Spring Foods and Cleansing Spring is a season full of powerful, forceful and creative energy. Just like that little seed that pushes through all the resistance of the surrounding earth after the dormant winter, we too have seeds of inspiration, hopes, dreams or plans that also want to grow and find life. Spring is a wonderful time to put vision into action and start moving forward on things. It’s also a time where old habits, energies or patterns feel constrictive and down right irritating if we don’t let them go or address them. This is the best time of year to cleanse. To clean up our diet, yes, getting rid of the the heavy congesting foods of winter. But it also a wonderful time of year to look what else needs to be cleansed from your life: a workload, a closet, a way of thinking that just doesn’t serve any more. Part of this process is about being open to the messages and signals life is sending your way. The emotions associated with this time of year are anger and frustration. So it’s not uncommon to feel irritations and frustrations arise at this time of year, often more than others. This is normal. Anger can be a motivator - just like that little seed needs some grit and vigour to push through the earth on its way to new life, we too need our own version of grit to push aside the unnecessary and step into our dreams and visions. Cleansing Spring is actually the best time of the year to cleanse. This season is linked to the Liver system in TCM which is one of our biggest detox organs. Other key detox organs are the lungs, bowels, kidney/bladder and the skin It’s normal for toxins to build up in the body just through every day life. After the heavy and more congesting foods of winter, combined with a more sedentary lifestyle, by the time spring rolls around, the body needs a bit of support to cleanse. By shifting your diet and lifestyle for as little as a week, you can notice a significant shift in how you feel. Signs of liver congestion or that you body needs cleanse include: Fatigue, skin issues, trouble concentrating or foggy thinking, headaches, pms, period cramps, circulation problems such as cold hands and feet, any pain or discomfort that gets worse with stress or heightened emotions…and just straight up irritation! It can also show up as tendon issues or muscle spasms, IBS like symptoms, flank/rib pain, pounding or stress headaches headaches or waking early in the morning and not being able to fall back asleep. Think of toxic buildup like that cupboard or drawer that you keep shoving things into. You keep thinking “I’ll get around to it one day”, but eventually you can’t shut the door anymore and you need to clean it out. It’s like that with our organs, we need to clean house so that things can work even more efficiently. If we can help our body dejunk and get rid of toxins, it helps our cells and organs rejuvenate and we feel great as a result (read: increased energy, less bloating and lethargy, clearer thinking and just a better sense of vitality). By taking as little as 5-7 days to simplify your diet and add in some particularly cleanse foods and then making some simple lifestyle modifications you can notice a significant difference in how you feel. Note: symptoms may get worse or you may have headaches, fatigue/lethargy or irritation for a few days (I find they come from day 3-5 in cleansing). They will pass but try to give yourself space to take extra rest or space during this time Foods to Avoid It doesn’t take a lot to cleanse -Simply cutting out refined and processed foods (white flours, and packaged foods can make a huge difference. Avoid:
sugars of all kinds - white sugar, cane sugar, coconut sugar and fruit juices Sugar suppress the immune system up to 7 hours after having it and directly leads to inflammation in the body.
Avoid tropical fruits as they naturally have higher sugar content in them.
dairy products including milk, yogurt and cheese
excessive salt, alcohol and coffee or stimulants (energy drinks etc)
Cured meats (bacon, deli meats etc)
Refined or processed fats -
Trans fatty acids (trans fats are solid at room temperature appears in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils - fried foods, shortening/lard, processed foods, baked goods, margarine etc)
saturated found in fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, high-fat dairy foods (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream)
tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter)
Focus on eating foods that are close to the original source as possible “if it’s a plant, eat it. If it came FROM a plant, don’t” - Michael Pollan Foods to Eat Vegetables!! Eat a variety but make sure to have a lot of cooked and fresh leafy greens Fresh fruits (whole fruit not juice) and focus on low sugar fruits such as berries small amounts of fish, organic grass fed meats, sprouts, fermented foods (kimchi, miso, etc.), legumes/beans
Eat organic foods. Lots of vegetables and some fruit (try to stick to low sugared fruits only such as berries, apples, ), legumes (beans) and grass fed or high quality proteins and healthy cold pressed fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, pumpkin seed oil etc.
Eat a rainbow and mix it up. Try to bring the joy into the whole process - preparing, chopping, cooking, smelling, plating and eating. Each part of the process nourishes a different part of us, so try to be mindful and appreciate each part of the process. Healthy fats - but not too many in cleansing. Nuts and seeds, avocado, fatty fish (salmon, sardines, herring), cold pressed oils that are liquid at room temp (olive oil, avocado oil etc.) A note on Spring cooking: Spring-time diets should start to shift from the long slow cooking methods and heavier foods of winter and move into a lighter and slightly fresher fare. But don’t jump straight to raw! Food should still be cooked. As tempting as that summer salad might seem, we can still encounter some pretty chilly days in spring and too much raw or cold food can be hard on the digestive system and impair digestion.
You can definitely start adding in a bit of raw food sprinkled on top or mixed in to your cooked meals but try to balance it with the cooked.
Consider a warm salad of fresh baby greens and sautéed vegetables tossed in and a warm dressing. Or a grain bowl with some cooked and some fresh ingredients mixed in. By still lightly cooking our food, we’re ensuring that our bodies are able to absorb all the great nutrients in the food but still get some of the benefits of fresh vitamin rich spring foods. Read more on a raw vs cooked diet here https://theheartysoul.com/raw-food-vs-cooked-food/. Try to keep meals smaller in general and opting for smaller and more frequent meals or perhaps try a small intermittent fasting day or two in a week to give your body an extra break
Intermittent fasting - give your body the chance to heal
Adopting an intermittent fasting protocol during this season can be very helpful to give your body the extra time and space to clean up all the sludge accumulated in the winter. Try eating your last meal of the day around 3-4pm and then not eating again until 8-9am the next morning. Start by trying to do this 2-3 times over the course of the week.
By eating early and going to bed with a relatively empty stomach, your body no longer has to waste precious night time energy digesting food. It can instead focus on what it is supposed to do at night when we sleep, which is break down or process and eliminate any stored toxins, repair tissues or bolster our immune system by getting rid of any rogue or abnormal cells. It can also rest and replenish our energy which gets so taxed in our very busy and active world.
Key Spring foods: Greens and Sour foods
Dark leafy green foods are some of the ideal foods for this season according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Green is the colour associated with spring and the liver system. Think fresh leafy green veggies and the first sprouts of new life in the garden help to cleans and nourish our system. Green foods help detoxification as they contain something called Indole-3 carbonyl which is key for the second phase of liver detoxification (removing waste and toxins from the body). And seeing as all toxins (including any medications, synthetically produced vitamins, food pesticides, and just general pollution in the air) are processed through the liver, it is essential for well-being to keep this system flowing smoothly. Include ark rich leafy greens such as: kale, bok choy, broccoli, rapini, and dandelion into your diet. Consider adding some liver moving teas such as dandelion or milk thistle into your day as well, which also help facilitate liver cleansing. Green foods also help to build the blood and to stabilize blood sugars – all important things for during a cleanse.
Eat some sour foods Sour foods help simulate the liver to move and squeeze out toxins. (think what happens when you suck on a lemon or something sour). It is this constricting or squeezing energy that helps the body to flush out toxins. Now a key here is to have small hits of sour but not overdue it. A squeeze of citrus on your greens, your hot minted lemonade. Sour foods help in removal of toxins and thus, detoxification. stimulates digestive enzymes to help with healthy digestion of fats specifically, preventing the condition of Fatty Liver They have antioxidant properties and are helpful in decreasing free radicals and reducing inflammation in the body
Top sour foods: citrus, tamarind, rhubarb, tart cherry, goose berry, cranberry, vinegar (make a shrub/drinking vinegar), kimchi, sauerkraut
Other keys to cleansing: Make sure to exercise - the lungs and skin are both key to detoxification so breath deeply and do some vigorous movement that makes you sweat. It need not be long, 15 minute bursts can be enough to get things going Consider cleaning house as well - clean a closet, your inbox or cell phone or even an old emotional pattern. All parts of us need cleansing from time to time! Cleansing need not be complicated. Simply cutting out some key foods and adding in fresh whole foods is a great start.
If you’re ready to learn more about spring you might be interested in our 10 day Spring into Health Series. It offers recipes, cleansing tips, and expertise to help you understand and embrace the best of the season. Enter the code Nourish to receive 10% off the course.
Spring into health: https://angela-warburton.teachable.com/p/spring-into-health/