We’re well into the new year, so it’s time to think about cleaning out our systems and starting fresh. However, I’m not going to suggest a juice cleanse or an exotic tea. You can try these from time to time for a short while, but you can also detox in other ways. Why not enjoy delicious foods that support the body’s natural detoxification systems, including that vital organ/filter, the liver?
What exactly is “detoxification?” It’s the processing and removal of compounds in the body that cause damage to tissues. We often associate detoxing with expensive specialty products, vitamins/minerals, herbal extracts/teas, or other ‘diets.’ These detox plans are often restrictive and unsustainable for the purpose of a “quick fix” cleanse of your body. The truth is: in order to truly detox, you need a variety of vitamins and minerals to support powerful systems already in place. Research has shown that there are certain vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive substances found in food that can support detox — naturally. It you want to learn more about detoxing foods, read our nutritionist Ginger Hultin’s article.
Three of the following recipes are from my latest cookbook, Anti-Aging Dishes from Around the World.
The region of Ikaria, Greece, is a Blue Zone, meaning some of the world’s longest-living people live there. Ikarian Greeks include walnuts in their diet, and it’s no wonder many of them live well past the age of 100! Walnuts are one of the best foods for you because of their many nutritional qualities. In this pesto, the light, fresh flavor of the celery leaves goes well with the rich flavor of the walnuts. Just buy a bunch of celery with plenty of leaves still on the stalks. If you can’t find enough celery leaves, you can use stemmed watercress to make up the difference in the amount needed. This is one of the recipes is from my Anti-Aging Dishes cookbook.
Walnuts are the highest of any nut in omega-3 fatty acids, which help stabilize plaque in the arteries and are beneficial for brain function. They also contain an amino acid called L-arginine, which is good for the vascular system. They are high in antioxidants and are rich in protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese. Celery leaves and watercress contain detoxifying chlorophyll.
This pesto is delicious over whole grain pasta or spread on flat bread.
Yields about 2 cups
2 cups lightly packed celery leaves (or watercress)
1 tsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ cup walnut halves and pieces
¼ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
This recipe is also from Anti-Aging Dishes from Around the World. It features Japanese soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour and contain 8 grams of protein per serving. The vegetables add lots of vitamins and minerals and make this salad filling and satisfying. For a main course, toss in some cooked, shredded chicken breast or cooked shrimp.
Buckwheat is full of vitamin E, which supports healthy brain function, as do its omega-3 fatty acids and tryptophan. Bok choy offers indoles, a sulfur compound that neutralizes carcinogens, and nitrate, which can help reduce blood pressure. Shiitake mushrooms contain detoxifying selenium and cholesterol-lowering beta-glucans.
1 package (12 oz.) soba noodles
¾ cup peeled and shredded carrots
5 scallions, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal, halfway up the green stalk
1 cup torn baby bok choy leaves
¾ cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup Chinese pea pods or snow peas
½ cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
3 Tbs. fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds, as garnish
¼ cup smooth (natural) peanut butter
¼ cup hot water
1 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. mirin or seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp. soy sauce
4 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. hot sauce (I use sriracha)
3 Tbs. sesame oil
This simple recipe takes one skillet and only eight staple ingredients, which you probably have on hand.
The chicken is an excellent source of protein while the onions contain allicin, quercetin, and several other polyphenol antioxidants. These compounds help protect the body from oxidative stress, which contributes to conditions like heart disease and cancer. Fresh-cut and crushed garlic also contains allicin. Serve with a side of steamed broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable that contains a generous amount of detoxifying sulfuric compounds such as sulforaphane, which gives it its sharp flavor and aroma. Broccoli also helps the liver perform its role in eliminating toxins.
4 large yellow or sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt or sea salt
A pinch of red pepper flakes
8 chicken thighs with the bone in, skin removed
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbs. roughly chopped Italian parsley for garnish
These slightly exotic tasting cookies are from my most recent cookbook, Anti-Aging Dishes from Around the World. I love classic American oatmeal cookies, and Moroccan elements like dates and cardamom make them more interesting and healthier. These treats require less butter and sugar than regular recipes because of the natural sweetness dates provide. This recipe uses whole-wheat flour in addition to all-purpose for a boost of fiber and nutrients while maintaining a soft texture.
Dates are full of detoxifying fiber and also offer B vitamins for building blood cells, potassium for strong bones, and iron for healthy red blood cells. Adding oats to your cookies boosts the fiber content. Cardamom contains eucalyptol, an anti-inflammatory that breaks down mucus for lung and digestive support.
Yields 30 Cookies
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cardamom
½ cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed, or monk fruit sweetener (I use Lakanto Golden)
¼ cup granulated sugar or monk fruit sweetener (I use Lakanto Classic)
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups pitted and chopped Medjool dates
(Sugar-free if using monk fruit sweetener, but dates have plenty of fructose)
See more of my DETOX recipes here.