Spring cleaning for your body: 3 herbal teas for detoxification

Spring is just about here which means it is time for spring cleaning and detoxifying our bodies! Herbs like dandelion, stinging nettle and  milk thistle are a great way to support your body’s ability to eliminate toxins.  Try them on their own with a little lemon or honey for taste, or combine them with your favourite herbal teas for some added medicinal properties!

1. Dandelion tea: dandelions appear in the spring and assist the earth by detoxifying the soil.  Why not try a cup to assist your liver and kidneys to detoxify your body?  Check out my post ‘3 things you didn’t know about dandelions‘ for more fun facts about this weed!

2. Stinging nettle: beware of stinging nettle the next time you go for a walk in the woods, topical exposure to this herb can cause a red, stinging rash! But internally, it is useful at decreasing inflammation in your intestines as well as promoting the function of your kidneys because it is a mild diuretic.

3. Milk thistle: this herb is an excellent liver tonic because it helps your liver cells regrow and replenish new cells.  It is not contraindicated with pharmaceutical drug use and can be beneficial for protecting the liver from harmful effects of these drugs.  It has virtually no flavour and can easily be added to other herbal teas.  Or you can be adventurous and add this tea to your homemade ice tea and popsicles for a sweet treat!

Take a moment out of your busy day to enjoy a wonderful cup of tea!

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3 things you didn’t know about dandelions

Dandelions are usually considered a pesky, unwanted and dreaded weed, forever cluttering up our lawns.  It seems the more we pull them up the faster they sprout from the ground!

And even though we know we shouldn’t do it, who can resist blowing at one of those little puff balls and assisting their spread to your neighbours’ lawns?

I sure can't!

Thanks to my friend and fellow naturopathic doctor Sylvi Martin for taking this photo.

However much you might HATE dandelions, you may actually need their ASSISTANCE at some point of your life!

Here’s 3 things you didn’t know about dandelions:

1. You can drink them as a tea!

Dandelion leaves are packed full of good vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, magnesium, and zinc

Here’s everything you need to know about dandelion tea and recipes to make your own dandelion tea!

2. Dandelions can help you stay regular.

Phytochemicals found in dandelion support digestive tract function and have a mild laxative effect which keeps your bowel movements on track.  Going to the bathroom at least once a day is ideal, if you are going less than that you are considered constipated 😦

3. Dandelions are considered the earth’s ultimate detoxifier, and they can also help YOUR body to eliminate toxins.

The leaves support the function of the kidneys which filter your blood, pull out toxins and waste products and eliminates them from your body in the urine.

Dandelion leaves and roots support your liver which eliminates toxins and bodily waste products, makes bile (a substance that helps you absorb fats and nutrients from your food) and makes a healthy balance of hormones.

Next time you’re in the garden weeding out the dandelions, stop and say hello to them because you may need them in the future to help you stay healthy.

FUN FACT: If you can pronounce the latin name for dandelion: Taraxacum officinalis then you are on your way to being a herbalist! To learn more about the taraxacum officinalis species and its medicinal properties visit this great site: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html

I decided to detox, now what do I eat?

Once you decide to do a detox, one of the hardest things is figuring out what to eat.  One of the first steps to help you is to be prepared and have fresh, healthy food on hand (see my previous post: https://drellensimonend.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/what-foods-do-you-buy-for-a-spring-detox-diet/)

Next is to decide on some food options for each meal:

Breakfast: I chose 3 things and I alternate through them. First, a smoothie with rice milk, berries, pear and rice protein powder. Second, rice cakes spread with almond butter, honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. Third, rice porridge with stewed apples, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

Lunch: I think salad is the easiest choice for lunch. You just need to start with a base of lettuce then add whatever you want in terms of fruits and vegetables. I usually just add olive oil and vinegar for dressing.

Here’s some salad combo ideas:

This is a salad I made with mangos, walnuts and sunflower seeds. Mangos weren’t on my original shopping list but since they are in season my mom bought a case and gave me half of it. I think I’ll be making some mango curry chicken soon.

More salad combos: lettuce + berries + lemon juice + almonds

lettuce + shredded carrots + avocado slices + olive oil + balsamic vinegar + walnuts

lettuce + grilled zuccini + roasted garlic + grilled chicken + olive oil + balsamic vinegar

Basically, you can’t go wrong with salad 🙂

Dinner: The basic template for my dinners has been grain + protein + 1-2 vegetables. Grains include quinoa, brown rice and rice pasta. Protein has been chicken, salmon, lentils or beans. Vegetables can be whatever you want within the limits of the detox diet.

Above is an example of the dinner template: 1 large serving of liver friendly broccoli + brown rice with onions and sunflower seeds + baked salmon with olive oil and paprika.

Snacks: Besides a serving of fruit or vegetable, I always have a container of mixed nuts and seeds with me in case I am not at home and get hungry. Otherwise I’d be more tempted to buy some chicken mcnuggets. So always try to have snacks on you at all times.

Rice cakes and rice crackers are always good for a detox diet.

Rice cakes spread with hummus!

Rice cakes with avocado spread. Avocado spread is basically mashed avocado + olive oil + salt + pepper + lemon juice. It only takes 2 minutes to make! Hummus and avocado spread can also be used on chicken, grains and vegetables to give them more flavour.

I think tonight’s dinner menu will be rice pasta with chicken, zuccini, basil and garlic pesto! Check back for my next post about dining out on a detox diet.

What foods do you buy for a spring detox diet?

Today was session one of the spring detox we are hosting at Retrofit Pilates and I feel refreshed and motivated after our invigorating “expressive dance pilates” workout with Ana. Thanks Ana!

I started my 10 day food elimination detox this morning when I rolled out of bed and drank some warm lemon water instead of coffee.  It is now around 4pm in the afternoon and I’m starting to get the “I need caffeine” headache and the “I just want something sweet” craving.  Your body can become dependent on these and other food substances so it may take a couple of days of feeling yucky before you start to feel amazing.  But that’s ok because I am prepared and I’m one step ahead of the cravings.  Here’s a look at my shopping list:

In addition to the above items I had these staple foods at home which you can purchase in bulk:

Almonds, almond butter, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds

Rice and almond milk. If you can’t find the original unsweetened kind then the sweetened vanilla flavour is fine.

Brown rice, a brown and wild rice mix, quinoa, rice pasta, rice porridge (like cream of wheat), rice crackers, rice cakes and lentils.

Garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Indian curry spice mix, paprika, sea salt, Italian seasoning spices.  All herbs and spices are acceptable. You’re going to need them to make your food less bland.

100% natural fruit juice (don’t go overboard with this, even though it is natural fruit sugars too much of it can negatively affect your blood sugar levels). A 1/2 cup of guava, pear or apple juice is enough to satisfy my sugar cravings.

I use honey to sweeten things like herbal tea but stevia is also good.

Why did I choose some of the foods on my shopping list?

Apples, pears, frozen berries: these are cheap and sweet so they can satisfy your sweet tooth.  You can eat them as a snack, blend them into a fruit smoothie, chop and add them to salad, boil them to the desired consistency with some lemon, honey and cinnamon for a snack, breakfast or to use as a spread for rice cakes.  Adding nuts and seeds to the boiled fruits adds protein and good fats to keep you feeling full for longer.

Broccoli, kale, cabbage: these are also relatively cheap and are all part of the Brassica family of vegetables.  Foods in this family contain phytochemicals which support liver cells in their detoxification process.  Their high amount of fibre also adds bulk to your stools making you more regular.  Cabbage can be made in so many different ways and seems to last a long time because whenever I buy one I can use it for two weeks (or until I’m sick of the cabbage flavour!)

Hummus and avocado: Hummus is a spread made from chickpeas and comes in a variety of flavours. You can dip raw vegetables or rice crackers into it for a snack. You can spread it on rice cakes or mix it into your brown rice and quinoa for added flavour. Avocados are great for salads. I also mash them with some olive oil, salt, lemon and garlic to make a guacamole spread for rice cakes or to mix with brown rice.  Hummus and avocado spreads are quick and easy to make and provide good protein and fats.

Tonight my plan is to prepare some meals for the week and tomorrow I will share some more `meal and snack ideas.

Is it ok for your doctor to eat McDonalds?

I’m currently planning a 10 day food elimination detox program which will start at a local pilates studio this weekend and I decided to take a little break and go on facebook.  That’s when I came across the following two pictures:

I immediately thought, “Oh no! This is EVIDENCE!” Evidence that I don’t always do what I tell my patients to do in terms of nutritional recommendations.  Everyone knows McDonald’s is not the healthiest food choice, and some people don’t even consider it to be real food! I always believed as a doctor you should set an example to others with healthy eating and lifestyle habits.  You are supposed to be the role model and the prime example of health. So when I came across these photos I thought, “These need to be deleted immediately! I must hide the evidence!”

Then I realized that even if I delete this evidence, I could still be caught in real life eating McDonald’s because this in fact did just happen to me during March break (it was the McDonald’s two can dine value coupon book promotion!).  I was walking out of the McDonald’s holding my take-out bag of McChicken and medium fries in one hand and my giant Coke in the other when I ran into a patient of mine.  I was a little embarressed but luckily this patient was a friend of mine from before so she wasn’t so surprised to see me carrying McDonald’s.

After that incident I thought since there is no way I will be able to hide my McDonald’s eating, I may as well tell everyone about it because I feel that even though it is evidence I don’t eat healthy all the time, it is also evidence that I am human and having cravings for those greasy, salty french fries just like the rest of you do, even if you don’t admit it.

I believe the key to eating McDonald’s is to do it in moderation.  I usually only eat it twice a year when those coupon booklets are delivered in the mail and when I’m travelling somewhere and we stop to eat McDonald’s at a rest stop.  Looking back at the past year, I think I’ve probably had a McDonald’s meal about once every 6 weeks.  This equals about 9 meals a year and when you put it in the context of eating 3 meals a day for 365 days which is 1,095 meals a year, I think 9/1,095 meals is pretty good.

Next week I won’t be able to eat McDonald’s because I will be guiding people through a spring detox diet program, but I am looking forward to eating my green leafy vegetables and helping others to eat them too, since that is what I eat most of the time anyway.  Cookie Monster says, “Cookies are a SOMETIMES food!” and I say, “McDonald’s is a SOMETIMES food!”