Do away with fad diets and feast on these nutrition-laden lovelies…

The word detox usually brings to mind extreme diets which, aside from making you miserable, are surely not the way to long-lasting healthiness – after all, a week-long strict mealtime regime is no match for a lifetime of balanced eating.

Luckily, you don’t have to exist solely on unpalatable vegetable juice to detox, as there are plenty of satisfying foods with detoxifying qualities that you can easily work into your existing diet. Wash these down with a cup of lemon water, green tea or peppermint tea and you’ll be feeling pretty darn good in no time.

jimlightfoot26 / / CC BYCINNAMON VOGUE / / CC BY-SAJenn Khoury / / CC BY-ND

Helpful Herbs and Spices

Adding fresh herbs and spices to your food is one of the easiest ways to get all manner of nutrients and goodness into your body. Ginger is one of the most versatile spices of all – it can be used to make puddings, cocktails and chutneys and to add a bit of a kick to savoury recipes – and is thought to aid liver function and stimulate digestion.

Although those who are detoxing will want to avoid the sweet treats and cocktails, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy ginger, including adding it to a quick and healthy vegetable stir-fry, using it to make a refreshing cup of tea or even a tasty salad dressing.

Cinnamon is another super spice – it is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and full of antioxidants, calcium, iron and manganese (which helps process fatty acids and keep blood sugar stable), and is also thought to reduce high blood pressure. Like ginger, cinnamon is rather tasty in cakes and biscuits, but do try to resist the temptation to get baking. Instead, try cooking up a cinnamon-laced lamb tagine or get your day off to a good start with some cinnamon porridge with banana and berries (this recipe calls for sugar, but the fruit should make it sweet enough to leave it out – try adding a little bit of honey instead if you’ve got an insatiable sweet tooth).

Reducing cancer risk, improving immune functions, protecting blood vessels and lessening the pain and swelling associated with arthritis is all in a day’s work for parsley – this handy herb can even help to reduce bloating and water retention too, so it’s great for detoxing and giving you an energy boost. While some might be partial to a parsley shake, many may find the idea a bit hard to stomach. If you fall in the latter camp, try a ham and parsley salad with red onions and capers or wilted parsley on toast with a poached egg.

Be sure to stock up on basil too – which has anti-bacterial qualities and plenty of liver-protecting antioxidants – and make a green bean salad with sweetcorn, basil and olives or gnocchi with tomato and basil.

Virtuous Veg

The mention of ‘cabbage’ and ‘detoxing’ in the same sentence brings to mind unsavoury cabbage soup diets, but don’t write off this much-maligned veggie just yet. Cabbage does loads of good things for your system, especially the purple kind as it has eight times more vitamin C than the green stuff and is rich in vitamins A and E, which will help to ward off wrinkles. What’s more, purple cabbage also contains anthocyanins which have been proven to have anti-carcinogenic properties, so it may even help your body fight off cancer. Plus, it looks nice and colourful in a salad. Try a cabbage and avocado salad or sauté it for a tasty side dish.

Similarly coloured and equally nutrient-filled beets are also top detoxifiers. Betacyanin, which gives this root vegetable its lovely crimson hue, is proven to help to prevent cancer and support liver and lymphatic health. Beets are also filled with magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium which are great for flushing out toxins. A personal favourite beetroot-based recipe is Raymond Blanc’s hot-smoked salmon and beetroot salad (it works just as well with a salmon fillet). Alternatively, blitz up your beets into a tasty soup or make a beetroot risotto.

If you’re a broccoli-hater, you’d best learn to love it, as those who eschew this mini-tree-shaped vegetable are missing out on some major health benefits. For a start, broccoli contains sulphoraphane, which triggers your liver to produce detoxifying enzymes and can fight cancer and boost your immune system. Plus, it’s packed with soluble fibre to help reduce cholesterol, and is high in vitamins C and K which are important for bone health.

Steaming broccoli is one of the best ways to retain its nutrients and makes for a great side dish that’ll go with pretty much anything. If that’s not exciting enough for you, try stirring in a bit of wholegrain mustard – not only will it taste great, it’ll add an enzyme called myrosinase back in too, which is vital in helping your body absorb the broccoli’s nutrients and is often lost when the vegetable is cooked.

Nutritious Nuts and Seeds

As snacks go, nuts are the lesser of the many evils – go easy, though, as they are still high in fat, and be sure to buy the unsalted variety. And, no, the chocolate-covered ones don’t count either. As far as detoxing goes, Brazil nuts are your friend – they are full of selenium, which is key to getting rid of mercury.

Sesame seeds are also a must for would-be detoxers. These little seeds are proven to protect the liver from the damaging affects of alcohol, because they are full of amino acids which banish harmful toxins. Sprinkle some over a salad, or blend them up to make some tahini paste and you’ll be well on your way to making some delicious hummus.

Michelle Grady

Michelle is an ex-Fed Up & Drunker who has now been released into the wild.

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