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The Basic Detoxification Diet: A Gentle Body Cleansing Primer

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Fresh pressed juice
Marilyn Conway/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Did you over-eat during the holidays? Have you been overloading your body with too much rich food, alcohol, sugar, and dairy? This food program is designed to help reduce inflammation, sluggishness and overall body toxicity. It is not a fast, and you can eat plenty of good, filling, wholesome food. The best part is that there is nothing exotic or esoteric here: all of the foods are available at your local grocery store.

You decide how long you want to detox, choosing a minimum of 7-14 days, or as an ongoing lifestyle change. Once you experience how good you feel -balanced, energized and with more clarity than before- you may not want to go back to eating the same old way. This is called keeping it pure and simple.

Keep in mind that around the third day you may feel tired, irritable, or just plain icky. Some people sail through this without a hitch, but you may experience symptoms of withdrawal and detoxification. Remember to drink plenty of water and exercise, even if it’s only walking briskly. Sweat in a sauna or steam bath if you can, as that helps push toxins out of the body.

Foods to eat for a detoxification diet:

Liquids: Filtered water, herbal teas (detox teas are an option, and may include milk thistle, burdock root or dandelion to help the liver and kidneys), green tea, green drinks, (wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella). Fresh pressed vegetable juice (carrot, beet, celery, cucumber, cabbage, parsley, ginger, greens, etc), vegetable broth or dashi, aloe vera juice (for mild intestinal cleansing)

Grains and breads: Brown rice, wild, wehani, or red rice, millet, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, sprouted grain bread (wheat-free). After the detox re-introduce gluten and take note if any symptoms arise such as digestive distress, sluggishness, aching joints; these can be indicators of gluten sensitivity.

Protein: Fresh small white fish; wild salmon; lentils; split peas; chickpeas; black, kidney, adzuki, white, pinto or any other variety of dried beans.

Dairy substitutes: Rice, almond, or hazelnut milk. (Soymilk is one of the foods to avoid, as soy is a common allergen). Keep in mind that these are considered processed foods, and may be mucus producing. If you are committed to a very strict cleanse these can be eliminated.

Nuts and seeds: Raw or dry-roasted walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, and nut butters made from these (nut butters should not have any added oils or sugars).

Vegetables: 9 servings per day are ideal. Vegetables should include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onion, daikon radish, burdock root, turnips, rutabaga, leeks, dark and leafy greens (kale, collards, mustard, turnip, or dandelion greens, bok choy, tatsoi, chicory, watercress, radicchio) and field greens (arugula, organic mesclun, romaine, red and green leaf lettuce). Other vegetables are mineral rich seaweed; carrots; beets; green, yellow and winter squash; sweet potatoes, parsnips.

Fruit: Seasonal fruits, organic whenever possible. In the temperate zones such as the Northeast, fruits should be non-tropical and non-citrus (except lemon and lime, which are very cleansing to the liver). Apples and pears -in season- are great cleansers.

Fats: Avocado, nuts, and flaxseed oil, olive oil, and fish oil, for a daily dose of good fats and fatty acids. Don't heat flaxseed or fish oil.

Sweeteners: No sweeteners would be used in a very strict detox protocol, so use these sparingly. Only natural sweeteners should be used, and in very small quantities: brown rice syrup, fruit sweetener, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, and stevia.

Herbs and Spices: Cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, star anise, fennel seed, dill, garlic, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, cilantro, sage, basil, marjoram and chives.

Foods to omit during a detox protocol:

Many of these foods are general offenders and should not be in our diets on a general basis, so the detox can actually kick-start a new lifestyle. Keep in mind that the most common food allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, corn, peanuts, shellfish and fish. Add these back into your diet one at a time if you believe that you might be sensitive to any of the above listed foods. If you are, after not consuming them for a couple of weeks you will notice a marked negative response.

Liquids: Soda, coffee, black tea, alcohol, milk. Soymilk should be omitted or consumed in very small quantity. Fruit juices should be consumed in limited quantity or not at all, and restricted to unsweetened cranberry juice and fresh pressed juices.

Grains and breads: Omit all white bread, white flour, white rice, wheat, and all grain and flour containing gluten. These include barley, bulgur, couscous, durum, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, seitan, semolina, spelt, and triticale. The jury is out on oats, as they sometimes irritate gluten sensitivity. Corn is also a very common allergen, so cornmeal, corn cereals, grits etc should be eliminated temporarily.

Protein: Soy products should be avoided, and reintroduced only in organic form as tofu or tempeh. Other soy products are excessively processed. Seitan (which is gluten) should be temporarily eliminated. Do not eat any animal products except (optionally) a small amount of fish as listed in recommended foods above. If animal foods are part of the regular diet, restrict consumption to small amounts of free range and organic beef, lamb, pork, turkey and chicken and eggs. (Keep in mind that in Europe a serving of meat is 3-4 ounces). Cold cuts, processed sausages, canned meat, shellfish, farmed non-organic salmon, large predatory and deep sea fish (such as marlin, shark, dolphin, tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi) should be avoided.

Dairy: Omit completely. After the detox, small amounts of goat or sheep products can be reintroduced.

Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts and peanut butter (very common allergen), cashews Brazil, and macadamia nuts.

Vegetables: Avoid nightshade vegetables: potato, tomato, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, cayenne, tomatillos, paprika and pimentos. It should be noted here that tobacco is also a nightshade.

More on foods to avoid:

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