Looking for an affordable but effective way to clean out your system this spring? Look no further than your kitchen! Or perhaps, your grocery store, depending on what you’ve got in your fridge!

Forget about the boxed cleanses you see in health food or supplement stores. Those cost anywhere from $25-80, last 3-6 weeks, and they don’t address the real issue: what you put in your body on a daily basis. Investing in a pre-packaged cleanse while continuing to eat poor quality food, or returning to poor quality food after the cleanse, is like running on a treadmill – it gets you nowhere.

In my last post, I talked about the organs of elimination that need to be working to make any cleanse more pleasant (i.e., reducing potential detox reactions), and that includes changes in diet. If the body is habituated to a certain substance, like sugar, caffeine, or dairy, omitting said substance can cause intense withdrawal symptoms. Opening the organs of elimination helps to negate these effects, and keeps you motivated to continue your journey of cleaning up your diet.

I’ve got a few simple suggestions that will save you money and help you feel better. You can pick and choose a couple at a time, or dive head first into them all. Choose whatever is the most sustainable for you – the goal with such a shift is to remain committed and continue minimizing your consumption of that food or beverage for the long term. This “cleanse” is a jump start into a healthier lifestyle, and to be successful, you have to be 100% ready to follow through with your changes. If you’re not ready to make that change, that’s ok. Mull it over, and wait until you know you are. Take it slow to reach your goal – choose one item from the list per week, per month, or per year. Whatever you can commit to fully is fantastic progress for your health.

 

#1 Eliminate soda

Yup, I’m going full on eliminate for this one. Soda is a source of empty calories, loads of sugar, and flavorings and preservatives that are deleterious to our health. Carmel color, or the stuff that makes coke and pepsi cola-colored, is a known carcinogen. High fructose corn syrup, the common sweetener in these beverages, is broken down completely differently than sugar – it’s actually metabolized along the same pathway as alcohol. Some researchers are beginning to postulate this may be an aspect of its addictive quality. Due to the way it is processed, high fructose corn syrup also contains a substantial amount of heavy metals, the most prominent being mercury.

Diet soda is no better. The preservative aspartame is a known neurotoxin. Research is beginning to show that diet soda drinkers actually gain weight over time, rather than losing it.

Sodas without high fructose corn syrup are decidedly less evil, but still very sugary and inflammatory. Consumption rarely to never is the best option.

Herbal fruit water: beautiful and delicious.

Herbal fruit water: beautiful and delicious.

Instead of soda, try mineral water if you like carbonation, or add a preservative-free electrolyte packet to flavor your water. Better yet, make your own flavored water by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, sprigs of mint, rosemary or basil, or full berries like blueberries or raspberries. Mix and match to create new flavors. You get natural electrolytes and a tasty drink!

 

#2 Eliminate coffee

Coffee is an energy stealer. It pumps you up for a few hours, zaps your energy for the rest of the day, and creates a vicious cycle of continuous caffeination. Most of the coffee consumed is highly inflammatory, and it disrupts the hormonal systems of the body. Most notably, it causes estrogen imbalance in women, leading to more intense PMS, mood swings, skin breakouts, swelling, breast tenderness, and fibrocystic breasts. The natural oils of the coffee bean are often rancid before it is consumed, leading to many of the beverage’s ill effects.

Other sources of caffeine, like dark chocolate and green tea are great alternatives, and are often necessary to wean off the liquid sunshine. Dark chocolate contains less caffeine than coffee, but it has several chemicals that influence serotonin production, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel happy and content. Green tea has about 1/3 the caffeine of coffee, and it contains a compound called L-Theanine. L-Theanine produces a peaceful state of mind, so you end up with a calm alertness. Green tea has a multitude of other benefits, including antioxidant superpower, metabolic booster, and an anti-cancer effect.

Green Tea

Green Tea

Can’t give up the coffee quite yet? Try buying fresh, organic beans in small quantities and grinding it yourself. Look at the beans to make sure they have an oily sheen. Freshly ground coffee from oily beans decreases the amount of rancid and inflammatory oils.

 

#3 Eliminate processed foods

Processed foods, usually found in the inner aisles of a grocery store are things like TV dinners, candy, chips, premade dehydrated soups, white bread, and more. These products are often have preservatives and inflammatory fats that irritate the body, make digestion more difficult, and prevent weight loss. They have little nutritional value, as most of the nutrients have been removed. Eating these foods gives you calories, but doesn’t provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function on a daily basis. Oftentimes people who are overweight or obese appear malnourished on blood tests because they are consuming low quality food. Their body craves nourishment, but empty calorie foods don’t satisfy the body’s needs, so they crave more.

Stick to the outer aisles of the grocery stores. Unprocessed foods, like vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy, and eggs often line the perimeter. These foods also tend to be less expensive than the novelty, processed items that line the inner aisles. Minimize what you need there.

Read labels. Foods should have a short list of ingredients that you recognize and understand. If you don’t understand an ingredient, or there is a list of over 10, you should probably avoid it.

Increase your vegetable consumption, especially green leafy ones. Vegetables are rich in minerals, and most of the United States population is mineral deficient. Branch out! Try kale, chard, bok choy, arugula and more. Many have distinct and delicious flavors.

If you manage to tackle one of those three things and stick with it, you should notice some great changes take place in your physique, energy, and mood. You’ll have made a lasting change that saves you money in the short term and long term, as you’ll be investing in your future health.

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