Health & Fitness

The detox diet

Norbert Mayer Author: Elle Canada Credits: Norbert Mayer

Health & Fitness

The detox diet

The diagnosis
Too many late nights indulging in Camembert and Moët (or pizza and Heineken) have left you feeling bloated and listless. (And walking from your door to a cab - even in four-inch heels - doesn't count as exercise.) It's time for a hard-core kick-start to a smarter, healthier way of life. "Junk food and poor lifestyle choices fill our bodies with toxins, leaving us feeling sick and fatigued," says Julie Daniluk, co-owner of The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto and author of Meals That Heal.

The prescription
Leave the lemon-juice-and-cayenne-pepper concoction to the starlets. (It is too intense for first-timers and wreaks havoc on your blood sugar.) Go vegan temporarily instead, which means forsaking meat, eggs and all dairy products. "If you've never tried a cleanse before, a gentle three-day one will help minimize detox reactions like headaches," says Daniluk.

Hide your trusty takeout menus and fill your fridge with a select list of fruits, veggies, legumes and easily digestible grains. Aim to eat three small meals (or 1,800 calories) a day, and snack on as many fruits and vegetables as you need to curb your hunger. Opt for dark-green leafy vegetables-such as kale - which contain powerful phytonutrients that help the body purge harmful compounds. Sea vegetables (arame, dulse, kelp and wakame) are packed with iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function. Meanwhile, mung beans and lentils are sources of antioxidants and protein-both of which promote healthy cells - while gluten-free grains (brown or wild rice, kasha, millet and quinoa) are detox superstars. "They are easy to digest and don't congest the body," explains Daniluk.

Spice up your shopping list with mineral-rich sea salts and antibacterial herbs like ginger and turmeric. When you feel your energy dipping, reach for pumpkin and sunflower seeds. "They provide plant sterols, which help balance the immune system and increase T-cells, which identify and kill tumours," says Daniluk. Flush your system by drinking sour fruit juices (such as cranberry) diluted with water. (Daniluk suggests one part juice to 10 parts water.) By the end of the detox, your skin will be clearer, your system will be cleaned out and your body - if not yet a temple - will be the site of minor miracles.

What to avoid
Foods that elevate blood sugar: bread, pasta, meat, eggs-even sweet fruits, such as bananas and grapes. "Your pancreas responds by releasing insulin, which shuttles glucose into the cells," says Daniluk. "When insulin responds too dramatically, it leaves your blood sugar low, which causes your energy to crash."

Extra credit

Look for a teacher of Ashtanga yoga, an energetic form of the exercise. "The primary series of Ashtanga yoga is a detox series because there's so much twisting and forward bending," explains Jessie Goldberg, co-director of Ashtanga Yoga Montreal. "When you stretch your descending colon while in a posture, it encourages colon cleansing and elimination."

Shopping list essentials
• Kale
• Quinoa
• Sunflower seeds
• Lemons
• Sea salt
• Kelp
• Turmeric

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Health & Fitness

The detox diet