We don’t have to wait for a special day or season to do this, with the right lifestyle and food, it just happens. It can be simple, affordable and delicious. First, we need to stop adding to the body burden as much as possible. Every year an estimated 2,000 new chemicals are introduced to the market; many never being tested as to how they impact human health! These chemicals are introduced to us in a myriad of ways: through our body care products, household cleaners, plastics, fast food, food additives, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, household furnishings, chemicals on clothing, laundry detergents, dry cleaning, gasoline, polluted air we breathe and polluted water we drink. Even babies born today have been found to have more than 200 chemicals in the umbilical cord.
There are now many safe alternatives to these toxic products available, but you do need to do your homework to be sure a company is truly cleaning up their product. A great source for this information is Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org. They rate cleaning and body care products from cleanest to least safe. You can also make many of your own body care and household cleaning products that are affordable and made with simple, safe ingredients.
After we clean up our living/working space we need to look at the way we live our life. Remembering to take time to minimize our metabolic body burden from stress and inflammation is just as important.
- Relax – Reduces stress that causes inflammation and increases metabolic toxins
- Sweat –Helps to eliminate metabolic waste and toxins through our largest organ, the skin. Think of riding a bike, hiking, walking, yoga, dancing, gardening, playing
- Breathe deeply, preferably out of doors – Helps to eliminate metabolic waste and toxins through the gas exchange in the lungs
- Laugh – This creates a sense of well-being and reduces inflammation.
Keeping ourselves well-nourished is our best defense against this increasingly toxic environment by eating real food and drinking clean water. There are higher order compounds in food called phytonutrients that are powerful for our detoxification system and overall health. These constituents are what I like to call the “plant magic.” We have only touched the surface of discovering what is actually in plants and how these constituents work synergistically to help the body. All food grown as nature intended in nutrient rich soil that is teaming with biology is important, (even or especially some of the weeds). The closer to home and the more seasonal the food, the more of these healthy compounds there will tend to be. Here are a few of the powerhouses in the plant world that actually have some of those higher order compounds that directly assist the detoxification system and our overall health:
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, arugula, kale, collards, watercress, daikon radish, horseradish, kohlrabi, maca, mustard greens, radish and turnips. This large group of plants contain sulfur compounds that research shows increases the capacity of the liver to detoxify harmful compounds. Here in the Northeast these foods can be planted early in the season and survive long into the cold months. Many will begin to grow again in the spring if protected through the winter.
Beets: Another powerful source of phytonutrients. These compounds offer detoxification support as well as overall health benefits. Beets can also have a long growing season. They can be eaten raw or cooked, but these phytonutrients are more prolific if you don’t over-cook them. Don’t forget to eat the beet greens too for added nutrient power.
Artichokes: These lovely flowers pack a nutrient punch too. The phytonutrient cinarin helps stimulate secretion of bile from the gall bladder, which helps flush toxins from the body. Another compound found in artichokes, silymarin, actually protects the hardworking liver while also helping it to rid the body of toxins. These can be grown in our region though they will be smaller than what we are used to seeing in the grocery store. I find these to be one of my favorite seasonal treats, lightly steamed and savored.
Milk thistle: A seed that is rich in the phytonutrient, silymarin. Again, this compound helps to protect the liver while helping it to eliminate toxins from the body. This lovely plant can be grown here in the Northeast. It is a member of the thistle family, and produces many seeds. These seeds are ground and sprinkled on food or added to smoothies. This is more often consumed for health rather than flavor.
Dandelion leaf and root: The bitter flavor of dandelion helps to stimulate bile flow, which helps in the detoxification process. It is a diuretic, which stimulates detoxification through the kidneys. This abundant wild plant is loaded with vitamins and minerals aiding in our overall nutrition status. It is one of the first wild greens to show up and all parts of it are edible. Those sunny yellow flowers that seem to be the bane of existence to meticulous lawn growers, to me yells out, “pick me, pick me, I can help!”
Burdock root: A wild food that helps the liver and kidneys in the detoxification process. This tenacious plant has a deep root that digs deep in the soil gathering minerals to add to our overall health in a powerful way. This earthy flavored root is used fresh or dried in soups and teas. It can now be found in many grocery stores.
Our bodies have an innate wisdom in how to use food and herbs to keep up the huge task of eliminating environmental toxins and metabolic waste from the body. By providing nutrient rich foods/herbs on a daily basis we assist our bodies in the continuous dance of detoxification and overall health, all day, every day.
Joan Palmer is the founder and director of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition in West Granby, CT. TIOSN offers a hands-on certification program teaching adults about the wisdom of food and herbs, how to grow nutrient rich foods using sustainable, local practices, culinary skills, foraging and kitchen medicine. To learn more about the program, call 860-764-9070 or go to: www.tiosn.com.