"Ten detox diets to cleanse your body".
"Naturally detoxify and lose weight!"
"Reset your health with this 7-day juice cleanse."
It's about this time of year we start to see these lines popping up in magazines, websites and social media. It happens every year without fail, and every year some of us feel that familiar pull. Should I try and cleanse my system? I have been indulging over the holidays… maybe I've put on a kilo or two… wouldn't I feel better if I ate 'clean' for a while? What about that juice cleanse? Sure, I'd miss solid food, but no pain, no gain, right?
It's tempting to give these promising-sounding quick-fixes a go. But we all know by now, don't we, that they don't really work?
I probably don't need to go over the science on this. But here's a quick precis: our bodies have a well-designed system to detoxify us. This includes our liver, kidneys and colon - all of which help keep anything resembling a toxin from harming us. This system only needs cleansing in the case of poisoning or drug overdose, when medical intervention is absolutely necessary.
But most of us who are not poisoned do not need detoxification. And there is no evidence that any of the products or diets marketed as detoxes serve to do anything more than lighten our wallets. Any benefits we may feel, such as weight loss, are extremely likely to be temporary.
OK, that's out of the way. But say we still feel sluggish and less than healthy after a holiday of indulgence… what can we do to feel truly better, for good?
I propose instead of a detox, we go for a re-health. And to me that means instead of cutting things out of our diets, adding things in.
When you focus on adding healthy things to your day instead of cutting out 'bad' things, two things happen.
First, you focus on something positive. Your mindset is not about denial and deprivation. It's about abundance. This small change in thinking can have a really big impact and can potentially break us out of a harmful diet/weight loss/weight re-gain cycle, if that's been our pattern.
Secondly, when you add healthy things into your day, they will automatically, to some degree, displace less healthy things. So you'll eat better without feeling you're trying too hard, and you'll feel better.
I think the number one thing to try adding is plants. Especially plants in the form of colourful vegetables. If you do one thing only to re-health yourself, make it this: think about how you can add more vegetables to every meal.
At this time of year, this is easy and delicious, since we have a gorgeous array of summer produce at our disposal. A day of re-health can easily include 6-8 serves of vegetables if you start from breakfast.
Veges at breakfast are easy: try avocado and ripe tomatoes on toast; an omelette with broccoli and spinach; frittata with leftover veges from last night or a simple scramble of eggs with whatever veges you find in the fridge. If eggs aren't your thing, go for a tofu or tempeh scramble for another serve of plant food with extra protein.
Another idea which is not as weird as it sounds, I promise, is grating carrot into a bircher muesli. Add cinnamon and walnuts and you have a kind of carrot cake muesli that's got delicious texture and satiety.
Lunches are easy to pack with plants, especially if you make a big hearty salad. If you're more of a sandwich person, why not try deconstructing that sammie so you can get more than a few token leaves into it? Take the bread, toast it and cut or tear into croutons. Then add a couple of handfuls of colourful veges - not just leaves, but all the crunchy, bright veges as well - and a serving of protein such as chicken or tuna. Add your favourite dressing and a few nuts or seeds and boom: healthy plant-based lunch with at least two serves of veges. Other ideas: fritters using whatever grated veg that takes your fancy with a salad and dip; cold noodle salad with heaps of vege ribbons; brown rice and quinoa mixed with chopped crunchy veges, chicken or meat and a zingy dressing.
Dinner's where you can go all out. All you need to do to re-health is make half the plate (at least) colourful veges. Ideally, the other half won't be full of a huge steak, but I'll leave that to you. (A small meat serve is fine).
What we want from this 're-health' is to still be doing it this time next year; in other words, it's become a long-term habit, from which you're reaping a long-term benefit. Something no detox is ever going to achieve.