From my lofty vantage out the third floor window, I see broken twigs and browned leaves, nature’s debris, being blown across my yard. All the while sheets of rain soak and puddle about, making the remaining patches of crusty old snow disappear once and for all. If I don’t turn in immediate despair over this continually gray sky, I might glimpse the green tops of daffodil shoots pushing through along the back border or peering into the garden beds I can spy a dash of white crocus blossoms (yes, this is the far north!). All about us nature is ready to burst anew, while the heavens provide an unwavering cleanse of all that winter left behind. As I face the window panes pelted by this windy April rain shower, I realize this horrid weather is the perfect metaphor for what our bodies need too. Cleansing out the body’s toxins and stresses of the past dark months leads to improved mood and energy levels as well as aiding your digestion and strengthening your resistance. A detox diet is easy to do if you follow sage advice (Warning: avoid over-the-counter detox fad diets that actually do more harm than good!).
I was fortunate to have met Pratima over a decade ago and have heeded her counsel ever since. Dr. Pratima Raichur, an Ayurvedic pioneer, holds shop in New York City, but can be introduced through her book, Absolute Beauty or contacted through her website. Her guidance allows you to understand the influence diet and lifestyle has on your overall health and well-being. As a sure and steady detox, she recommends a vegan diet, along with unprocessed foods and specific herbs, for 21 days. It is hard to describe how wonderful it feels to eat less-dense, less-processed food. If you normally eat a locavore diet, organic or vegetarian, shopping only at your farmer’s market or health-food shop, planning a detox is an easy adjustment to make to your routine; however, if you are the type who plans meals depending on what coupons you cut on Sunday, a person who eats pre-prepared or packaged foods, this shift might present more of a challenge, but with baby steps a lighter diet can still be possible. Regardless where you start, a dietary cleanse is meant to be short term, comfortable, and be comprised of foods accessible no matter where you live or how you shop. ( If you are pregnant or a lactating mother, a detox is not for you, but please do consider everything you ingest is shaping your child; so although this is not a time to cleanse, you should maintain as pure a diet as possible.)
Having gone through biyearly detoxes for over a decade,( spring and fall) my focus is no longer on what I can’t eat, but what I can: an abundance of fresh greens and vegetables and early fruits, (think berries), sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds along with red or green lentils and chickpeas, actually every bean under the sun. Whole grains too, (although go light on these). Quinoa is a new favorite, delicious and high in protein. Okay now, I know many of you are wondering, where does dark chocolate with currants fit into this plan? Or that wonderful “Cupcake” chardonnay you are so fond of with your pasta dinner? Well, neither alcohol nor sweets are part of this, short-term, and I remind you short-term, cleanse. And neither are refined or processed foods, especially as they come laden with preservatives and additives. Just leave them on the supermarket shelves for a few weeks and see how much more energy you have and take comfort in your newly found inner resolve without eating those products. Need a visual? Look out your window. See the torrents of water dashing down from the heavens, and that wind, record levels just ridding your lawn or field or alley of debris? “As above, so below.”
Before I lose you dear reader, keep on, for I am only asking you to try a few adjustments. To start, take a walk down the produce section of your grocery store. Very stimulating, yes? Ah, after our long black, gray and white winter the green of the baby spinach, the red of those cherry tomatoes, the assortment of beautiful berries, all bring back color and smell to our dulled senses. Now, look closer and see the organic section? Might be small or large depending on your location, but either way, try composing your meals from this area for a while. (You just might never go back to conventional produce!)
Let’s start with breakfast. A smoothie is simple enough. For those ready to try going vegan, all you need is almond or rice or soy milk blended with frozen fruit. (I keep a bag of frozen blueberries and strawberries in my freezer.) Throw in some ground flax seed, a sliced banana, maybe a dash of honey, a plant-based protein powder and you have pure heaven. For those wanting to keep dairy in their diet, substitute yogurt as your base and a dairy-based protein powder. There are hundreds of smoothie recipes and books, so explore with your blender until you find the one that gives you the right start.
Why not include a brilliant salad for your luncheon? Start with organic lettuce and just have fun grating carrots or beets, adding whatever raw veggies are available or appetizing. Half an avocado or a scoop of hummus will complete this lavish meal. Since I have to bring lunch to my work place, I concoct my salad in the morning and add the dressing later. And instead of a pre-made dressing, you need only squeeze a slice of lemon and drizzle olive oil on top to complement all those flavors. Sprinkle some pumpkin and sunflower seeds for a bit of crunch and protein. Easy, yes?
For dinner how about soup; again, keep it simple by using any of your favorite vegan/vegetarian recipes. This chickpea soup, stolen shamelessly from the inspired David Rocco, only takes minutes to prepare and cook, and tastes truly divine!
Ingredients: 1/4 cup extra- virgin olive oil, 1 finely chopped onion, 1 can organic chickpeas (drain and rinse), 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 2 1/2 cups water, salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste, (Optional: grated parmigiano cheese).
Directions: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and saute until lightly golden, add the chickpeas and rosemary along with the salt and pepper. Using a fork, mash about 1/3 of the chickpeas to your desired texture. Add the water and cook for about 15 minutes. Before serving add a drop more of olive oil (and here you may add the cheese).
The point of a cleanse is you give your body a chance to shed the heavy winter and allow for something new to break through. Perhaps during these few detox weeks you can schedule a massage at your favorite spa or attend a few yoga classes. Certainly drink more water, walk in the fresh air, smile when you greet someone, and allow the rain and wind to reveal a new you.