating allergenic foods for a few days isn’t necessarily going to fix things immediately. Healing the body may require a long term effort. In Greg’s case, cutting out dairy has been helpful in reducing indigestion symptoms, but hasn’t completely eliminated the issue. This goes to show the complexities of the human body; there isn’t always a simple solution to a problem. Back to the drawing board!

Eating as clean as possible was certainly beneficial and is something I plan on doing every few months now. I’ll just call it… health insurance!

Though I’m back to my normal diet, I still basically try to eat this way… primarily veggies, with small portions of meat and fish 3-4x a week, whole grains, and limited processed foods. The key to living a healthy lifestyle is consistency. I’m not saying you can’t eat the occasional slice of pizza or piece of cake. You just can’t eat it daily. And besides, eating good feels good. Give it a try and see with your own eyes, and healthier body.

Recipes

Coming soon!

When you eat healthy, you can climb mountains, no problem!

When you eat healthy, you can climb mountains, no problem!