In our tradition, the early spring period is linked to “cleaning”: at home the walls are refurbished or repainted and the useless junk is disposed of. In the same way our body needs to recover itself after the stresses due to the cold season. Months of sedentary life, indoors, plus a diet rich in fats and proteins but low in vegetables lead to the accumulation of more toxins in the body.
Toxins are the catabolites, ie the waste substances produced by the cells following the use of glucose or oxygen, for example, indispensable for their activity. These waste substances are conveyed into the lymphatic system and then into the venous blood that carries them to the liver. With its pound and a half of weight, the liver is the largest gland in our body and due to its many important functions it is considered a sort of central metabolism and therefore energy. The liver partly degrades the toxins, making them water-soluble, that is easier to be eliminated by the kidneys, which will complete the detoxification process by filtering them from the blood and concentrating them in the urine.
Eat light, after the winter excesses
It is quite intuitive that a correct diet plays a central role in helping the functionality of the main excretory organs, (liver and kidneys), and therefore a more effective inner “cleansing”. But how can we get a detoxifying diet? It’s easy, just abandon the foods rich in lipids and sugars, (fatty meats and cold cuts, fries, desserts and industrial snacks, etc.), and turn to nature: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, possibly fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds.
All are rich in antioxidant substances – such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A – essential for protecting our body’s cells from attacks by free radicals, caused by the excess of “winter” fats still in circulation. In addition, various vegetables, (artichokes, beets, carrots, cabbage), contain so-called lipotropic compounds, which perform a decongestant action on the liver and improve the disposal of fatty substances.
In general, a detoxifying menu that does not burden the body includes a breakfast of cereals – for example a muesli – mid-morning and afternoon fruit snacks, a first cereal with a salad for lunch and a vegetable soup with a second of mixed vegetables for dinner. If you want you can add low-fat yogurt, for the beneficial effect on the intestinal flora and for the content of B vitamins, useful for the correct metabolism of fats and sugars, and lean ricotta cheese, a very digestible and nutritious food.
The most precious foods
Now let’s see what are the seasonal vegetables that can provide specific help.
Let’s start from the base of our diet, or grains. Because they carry out their purifying action it is advisable to consume them whole because, thanks to their insoluble fiber content, they favor intestinal transit reducing the time of contact with “undesirable” substances, to the benefit of health.
Among the whole grains, rice is the one with the strongest purifying qualities: its fibers have a beneficial effect on bacterial fermentations and micro-infections of the intestine. In addition, its germ contains an oil with a good amount of vitamin E from the antioxidant action.
Among the vegetables there are two that stand out for their purifying properties: the dandelion and the artichoke. Both belong to the family of composites with a double usefulness for liver. On the one hand they have a cholagogue-choleretic action, that is they stimulate the production but also the elimination of bile by the liver, with a detoxifying effect; on the other hand they are diuretic, and consequently facilitate the excretion of toxins and counteract water retention.
Dandelion is considered the most important plant for the liver: it is called taraxacina, the active ingredient that stimulates the bile flow with a detoxifying effect. Also called radicchio or dandelion, it is a wild grass rich in carotenes and minerals, (calcium in particular), that abounds not only from the vegetable but also in our lawns: the leaves, the shoots and the collar of the root must be picked. It can be eaten immediately in salads or dried for beneficial herbal teas (see below) but in this case the root of the plant that will be harvested in the fall should be used.
Moving on to other seasonal vegetables, radishes are useful for liver function and are detoxifying, as well as being good sources of vitamin C and potassium. Nettle is also considered purifying because it acts on bile secretions: it should be eaten cooked. In general, all salads that have a bitter taste, such as chicory, have useful substances for good liver function.
They are not exactly in season but diuretic and depurative virtues are typical of onion and cabbage. The first is rich in minerals and antioxidant substances such as flavonoids and vitamin E, it has a decongestant, diuretic, purifying and also intestinal disinfectant action thanks to alicin, which gives it its typical taste. The regulatory action on the intestine is also due to inulin, which helps the “good” bacterial flora. Raw has a greater diuretic effect.
The whole cabbage family, in addition to the good amount of potassium and vitamin C, is particularly rich in antioxidant substances, (phenols, indoles, etc.), which in addition to fighting free radicals, serve the body to detoxify chemicals and hormones present in food or the environment.
Spring red fruits
Strawberry is the most suitable fruit in spring because it is very diuretic and promotes the elimination of uric acids. Unfortunately, the one cultivated in greenhouses is treated with chemical substances and therefore it would be preferable to choose strawberries cultivated with natural methods, (integrated pest management, organic farming). Black cherry is also a very purifying fruit because it is diuretic and also mildly laxative. It is rather difficult to find it on the market, because it has a period of short vegetation between the end of May and the beginning of June and is hardly preserved. In its place it is possible to use the cherry which is less strong in the purifying action and can give problems in the intestine. Better to consume cherries in moderation and never at the end of a meal, because in the stomach it can combine badly with other foods and complicate digestion.
More water and less salt and alcohol
Finally, it is very important to increase the purifying action and reduce water retention, also due to the excess of circulating toxins, remember to drink at least two liters, two and a half liters of liquids a day, even in the form of herbal teas or infusions, and prefer low residual low sodium mineral water. On the contrary it will be necessary to pay attention to alcohol consumption: alcohol, in fact, exerts a toxic action on the liver. A glass of wine per meal is the contribution that should not be exceeded.
To counteract the water retention due to the sodium contained in cooking salt, in addition to limiting this as much as possible, it is advisable to choose potassium-rich vegetables – such as potatoes, spinach, kiwi and bananas. Condiments should also be limited: although extra virgin olive oil contains valuable antioxidant substances, it is best not to overdo it: to make the most of it, it must be used raw and no more than 2-3 teaspoons for each main meal.
Other Helpful Drinks
Purifying dandelion concoction. Boil 25 g of dandelion roots in half a liter of water for a few minutes, allow to cool, drain and drink during the day. If desired, sweeten with honey.
Purifying and draining concoction. Promotes the elimination of toxins and fights bloating and water retention. In equal parts: dandelion root, gramigna leaves, artichoke leaves, nettle leaves, chicory (cicorium intibus).
Put the herbs in cold water and then bring it to a boil for about five minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to rest for a few minutes, then strain. Once ready, the decoction lasts 24 hours; given its bitter taste, a teaspoon of honey is recommended. Drink one to two cups a day between meals.
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