By Ali Lopez
The calendar says that spring is here (the snow and ice last week didn’t see that on the calendar!). Here’s hoping that is true! After a long winter of indulging in comfort foods, maybe your body is ready for a change of pace, ready to cleanse.
Our bodies store up as much as they can in the winter, trying to keep us warm. By spring, our liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract are ready to let go of all that they have held on to, including toxins. The best thing you can do is give them a break. Don’t worry though, I am not talking about a 10-day juice fast or special detox plan—I am talking about healing with real foods. You really needn’t look much further than the produce section and your own kitchen to do a little spring cleansing of your own. (And in case you missed it, last year around this time I wrote this spring immunity post.)
A super-clean eating program can do wonders for your body and mind. The great thing about the human body is that it knows how to cleanse, instinctively. We just need to give it the right environment to succeed. Feasting on fresh fruits and vegetables is great for the body and for the digestive system, and doing so allows the organs to do their job without interference. To get started, simply remove what is unnatural and processed, and include what is fresh and real. When support is given to the body nutritionally, it naturally detoxes.
Here are some of my favorite foods and ways to help detoxify, hydrate, and refresh your body all naturally, just in time for Michigan Spring!
Starting the day with a glass of water infused with lemon (warm or room temperature) is a great strategy to help cleanse your body. Lemons contain lots of vitamin C and are great for digestion and alkalizing the body. Lemon juice is so versatile in cooking too. My favorite salad dressing is a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. (Check out my favorite kale salad recipe here) You can also add lemon to smoothies and marinades. A squeeze of lemon on pasta, veggies, chicken, fish or in soup really helps bring out the flavors, too.
Go Green! (OK, Heather, Go White!)
Start your body’s spring cleanse by adding more greens, especially dark leafy greens such as bok choy, kale, chard, spinach and collards. Young, leafy greens such as baby lettuces or dandelion leaves, fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro as well as seasonal veggies such as asparagus, radishes, spring onions, chives, and peas are great for a springtime diet, too. Raw veggies are highly alkalizing and high in fiber, which helps cleanse the colon and detoxify the liver.
Spice It Up
Ginger and turmeric are two of my favorite spices anytime of year but especially in the spring. Ginger is great for digestion and has strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it tastes great. Turmeric is another spice that has been in the spotlight lately. It is a powerful antioxidant that has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. I make a ginger, turmeric and lemon tea sweetened with a little maple syrup. Yummy hot or cold!
Some other ways to lighten up your springtime diet: eating avocados for healthy fats, and eating more juicy fruits like citrus, pineapple, apples and antioxidant-rich berries. And get outside and soak up some Vitamin D. Spring is just around the corner… hopefully!
A few of my favorite springtime cleansing recipes.
For the Pesto:
- 2 cups fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan (optional) or nutritional yeast for vegan version
- 2 garlic cloves
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
For the Quinoa:
- 2 cups quinoa
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 lb. small asparagus 1-inch cut (you can use frozen too!)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 good handfuls fresh baby spinach
- Olive oil, as needed
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the pesto: place parsley, garlic and walnuts in food processor bowl or powerful blender, pulse until combined. Add in remaining ingredients and process until you get a nice smooth consistency.
For the quinoa: In a medium saucepan, heat the water over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Add the quinoa and salt. Bring back to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the quinoa absorbs the water (add more if you need to), about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes, covered. This will allow the quinoa to fully absorb the water and become nice and fluffy.
In a large skillet heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add asparagus to skillet. After about 5 minutes add peas and sauté until tender but still bright green and al dente, about 10 minutes. Then add the spinach and wilt slightly. Remove from heat. Add quinoa and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the pesto (or to your taste) to the skillet. Mix well. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with extra parmesan if you like. Serve warm or at room temperature. The leftover pesto keeps great in the fridge.
- 2 cups baby spinach (or mixed greens)
- 2 cups arugula
- 1 avocado, pitted and diced
- 1 clementine, grapefruit or blood orange, peeled, sectioned
- Few tablespoons of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Juice of a lemon
- 1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- sea salt and black pepper
Toss spinach and arugula with avocado and citrus.
To prepare dressing:
Place the lemon juice and honey in a small jar with a lid. Shake to dissolve the honey.
Add the oil, salt and pepper. Replace lid and shake until combined. Pour some of the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat it lightly. You may have extra dressing.
Top with seeds.
Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at heather [at] michiganrunnergirl [dot] com
You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on this MRG podcast.