At this point, our bodies are crying out for a bit of cleansing and self-care. However, the problem many of us may face is that when it comes to nutrition, diet and detox it can be hard to sort out fact from fiction. With weight-loss being one of the top New Years resolutions, there’s no shortage of advice on what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Unfortunately, many of the raw food diets and hardcore juice cleanses marketed at this time of the year, are a bad idea and based on poor fad advice.
Think about it. Would you want to sip on an iced cold juice in -30 degree weather? No, thanks! This is because in the winter our bodies naturally seek warmth and nourishment. Especially for those of us living in cold climates, we need to conserve energy and build strength in preparation for the spring and busy months ahead. This basic principle is known as eating with the seasons and it goes beyond food alone. As the seasons change, the foods we eat and the way we live our lives should change too. According to Eastern medicine, harmonizing oneself with nature is the most beneficial way to support your health and prevent disease.
What can you do?
Fortunately, there are many healthy habits you can adopt to get yourself back on track. Here are some simple yet effective ways to help restore your health after the holiday season. Please keep in mind that these are general suggestions and may need to be adjusted depending on your particular health condition.
1. Eat whole, nutrient-dense foods.
The foundation of any healthy diet is getting back to the basics. What does this mean? Eating simple, nutrient-dense whole foods. Throw away the processed and packaged junk and avoid anything that is refined, as these foods have been stripped from their nutritional value. Take it a step further and eat organic only – or as much as possible. Reducing your toxic load will give your liver a break, allowing it to do its job and for detoxification of the body to take place.
2. Eat foods that have a warming effect.
In order to live in harmony with the seasons, the winter months are all about foods that will keep us warm. Based on Eastern medicine, foods that have a warming effect generally take longer to grow than foods that grow quickly. Squashes and root vegetables like beets and turnips are great examples of warming foods, whereas quick-growing vegetables like lettuce and cucumber have a cooling effect and should be limited.
Another principle to follow is to eat foods that are cooked. The belief is that cooked foods require less energy to digest than foods that are raw or uncooked. When raw food is consumed, the body uses more of its internal energy to heat up the food to properly break it down. This can place a strain on our digestive systems, particularly for those of us who are sensitive or suffer from a digestive condition like IBS or IBD.
With this in mind, here are some great examples of nourishing winter foods:
Soups (especially bone broth-based)
Cooked vegetables (especially roots and squashes)
Fermented foods (to promote digestive health and boost immunity)
Herbal teas and warming spices (e.g. garlic, ginger and cinnamon)
Good quality fats (e.g. coconut oil, olive oil and ghee)
3. Drink warm water with lemon in the morning.
This is by far one of the best ways to start off your day. After sleeping several hours without water, there is no doubt your body is going to be dehydrated. Drinking a big 16-ounce glass of filtered water with the fresh juice of half a lemon will help your kidneys flush out toxins, stimulate the bowels and fire up your metabolism. Lemon is also a great source of vitamin C and is incredibly alkalizing. This is beneficial as a key factor in supporting detoxification is maintaining the right acid-alkaline balance in the body.
4. Avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates and allergenic foods.
One of the best things you can do for your health is to avoid refined sugar. Excess sugar consumption promotes poor blood glucose regulation, causes inflammation in the body, suppresses the immune system and is a huge burden on the adrenals and liver. This includes refined carbohydrates, alcohol and natural sugars like honey and maple syrup.
I would also recommend avoiding common food allergens like gluten and dairy. In fact, you should avoid any foods that you are sensitive to or have a hard time digesting. This will give your body the chance to reset and heal itself.
5. Adopt lifestyle habits that promote health and wellbeing.
Eating the right foods is just one piece of the puzzle. There are several lifestyle habits that promote health and wellness and should be part of your winter “detox”. Getting 7-8 hour of restful sleep, reducing “screen” time and moving your body are some examples. Remember, winter is a time to recharge and rest. Try to adopt habits that will help you achieve this. Instead of a strenuous workout regime, do some light exercise like yoga or walking. Instead of spending your down time watching TV or on your phone, read a book, play a board game or start a new hobby. The idea is to reduce stress and relax your mind.
We can all benefit from doing a cleanse a few times a year, especially after a period of indulging and not treating our bodies as well as we should. A winter cleanse is a great way to adopt or restore habits of health after the holidays are over. Conserving energy, keeping warm and eating nourishing whole foods is the focus of a winter cleanse. Leave the juices, smoothies and salads for the warmer months to come. Most importantly, listen to your body! Be mindful of what it is trying to tell you. Nobody knows what is best for your body than you!
Nathalie Brusch, Certified Nutritional Practitioner.