Lighten up your diet this spring

Spring has officially sprung, and with it comes the promise of a spring harvest and the possibility of a spring cleanse.

As the cold of winter wears off, the body naturally begins to crave lighter foods, which can help lift the heaviness of the past season. Eating in accordance to the spring season will help you feel regenerated and ready to blossom.

The word “cleanse” tends to conjure up images of green juices or plates of nothing but fruits and raw vegetables. Although you will want to lighten up your food in accordance with the season you don’t need to put yourself through a juice fast to reap the benefits of a cleanse.

You can still eat plenty of foods that will keep hunger away while encouraging your body to cleanse and eliminate built up toxins. A cleanse should last between three and 14 days. Listen to your body to determine what is right for you, and always check with your doctor before making any dietary changes.

Follow these tips for a successful spring cleanse.

♦ Start your day with a tall drink of room temperature water and make sure to get enough throughout the day.

Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Water helps flush out your system and remove any leftover mucus that builds up naturally throughout the winter. Add the juice of half a lemon or a tablespoon of pure, unsweetened cranberry juice to your first glass of water (eight to 12 ounces) of the day to encourage natural cleansing. Wait at least 15 minutes before eating or drinking anything else.

♦ Focus on green vegetables. Bitter, leafy greens are known for having a cleansing affect, aim for at least one to three servings per day of leafy greens in addition to your other veggies. Try adding a handful of kale to a morning smoothie, or tossing some collards, turnip and mustard greens into a broth based vegetable soup. Lightly steamed veggies are a great choice for cleansing. If you prefer to stick with raw salads always be sure to dress them in high quality oil such as olive or flax. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found there is far better nutrient absorption when salads are eaten with full-fat dressings as opposed to low fat dressing.

♦ Spring is a good time to eat foods that will support the liver and gallbladder, which are the body’s natural detoxifiers. Foods that support these detoxifying organs include those rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, raw bell peppers, broccoli and parsley; and sulphur-rich foods including asparagus, daikon radish, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and garlic. Raw radishes with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice provides wonderful support for the gallbladder. Avoiding nuts, seeds and saturated fats during your cleanse also gives the gallbladder a much needed rest.

♦ Eliminate all processed food during your cleanse, and reduce your intake of animal protein. A cleanse should focus on lightly prepared meals that won’t tax the digestive system. If you don’t want to give up animal protein completely, choose only organic protein sources that are completely free of hormones and antibiotics. Focus on lighter proteins such as fish and eat the animal protein with a fermented vegetable such as sauerkraut or kimchi that will aid in the digestion of fat. Smoothies, fruit and vegetable juices, salads, steamed vegetables and light soups are all simple and effective choices for spring cleansing.