Diet trends come and go, but detoxing (aka cleansing) is here to stay—and it’s not hard to see why. “Artificial flavors and colors, pesticides and herbicides are just a few of the many toxins regularly consumed by the average person,” says Kathy Freston, Los Angeles-based author of The Lean (Weinstein Books). “These chemicals are often stored in fatty and other tissues in the body, and build up over time.” Yes, our bodies are supposed to be capable of eliminating what they don’t need— but the sheer quantity of toxins we’re now exposed to forces our organs to work overtime, upping our risks for chronic illness and disease, says Beth Reardon, R.D., L.D.N., director of Integrative Nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C.
A detox is the perfect antidote. Of course the new, albeit temporary, ways of eating and living may be daunting to many. But because there are so many options now available, doing one has become easier and more accessible than ever. Just try the plan that follows, along with our success secrets, and enjoy all the benefits a detox has to offer: increased energy, fewer aches and pains and a leaner, cleaner, healthier overall physique. The detox that follows is based on The Quantum Wellness Cleanse: The 21-Day Essential Guide to Healing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit (Weinstein Books) by Freston, who recommends sticking with it for three weeks—or as long as your ambition, willingness and ability allow. “Take one day at a time and don’t look too far ahead,” she says. “Who knows? You may surprise yourself!” Here’s what to do:
xxx Cut it out Eliminate “the big five”—foods that tax or harm the body primarily because they’re difficult to process or digest (animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy); lead to unstable energy levels (sugar, alcohol, caffeine); or cause inflammation (gluten).
+++ Add it in Drink at least 2 quarts (64 ounces) of plain, filtered water each day (herbal teas count toward this, too), and make each meal a simple combination of a whole, gluten-free grain, a low-sugar fruit and/or vegetable and a vegan protein. “Eating this way is like sending scrubbing brushes through your digestive system, clearing away old, undigested foods, dead tissues and mucus,” Freston notes. “Water helps remove waste from our cells and aids fat metabolism, keeps our brains functioning properly, and lubricates and flushes our systems.” Mix and match the following meal and snack suggestions to create your own 21-day program (you can also find complete food and shopping lists at kathyfreston.com/kathy_freston_ shopping_lists.html—plus two of our favorite recipes from Freston at naturalhealthmag.com/comecleanrecipes):
*Steel-cut oatmeal topped with chopped nuts, apples and dairy-free milk (rice, hemp, soy or almond)
*Gluten-free bagel or brown rice cakes with nut butter or vegan cream cheese
*Vegan yogurt mixed with 2 tablespoons flaxseed oil, almonds and chopped apples, pears or blueberries
*Kitchen sink salad: raw veggies topped with seeds (chia, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, ground flaxseed), avocado, dried cranberries, legumes and/or a crumbled veggie burger, tempeh or baked tofu
*Smoothie made with a vegan protein powder, coconut or regular water, 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed, 2 tablespoons flaxseed oil, a small handful of raw almonds, walnuts or hemp seeds, a handful of blueberries, and 1 1∕2 cups of broccoli, spinach or cauliflower
*Any vegan soup (e.g., lentil, black bean, squash, gazpacho, etc.)
*Baked sweet potato with grilled veggies and tofu
*Brown rice and beans with veggies
*Mediterranean platter with hummus, cucumbers, baba ghanoush and gluten-free crackers or bread
*A handful of goji berries and nuts
*Hummus and crudités
*Powdered green drink blended with either water or 3 ounces of apple juice and 3 ounces of water
Boost the benefits Beyond the dietary guidelines, Freston recommends these additional strategies for cleansing both body and mind:
*SLEEP WELL Rest helps your body repair itself, so aim to get seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night.
*MOVE YOUR BODY Sweat out toxins with four to six days of exercise a week, doing a mix of cardio, strengthtraining and tai chi, yoga or qigong.
*SOAK AND DE-STRESS Getting a massage, doing yoga and/or soaking in a hot bath with mineral salts as often as you can are all great complements to a cleanse. “These three practices have a powerful effect, drawing toxins out of the deepest places—organs, muscles and fat—and assisting in their removal from the body,” Freston notes. *BE ENVIRONMENTAL Steer clear of toxins wherever you are—opting for all-natural personal care and household cleaning products and avoiding plastics, for instance. (For more ideas, visit earth911.com and epa.gov.)
*FREE YOUR MIND Certain ways of thinking can be toxic, too, so spend a few moments every day focusing on optimism and gratitude, practicing visualization exercises, journaling—anything that brings you greater mental clarity and focus. “Our minds can cause all kinds of chaos and confusion in our bodies,” Freston notes. “By clearing out all that mental clutter, we can finally hear what really matters to us and set our lives going in that direction.”