7 Foods to Spring Clean Your Diet

Smiling Caucasian woman smelling the flower bouquet she's just bought.

 

Spring is in the air, and I feel the urge to clean.

After a long, cold and dry winter, our apartment isn’t the only thing in need of a little facelift. My skin and hair are feeling a bit sluggish and dull. (Apparently my twice-a-year facial isn’t cutting it.) And in chasing my 2-year old, I’ve noticed my energy levels have started to fizzle.

I picked up some not-so-great habits over the winter like salty, meat-heavy dinners, late night bowls of gelato, nightcap glasses of wine… (it’s no surprise that most of these indulgences happen later in the day – my attempt to both smother my stress and reward myself for “making it” to the kids’ bed time). I found myself waking up in the morning looking like I’d put on a few years the night before.

So I of course went overboard and detoxed every aspect of my life. I speed-cleaned the entire apartment, ran out to buy fresh flowers, purged old clothes from my closet, dumped out last night’s remaining wine (kinda regretting that one), booked a facial, grocery shopped for cleansing foods and started a detox. Not in that fancy green juice kind of way. More of a “what bad habits can I replace with better ones?” kind of way. Here’s what I started doing immediately:

1. Green Tea. After my one cup of fully caffeinated coffee in the morning, I would drink 1-2 cups of decaf throughout the day. While it’s not particularly bad, it’s not really all that good. So I swapped my decaf coffee for green tea with lemon and honey.

The benefits: Green tea contains antioxidant catechins that help reduce inflammation and cell damage throughout your body. Translation: skin has less redness, brain cells live longer, and everything just works better.

2. Avocados. Slice some for your salad, spread it onto whole grain toast, or toss it into a morning smoothie like my Honestly Green recipe. I also found this cool new avocado spread called GoAvo, which I started using instead of mayonnaise in my tuna salad sandwiches.

The benefits: They’re rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that’s essential for liver detoxification. (Your liver filters all the junk from the foods we eat out of our blood.) One cup of avocado also contains almost 25% of your daily need for folate, a B-vitamin crucial for heart health.

3. Broccoli & Cauliflower. These two veggies were in the regular rotation at our house growing up, so I love eating them just steamed with a touch of salt and sometimes butter. I also like to add broccoli to my omelets. Broccoli rabe sautéed in olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and sea salt is one of my all time favorite side veggies. Thank you, mom, for always making us eat our broccoli.

The benefits: Cruciferous veggies (also includes cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts) are rich sources of sulfur, which helps pull toxins from the body and is touted as a key element in cancer prevention.

4. Watercress (or spinach, kale, lettuce and all greens!) I toss them to make salads, add to omelets, blend into smoothies, and (my latest obsession) “grill” them on my cast iron grill pan. Romaine is awesome for this! Just cut the romaine heart in half lengthwise, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, grill 3 minutes on both sides and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

The benefits: Greens are high in fiber, low in calories and provide tons of nutrition. A few highlights: vitamin A for healthy vision and skin, calcium and vitamin K for strong bones, vitamin C to help stave off colds and flus, and a host of antioxidants for cancer prevention.

5. Cherries & Berries. My freezer is loaded with frozen fruit. Instead of my nightly gelato, I’ll fix a bowl of frozen berries (think: cherries, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) to enjoy with a cup of tea.

The benefits: Cherries & berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins which are powerfully anti-inflammatory. They also help protect against oxidative cell damage (aka normal wear-and-tear) and can help prevent age-related diseases like heart disease and cancer. Cherries also contain melatonin which helps you sleep better at night.

6. Orange Spritzer. When the sun comes out, we love to go to brunch with friends and family. Sipping a mimosa tastes delicious and, of course, helps me kick back, but since I don’t have the luxury of being able to indulge in the post-brunch nap it makes me crave, I’d rather skip the short-lived buzz and reach for something that does my body good. I mix orange juice with soda water for a refreshing mocktail. Garnished with a little fresh mint, it still feels fancy enough for brunch.

The benefits: Orange is rich in vitamin C, which helps support the processing and removal of toxins by the liver. It also acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage. The added hydration helps flush toxins and waste from the body.

7. Brown Rice. I use long grain brain rice, and the key is to toast it in the pan for a couple of minutes before adding water and chicken stock to boil it in. It makes the most delicious, almost nutty-tasting rice that I can pair with baked salmon, eggs, black beans, or just eat it plain with a little sea salt.

The benefits: Unlike white rice, brown rice is packed with fiber. It’s like a broom sweeping away toxins and waste products from your digestive tract.

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