Hope all of you are having a fun and safe halloween. I am not usually the kind of person to get so excited over halloween. I mean, Halloween wasn’t such a huge holiday I celebrated growing up in Peru, and as an adult, I never took this opportunity to dress up all glamorous or sexy like some people do. Today, I started my day with a Spooky Bloody Smoothie (recipe below), had a business call, then out to the gym!!!
At the cardio-dance class I always go to, we had a special Halloween party. Big decision, what to wear? I don’t have costumes, but I do have a blue wig I sported at a work event over the summer. okay! the never-fail 80’s look will be!! Shiny silver tights… checked!, waist line mini shorts… checked!, leg warmers… checked!, bright colorful make up… checked! accessories… checked! and blue wig… checked!
Gym classroom was packed and full of creative costumes and accessories, which added to the full energy we had, it got extra sweaxy in there. Oh boy! was it hot in there, and this wig didn’t help much, but it was all about having fun!!! and we sure know how to do that. Over a few months of training and dancing together, we have formed a nice group of friends who know how to have fun while exercising.
Now I have to think what to put on for tonight. Nothing big planned, just out around town with girlfriends.
What is really sexy is this Spooky Bloody Smoothie that I made a year ago for a smoothie contest, and won me an admission ticket to a convention in the UK and to be part of a wellness group where we talk and share experience and share juice and smoothies ideas.
Although it looks a little gory bloody, it is tasty and fun to make. It is a green smoothie and beet juice. Don’t let the looks fool you, this smoothie is sweet (from the beets and coconut), fresh taste (lemon) and is spiked with a zing from the ginger.
Spooky Bloody Smoothie
For the smoothie:
- a handful of kale (or spinach)
- 2 inch cucumber
- coconut (and the water)
- lemon (to taste)
- some herbal, detox root tea
Put all ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender and blend away. Transfer to a glass.
For the juice:
- 1 small beet
- a knob of ginger
Juice both ingredients and overlay on to the green smoothie. Make sure it spills over to the side.
To decorate the plate, I put some roots and herbs that I used to make the detox tea and used them as graveyard dirt.
The nasty fingers were made with baby carrots and banana chips. Mwwwhahahaha!
Enjoy! have fun tonight, and be safe.
This is not your typical sushi roll. Although I very much enjoy a good platter of fresh sushi, there are those times when I want to go all veggies (usually when having a little break from certain foods). Here you get a good dose of minerals and detoxifying power from sea vegetables (nori). The cauliflower works really well as a rice substitute. The tamari is a great substitute for soy sauce mainly because tamari has little or no wheat (so less gluten) and is less salty than soy sauce. Also, Tamari is specifically a Japanese form of soy sauce while the common soy sauce we all know originated in China.
This is a quick snack so easy to make and kid friendly. Another great way to have the kids involved in the kitchen 😉
For the ‘rice’:
- ½ head of cauliflower
- ½ cup activated almonds**
- 1 tbsp tamari (gluten free)
- juice of ½ lemon
In a food processor, put all these ingredients until well incorporated and almost of ‘rice like’ consistency. Set aside.
For the fillings:
- Grated carrots (or cut out in thing strips)
- Cucumber (cut in strips)
- Avocado (cut in strips)
- On a flat surface lay out 1 nori sheet with the shiny side down.
- Scoop a couple of tablespoons of ‘cauliflower rice’ and spread out evenly across one end of the nori sheet.
- Align your favorite fillings along with the cauliflower rice.
- Start rolling by carefully grabbing the end of the nori sheet and making its way until the entir sheet is rolled up. To seal, moisten the edge of the nori sheet with a little water (just wet your fingers).
- Serve with Gluten-free tamari or organic soy sauce and wasabi.
Every time the word DETOX or JUICE CLEANSE comes out there is more than one person who rolls their eyes in disapproval. In recent years, we have seen more ‘detox plans’, diets, plants and herbs that claim to help improve health. But people have the preconception that it is a hippie practice of burning incense, drinking herbal potions and doing enemas (well if you want to go hard-core or if you are really clogged, plunging the pipes is not a bad idea). But if you want to avoid extreme measures, it is best to understand what detoxification means and how you can support your body.
Having a biology background helped and I was always fascinated with the human physiology, so I understood the simple concept of detoxification and how we eliminate waste. We eat, digest, supply our cells with energy and nutrients and poop. Simple! or was it?
I knew the basic definition of detox, fasting and juicing, but little did I know what they meant in the context of nutrition and wellness. I mean, we all think orange juice is good and healthy, and even think that Jamba Juice smoothies are great, but we are unaware of their ingredients and how much sugar and preservatives they could have – not healthy 🙁 These words became clearer about 3 years ago as I started my journey to reclaim my health back from a cancer diagnosis. I learned that toxins are everywhere, even in our own food (gasp!). I found myself reading about it, talking to people who knew the subject based on their background or personal experience. Soon I learned about natural ways to detox that worked for me and a juicer became my favorite toy in the kitchen and my fridge turned into a farmers market, sweet!!
Detoxification is the process of eliminating toxins from the body. What is a toxin? Toxin is a poison produced during biological processes or manmade chemicals. In reality, we accumulate toxins from the food we eat, water, air we breathe, products we put on our skin. What is amazing is that our bodies naturally remove toxins from food and the environment through the liver, the skin and lungs. However, with our modern life the problem arises with our increasing exposure to toxicity from household products, personal hygiene products, food, chemicals in the environment, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. And when our bodies had a little too much toxins to handle, is when we call in for back up plans like fasting or juicing. In a way fasting and juicing are ways to detoxify, because they support the body with getting rid of excess waste while still getting nutrients.
Fasting – it is abstaining from eating any foods and only having liquids for as little as 8 hours or longer. Fasting is not a new thing as it has been recorded in biblical scriptures and it has a spiritual context for many religions. In fact, it is nature’s way to heal that most living creatures do when their bodies are not feeling well – stop eating and rest. Most likely our ancestors did it and similarly, when we get sick, we lose appetite and tend to sleep more, why? Because digestion requires energy and fasting allows the body to take a break and use that energy for healing and detoxification. See how efficient and wonderful our body is?
Fasting, however, should not be confused with starvation and here is where it gets controversial as some people think it is a way of completely depriving the body from nutrients. It only means to rest from eating solid foods while still receiving nutrition in a liquid form, from juicing or soups (remember grandma used to make you soups and porridge when you got sick!). Here is where we bridge fasting with juicing because fresh juices and blended options are the primary source of nutrients while on the fast. However, fasting is only beneficial if the person already has a consistent good diet. Is everyone in need of a fast? No, fasting is not for everyone, depending of how clean your current diet is, and also it is not recommended for those who are pregnant, nursing or have chronic health conditions. And most definitely, it is never a good idea to think of fasting as a quick way of losing weight.
Juicing – usually referred as juice cleansing where only juices, teas and water is consumed for a number of days. It has gained popularity with a variety of options and creative recipes. Some people argue why juicing and getting rid of the pulp and fiber from the veggies and not making them into a smoothie? Good question. The reason being is that with juicing there is more quantity of vegetables and fruits that can be used compared to blending. In other words, one can consume a full platter of spinach, kale, celery, cucumber, lemon, carrots, apples, oranges and maybe more that normally we would not be able to eat in a whole day’s worth of meals.
Right about the time I was learning about detoxing and the healthiest way to do it, I heard about the documentary Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead. In the film, a guy documents his transformation from being morbidly obese with a long list of autoimmune and chronic diseases, to losing weight and regaining his health, and all was because he juiced fruits and vegetables for 60 days. That’s a little extreme if you ask me, but such testimonials become so popular because he was extremely ill and had nothing else to lose. In this case, sometimes drastic changes are needed to cause drastic results.
Does it mean that you have to endeavor on a juice fast for 2 months? Nope! Detoxification is not about counting calories, or looking at numbers in the scale, or restricting the foods you love (and I don’t mean sugar and junk food, they are not food, period!). In fact, because detoxification is a natural process of the body, it should not be labeled as a fad or new dietary plan.
Detox is about supercharging your own body detoxification system, by adopting a healthy habits that maintain both the body and mind balanced.
Juicing and fasting can complement this process and when all the organs and body functions are balanced, one can experience great health benefits that include:
- Boost your energy
- Makes you more alert
- Gets rid of excess waste
- Helps with weight loss
- Decrease cravings
- Reduces inflammation and pain
- Strengthens the immune system (removes free-radical damage)
- Improves skin
- Improve sense of well-being
Can all these benefits be so broad and good to us? Sure, although it varies from person to person depending on the nutritional profile and lifestyle, so it is not a one-approach-fits-all.
It might be a little overwhelming to understand, but for every donut, coffee, GMO food, cookies, alcohol, ice cream, chemical from your beauty products, cigarettes, fumes and more, your body is accumulating waste products and toxins that can cause mild to severe symptoms and ultimately inflammation.
The overload of toxins causes too much burden for the liver, which is the most important organ to detoxify our body. The problem is that most toxins and chemicals are fat-soluble, meaning that they dissolve in fat. This is very difficult for the body to get rid off (think about it, you pee water-based waste, not oil; you poop fiber and some water, hopefully not oil). In turn, fat-soluble toxic chemicals have an affinity and deposit in fatty tissues, fatty organs (liver) and in cell membranes that are mainly composed of lipids. If these are not eliminated, they can be stored for years and slowly leak out and cause symptoms like: feeling tired and sluggish in the middle of the day, have sleep problems, food allergies, chronic headaches, hormonal imbalance, uncontrolled cravings, mood swings, and even chronic diseases. It is like your body became a toxic dumpster and you didn’t know about it. In order to get rid of these, the liver has 2 detoxification pathways to convert the fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble that can later be excreted in the urine, sweat, the bile and in feces. More on this, the toxins involved in each pathway and some foods that can help, read here.
What is a healthier way of detoxing?
There are ways to reinforce our ability to get rid of body toxicity and the best way is to do it naturally. This can be achieved with good nutrition full of whole foods, plenty of liquids and greatly reducing toxin inducing foods and chemicals.
Points to be considered…
- First and foremost, one has to identify what is toxic and acknowledge the need for change.
- Include high quality protein to obtain high-grade amino acids that are the building blocks of the cell to perform all its functions including healing and repair. Organic, pasture raised, cage free and wild, avoiding ‘farmed’ labeled products. Vegetarian options include beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Eating a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits to obtain nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that specifically help quenching toxins in the first part of the liver detox pathway.
- Drink plenty of water, alkaline fluids, green juices, herbal teas, soup broths.
- Exercise, this will help with #6 as well as helping sweating the waste out.
- Keep the bowels moving. As some toxins are carried out in the feces, we need to completely remove them.
- Get plenty of sleep so the body has the time to heal and repair.
- Reduce stress, find ways to manage the root of a stressful situation, don’t comfort it short term.
The healthiest and best way to detox is by eating a balanced diet consisting of vegetables and fruits that are clean, GMO-free and pesticide-free. Consider adding some of these to your plate:
Foods that help with detoxification:
- artichokes – improves bile flow and decreases cholesterol
- asparagus – help with liver drainage
- avocadoes – high in antioxidant content
- beets – make sure toxins are out of the body and help with free radicals
- cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, arugula, kale, collard greens) NOTE: it might interfere with thyroid function if suffering from iodine deficiency, in this case cook the vegetables.
- dandelion – a well known liver detoxifier
- garlic – boosts up the immune system and helps the liver
- green tea – due to its high antioxidant content that gets rid of free radicals
- parsley – detoxifies the blood, high in anti-oxidants, helps in digestion
- lemon – detoxifying and prepares for digestion
- milk thistle – protects the liver cells from damage and improves its function
- burdock root – also protects the liver from damage
- dandelion – stimulate the liver and improve its function
Foods to avoid during a ‘detox:
The common denominator in a toxic lifestyle is a high inflammatory diet, which is the progenitor to most common chronic diseases. So in order to clean up the diet, we need to eliminate inflammatory foods to really give the liver a break and ease digestion, as well as avoiding chemicals and toxic products that on our bodies.
- processed sugar (candy, sodas, energy drinks,
- processed foods (packed foods, frozen meals, anything with a long, un-pronounceable list of ingredients)
What to expect?
giving up on some of these foods should be done gradually keeping in mind that as a result of detoxing, it is common to experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, mood swings and more cravings. Understand that these are a response of your body from eliminating toxins and should only last a couple of days, depending on how toxic your body is.
One of the biggest problems with any ‘detox plan’ is that we fail to completely eliminate the toxins from our bodies. Let me explain, during detoxification toxins, heavy metals and free radicals are neutralized but they still remain inside the body, which can result in toxic build-up. They can be stored in fatty tissues, the liver, lymph nodes and intestines, and it is detrimental if they keep accumulating. We need to expel the toxins from our system and we can speed up this process by:
- Sweating, exercise, sex, anything that pumps your heart and gets your blood flowing. This also helps our intestines to keep moving waste material from digestion.
- Massage, specially the type that stimulates the lymph nodes and aids drainage. Check out this video.
- Hydrating well to eliminate in the urine and sweat
- Pooping, it is one way to mobilize the toxins out so they are not accumulated and re-enter the body again
- Sauna, dry heat stimulates the liver and gallbladder, while moist heat help the lungs, kidneys, bladder
- Infrared sauna, the heat penetrates deeper for better cleansing and it is more effective at detoxifying heavy metals, chemicals and toxins from chemotherapy and radiation. More on the benefits here.
As I was learning about all these, I was experimenting with different ways of adopting a cleaner lifestyle. Of course, I looked into ‘detox programs’ that most of them involved buying a product, but I was hesitant to rely on a mix of ingredients sold by ‘X’ company. Maybe those things work, but I am a little old fashion and would rather get the natural ingredients from a health food store. I learned to love juicing and being adventurous with a variety of ingredients I never thought of juicing (cabbage and ginger anyone?) I try to include at least 3-4 juices a week, but realistically, due to time constrains I get away with my morning smoothies. I even experimented with fasting, oh boy!, it was the hardest thing to do but not because of limiting solid foods and having more cravings, but mainly because it required a lot of planning and time to prep things to bring to work. Imagine carrying a full bag of juice and soup bottles during a morning commute?! Getting up at 430am was only fun for the first couple of days, ugh, I only lasted 5 days. Besides the health benefits mentioned above, experimenting with these practices allowed me to reset my thinking about food and how my body responds to it. As I started introducing food into my diet again, I could experience my gut reaction to every bite, and the best part of it was that each bite tasted better. The palate gets cleaner and food tastes so much better. Although it is not a regular practice to fast, I do think giving the body a break at least one day would be fine.
I believe a balanced diet of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole foods are essential for a healthy diet.
If we keep our foods simple and including a variety of food groups we will already be helping our organs to do a more efficient job. Ditch those frozen meals and packaged foods. Even if it says natural on the label, the rule of thumb is: if it has an expiration date longer than a couple of days, it is not worth eating, you’d be eating ‘food carcass’ without any nutritional value. Try to introduce real food.
Here, is a nice and simple recipe, liver detox smoothie, with a vibrant color and real ingredients that promotes liver detoxification, blood purifier and supports the immune system. Gone are the days when beets were only meant to be roasted for salads, here beets are the rock star with lots of antioxidants, fiber and nutrients. It also contains parsley, ginger, avocado, lemon, cucumber that are very alkaline and help the body get rid of excess waste more naturally.
Cheers to your liver!!
This smoothie packs a punch of detoxifying power that will assist your liver to clean out your system from harmful toxins and chemicals. It has two powerful foods that help assist our liver and blood at cleaning out toxins. Not only that, but I also love using foods with vibrant colors because in a way, it represents their nutrient level. The brightly colorful they are, the more phytonutrient content they might have.
Beets are rich in the antioxidants lycopene and anthocyanins that help the body make vitamin A. Beets are a great detoxifying food. It has been shown to support phase 2 of liver detoxification. During this process, beet nutrient compounds chemically attach to toxic substances to neutralize them and making them easier to be excreted (more on this in my detoxification blog).
Beets contain betaine, a nutrient that protects the cell from toxins, thus supports the immune system. Betaine has also been used in treatments of depression that along with tryptophan, relaxes the mind. It is also thought that helps prevent cancer because it inhibits the formation of cancer-forming compounds. It also contains high levels of vitamin C and is rich in fiber.
Parsley, well known for detoxifying the blood perhaps for its high antioxidant levels and high iron content, vitamins and minerals.
Avocados, a great source of healthy fat and antioxidants, gives this smoothie a smooth and creamy consistency that can also be substituted with coconut. It makes this smoothie so decadent and silky.
- 1 small beet (peeled)
- 1/4 bunch of parsley
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 small apple
- 1/2 lemon (peeled)
- 2 inch cucumber
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 tbsp chai seeds
- 1-4 cups of water
Peel the beet and cut into small pieces. Do the same with the apple and lemon. I usually don’t peel the ginger, but if you’d like, an easy way to peel is to use a teaspoon and scraping the peel out.
I usually try to use every part of all the foods I get, so I use both the parsley leaves and stems when it comes to juicing and blending, but you can take out the leaves only.
Add all the ingredients in a blender. Add more or less water to desired consistency.
There is times when I don’t have any idea of what to make because I don’t feel like cooking. Since delivery pizza is not an option for me, I head to the fridge because hopefully I stack up on veggies. Not only that, but I try to use any left overs that I might have from dinner from the night before. And the best thing, it was done in less than 5 minutes, yes! I think it took longer to just boil the water. Literally, I had all my veggies cut and ready in the bowl and I was watching for the water to boil. It was helpful that I had left over kelp and soba noodles from a stir fry I made the day before.
Once the veggies were ‘steamed’ in the bowl (2-3 minutes) I added the miso and let it dissolve in the water. IMPORTANT, make sure that the water is not boiling hot because miso has helpful ‘live’ probiotics that you don’t want to disrupt with the heat, otherwise, what is the purpose. If you ever cook with miso DO NOT let it boil!
Miso is fermented soy beans, salt and either cultured rice or barley. It is a great source of probiotics, rich in calcium, vitamins B and C. Because of the probiotics, it is healing for the digestive system. If you are concerned about soy intake (hormone-induced cancers), miso does not affect much the hormones because it is fermented.
- 1 small baby bok choy
- 1 tbsp shredded carrots
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp kelp (thinly cut)
- 1/4 cup soba noodles (or any left over noodles)
- 1 tbsp red miso
- hot water
Boil some water. Meanwhile, thinly cut the bok choy and play in a bowl along with the rest of the ingredients, except the miso.
Pour hot water over the veggies and cover. This will stem the bok choy, carrots, and ginger. Wait 2 minutes.
Making sure the water is not boiling hot, stir in the miso until it dissolves.