If you are one who made resolutions for the new year, you are not alone. The challenge may be keeping the commitment.
According to US News and World Report, 80 percent of resolutions fail by February. But let’s focus on the positive. I may not call them ’resolutions,’ but I do take this time of year to reassess and examine what I could do to improve certain areas in my life. Not surprisingly, healthy food is always at the top of my list.
Here are some statistics that may (or may not) surprise you:
- 63 percent of people say they are keeping their resolutions after two months.
- 67 percent of people make three or more resolutions.
Top 4 resolutions:
1. Increase exercise
2. Be more conscientious about work or school
3. Develop better eating habits
4. Stop smoking, drinking, or using drugs (including caffeine)
Whether or not we resolve to make changes in our lives, I’d like to focus on number 3. With the season of indulgences behind us, adopting a healthier diet is a welcome change of pace. The effects of too many toxins and processed foods in life can fly under the radar for a while, but eventually the effects will be palpable, and at some point there will most likely be consequences. Some of the most common symptoms associated with toxic burden include fatigue, inflammation, headaches, and general aches and pains.
Fortunately, taking steps to detoxify your body and revitalize your health can be boiled down to two simple steps: first, remove known toxins; second, add in specific nutrients that help support the body’s detoxification pathways. In order to properly detoxify, you also need targeted nutrients to help your liver convert substances like caffeine, alcohol, medications, and even by-products of normal metabolism into neutral substances so they can be removed from your body before doing harm.
And let’s face it, living in the wine country can be extra taxing on our liver.
The following foods have specific nutrients that enable your body to efficiently metabolize toxins and improve overall health. They’re the perfect place to start if you’re feeling like you need some extra detox support:
— Green tea:
According to a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, green tea with high-density catechins improves liver function and fat infiltration in patients suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Green tea helps block the amount of fat stored in the liver and improves liver function. Plus, regular intake of green tea reduces body weight and fat percentage.
Along with other members of the brassica family, cabbage has chemo-preventive effects associated with the activity of detoxification enzymes and other mechanisms triggered by compounds called glucosinolates. Fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) has a secondary perk: the beneficial bacteria produced during fermentation also promotes detoxification in the gut.
Broccoli tops the list as one of the most well-researched detoxifying foods. Just like cabbage, broccoli contains glucosinolates, which are known to activate detoxification.
No discussion of detoxification could be complete without covering the chief detoxifying compound glutathione. Glutathione is made of three amino acids — glycine, cysteine, and glutamine. Asparagus is not only a source of glutathione, but it also contains additional detoxifying antioxidants.
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One of the best ways to increase glutathione is by consuming foods with all three amino acid building blocks. Whey (the liquid portion that separates from yogurt) contains glycine, cysteine, and glutamine. One study showed that alcohol-induced cell toxicity could be inhibited by the increase in glutathione from whey protein supplementation. I use the powder form in my smoothies, and have recently found it adds a lovely texture and rise in desserts.
Beets are a high-antioxidant vegetable that contain a number of nutrients that have been shown to be cleansing and detoxifying. A few of these include betaine, which helps the liver cells eliminate toxins; pectin, a fiber that clears the toxins that have been removed from the liver so they don’t reincorporate back into the body; and betalains, pigments with high anti-inflammatory properties to encourage the detoxification process.
There are plenty of reasons why garlic is one of the world’s most used medicinal foods. The sulfur compounds found in garlic are associated with numerous health benefits ranging from anti-platelet aggregation to cancer prevention. The sulfur-containing compounds in garlic have also been shown to support the detox process by activating glutathione enzymes.
Bile flow is a unique detoxification process. Bile helps to transport toxins so they can be removed from the body, and an impairment of bile flow can result in the buildup of toxins and liver injury. Artichoke contains phenolic derivatives that have been used for centuries to stimulate bile flow and to protect the liver.
Chlorella’s impressive detoxifying effects make it a must for anyone trying to reduce their toxic load. Chlorella has chelating properties, which means it can mobilize heavy metals bound to cells. Chlorella has also been shown to absorb metals in the gut, allowing them to be removed instead of stored in the cells. I add it to my green smoothies, too.
Roasted Beet Salad with Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens are another wonderful cleansing food. If you don’t care for the bitter taste, spinach may be used instead.
2 1/2 pounds beets, trimmed and scrubbed
4 cups dandelion greens, thick stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets on foil lined with parchment. (This prevents the foil from touching the beets, which can bring out additional aluminum.) Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; season with coarse salt. Wrap foil into a sealed pouch. Roast beets on a rimmed baking sheet until easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Carefully open pouch; when beets are cool enough to handle, rub off skins with paper towels. Halve beets (or quarter, if desired).
Arrange beets and dandelion greens in a serving dish. In a skillet, bring remaining 3 tablespoons oil and cumin seeds to a simmer; toss with beets and greens. Squirt lemon juice over top and sprinkle with sea salt to serve.