Cleansing in the Cold
It feels great to start eating better by cleansing after New Year’s—it feels like the time for a clean start. But at the same time, the dead of winter is when we crave warm, comforting foods. The good news is that cleansing doesn’t have to mean starving yourself by living only on green juice and smoothies. There are plenty of lighter, but still warming and delicious, winter foods that can support cleansing.
What is a cleanse?
A cleanse is a nutrition-packed diet that is followed for a short period of time. There is no set definition of the perfect cleanse or fast. Every person is different, and our needs change along with the seasons, our health, and the amount of stress and activity in our lives. The best way to go about cleansing is to take all of those things into consideration, find a set of cleansing guidelines that work for you, and tweak them to fit your individual needs. Normally, it can be destructive to be too strict with our food guidelines, but doing a short-term cleanse with restrictions once in a while can be a good way to reset and bring back our motivation. It’s a lot easier to make changes when you have a set of rules to follow, so you’re not making tough decisions every time you eat.
Following a cleansing diet for a short time can help you to jump-start your metabolism and begin to lose weight and gain energy, and it can remove toxins that may be wreaking havoc on your body. What are toxins? Toxins are toxic substances—they can affect the body negatively in many different ways, and they can come in many different forms: heavy metals, pesticides, air pollutants, and food additives, to name a few.
What do I eat?
Generally, a cleansing diet should be high in green leafy and crunchy vegetables and herbs (like cilantro, mint, and parsley). These veggies support elimination of toxins, supply essential vitamins and minerals, and fill you up without weighing you down.
Crunchy and leafy veggies are important to any cleanse, any time of the year, but there are also some foods that are specific to a winter cleansing program. Squash and sweet potatoes are excellent for a winter cleanse.
Soup is perfect for a winter cleanse! Hot peppers, ginger, and garlic are warming foods that support a healthy metabolism and are great for adding flavor and heat to a dish that might feel too light for winter otherwise, like a salad or dairy-free soup. Try a blended raw veggie soup with carrots, red and orange bell peppers, garlic, and ginger, and maybe some white beans for protein. Add water or broth and blend like a smoothie, and enjoy like a soup at room temperature. You will get all the benefits of the raw veggies, but the ginger and garlic will make the soup feel warming.
Raw foods (raw veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds) are ideal for a cleanse because they contain water—hydration is essential during a cleanse—and they contain all of their vitamins and beneficial compounds, which can be lost during cooking. Raw but spicy foods are perfect for a winter cleanse, because they still feel warming.
If you need some starchy carbohydrates, go for whole grains like brown rice and brown rice pasta, wild rice, and quinoa. But make sure your leafy and crunchy veggies take up more volume on your plate than these grains.
Don’t forget about protein and (healthy) fat. Although a cleansing diet is generally low in protein and fat, we still need some of both in order to minimize hunger throughout the day and to keep up our energy. Animal products (meat and dairy) can work really well for some people, especially if they come from pasture-raised, organically fed animals. But with a cleanse, it’s usually better to focus on plant foods. These contain fiber (animal foods do not), which helps to move digestion along and eliminate toxins.
High-protein plant foods include: nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, etc.), beans, tempeh, tofu, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc.), sprouts, and hemp hearts.
Some cooking methods diminish the nutrients in food, which is not what we want during a cleanse. But eating only raw veggies and salads during the winter sounds really bleak, so try sticking with cooking methods that leave your food warm but still really fresh. Lightly sautéing with olive oil, gently steaming, or baking at a low temperature are good ways to retain the nutrients in your veggies. Color is a good guide—try to stop cooking before your veggies lose their vibrant colors.
Water is essential to any cleanse. In the winter, you may easily become dehydrated from staying indoors in a dry, heated environment. Even though you may not feel thirsty as often as you do during the summer, it’s very important to drink water during the cold months, especially during a cleanse. Herbal tea is a great way to drink more water while staying warm, and you may like trying different flavors if you get bored easily with plain water. There are so many possibilities: peppermint, chamomile, hibiscus, lemon balm, and more. Try some more obscure herbs; do some research to find some that will benefit you and taste good. Raspberry leaf is an amazing herb for women’s health, and it has a very pleasant, black-tea-like taste.
Many cleanse programs focus on juice. If you have a juicer at home, you can make fresh juice, and this can be a supportive part of a cleanse. Keep in mind that consuming only juice or water for too long can be damaging, especially to blood sugar. If you do make juice a part of your diet, try to use vegetables more heavily. Ginger, green apple, and kale (heavy on the kale) makes a great green juice.
A good time frame for a cleanse is 2-4 weeks. Maybe set 2 weeks as your goal, and when you reach it, see if you feel like going for another 2 weeks.
Do not focus on calories, unless that is truly the only way that you can maintain your cleanse. Counting calories is stressful and time-consuming, and it only tells you about quantity, not quality. You could eat 1000 calories per day (a very low-calorie diet) in doughnuts, but that would not qualify as a cleanse! It’s much better to set up certain foods that you will eat a lot of, and certain others that you will avoid. For example, go vegan. This means avoiding meat, dairy, and eggs. Cut out sugar and gluten, too, or just pick one. Maybe cut out caffeine, maybe all processed/pre-packaged foods, or all of the above!
Finally, think about your physical activity during your cleanse. Exercise is important to the detoxification process, but you don’t want to overdo it while you are consuming lower levels of protein and starchy carbohydrates—this could leave you feeling weak and shaky. Walk outside or do yoga, or if you do more intense cardio like swimming or running, keep your workouts short.
- 1.Set a goal—for example, go vegan, gluten free, and sugar free.
- 2.Set a time frame for your cleanse—2-4 weeks.
- 3.Create a list of all the health-supportive foods and beverages you can have, and find or create recipes and meal ideas for your cleanse.
- 4.Try to minimize stress, and avoid strenuous exercise.
- 5.If you can spend some time in a sauna or steam room, do it! This is another way to facilitate the elimination of toxins, and it feels especially blissful during the winter.
- 6.Hydrate, all day long.
Enerfood, our alkalizing greens powder, is the perfect addition to any cleanse. This blend includes algae and seaweed, among other types of greens and herbs that support cleansing and detoxification.
Create your own cold-weather cleanse, and get ready to feel amazing this winter!