Like a sigh of relief, Spring greets us with lightness and new growth each year. Every passing day brings us more hours of sunlight and there is a collective shift in the energy of things. We all seem to have a little more spunk and zest once the temperatures start rising. This energy shift makes Spring the perfect time to cleanse from all that hearty comfort food that warms our bellies during the colder months — an internal spring cleaning of sorts. We can recharge and rejuvenate our bodies to stay in tune with the season and its lush green offerings, just like nature. Let’s peel off our heavy winter jackets and lighten up!
Great foods that are fresh and in season right now for abundant eating:
- Dandelion roots (and other bitter roots such as rhubarb root & radish)
- Baby greens
- Spring peas
Liver and kidney cleansing foods:
- Flax seed oil & flax seeds
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Foods to avoid during a cleanse:
- Processed food
- Hydrogenated or saturated fats and oils
Whether you’re thinking about cleaning up your diet for a weekend or a fortnight, a detox in any form can be like pressing a reset button on your body. I have compiled my favorite recipes for detox below. Nourishing, light, and full of seasonal ingredients, these dishes will satisfy your need for renewal this Spring.
A spicy tea is a great way to satisfy your thirst and need for hydration during a cleanse. The following spices all help with digestion, cleansing and they will give you an energy boost without the caffeine.
Boil enough water to fill a thermos. In a mesh tea ball, add:
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1 tsp Anise seeds
½ tsp Coriander seeds
¼ tsp Cumin seeds
5 Cardamom pods
A pinch of Turmeric and half a pinch of cayenne powder
Let steep for 15 minutes. Enjoy in sips during the course of your day. Almond milk or stevia may be added, to your liking.
Green Morning Smoothie
Having breakfast in a blended or juiced form is a nice, easy way for your belly to wake up and ease into the process of digesting. Play around with the ingredients depending on what you have on hand in your refrigerator. Perhaps replace the kale with collard greens or spinach, or add half of a beet instead of an apple.
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- 4 leaves of kale, chopped to make things easy on the blender
- 1/2 small apple
- 1 handful of parsley
- 1 handful cilantro
- 3 beet green leaves
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- a pinch of stevia
- 2/3 cup of water
Combine all ingredients in a strong blender. Blend on a high setting until completely smooth. Serves 1.
One of the most balancing, cleansing, and nourishing meals in ayurveda is kitchari. Kitchari means “mixture” and is typically a combination of mung beans, rice, vegetables, spices, and ghee (clarified butter). Many ayurvedic practitioners recommend a kitchari cleanse because of its balancing nature, nutrients, and digestibility. The idea is to eat kitchari for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This meal is also commonly served at meditation retreats in India. Doing this (especially at the junction of the seasons) will leave you feeling energized instead of deprived. The mung bean is full of protein and good carbohydrates. You can adjust the recipe to include as many vegetables as you like. Mung beans can be found in bulk at Whole Foods and other health food stores.
- 1 cup mung beans
- 5 cups water
- 4 large handfuls of baby kale or baby spinach
- 2 large beets, chopped
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin
To begin this recipe, soak the mung beans for about 4 hours. After rinsing the beans, saute the spices in the ghee on medium heat in a large sauce pan for a couple of minutes. Then, add in the mung beans, stirring them around in the spice mixture for another couple of minutes. Add your water and let come to a boil. Cover and let cook for about 20 minutes. Next, add the vegetables. You can change the vegetables to suit what you have on hand. Stir well and let simmer for another 20 minutes or until the beans are soft and the vegetables are fully cooked. Most of the water should have evaporated. Garnish with more spices or ghee if desired and serve. If you have left overs, try having some for breakfast the next day. Serves 4.
A fresh, colorful, and vibrant salad is a perfect choice for lunch or even a mid-afternoon snack. Raw vegetables have a satisfying crunch that is invigorating and filling. Play around with this recipe. Grate raw beets or zucchini instead of carrots, or add raw pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts. Fill up your plate, and don’t be shy about getting seconds!
- 4 (loosely packed) cups of curly kale, finely chopped
- 3 carrots, grated with a cheese grater
- 8 mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
Combine ingredients together in a large serving bowl and toss well. Makes enough for 2 salads.
Pea and Arugula Soup
The peas, arugula, and light green of this soup hint at the warmer weather to come. Garnished with lemon peel, a bit of zing comes through in the flavor.
Peas are an excellent source of nutrients, fresh or frozen. One pound of frozen peas is around $1.30, and they’re worth every penny. Peas are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients that help prevent stomach cancer and diabetes. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A lovely combination of protein and carbohydrates, peas add a comforting sweetness and creamyness to this soup.
Arugula is a dark leafy green with a bit of a bite and a peppery taste to it. It adds a complexity to this soup along with calcium, iron, and vitamin C.
- 1 lb peas, frozen or fresh
- 5 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 1/2 ounces of baby arugula, or 2 cups loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- rind of 1/4 lemon
- although I didn’t include this in my soup, I think a bit of thyme would be a lovely addition
In a large pot, bring the 5 cups of water to a boil with the salt. Add the peas and bring the heat down to medium-low so that the soup is simmering, rather than boiling. Let the gentle simmering-action continue for about 15 minutes, or until the peas are cooked through. Add the cumin, arugula and lemon juice, and cover again for about 5 minutes, or until the arugula has just wilted. In batches, blend in a blender or food processor. Do this on the lowest setting on your blender so that your soup stays in the blender and doesn’t get all over you. (This may or may not have happened to me.) Blend until silky smooth. Pour into serving bowls and garnish with lemon rind. Let the freshness of spring invigorate you while the warmth of the soup comforts your body. Serves 4.
Spiced Almond Amaranth Pudding
Amaranth is a winner nutritionally — it’s higher in protein than rice or wheat, and contains a surprisingly complete array of amino acids not usually found in other grains or seeds. It’s also high in iron, phosphorous, manganese, and fiber. No wonder it was a staple grain of the Incas and Aztecs. Paired here with almond meal, this cleanse-friendly dessert packs a protein punch.
- 1/2 cup amaranth seeds
- 1 cup almond meal or almond flour. You could also use coconut if you were feeling tropical!
- 2 1/2 cups almond milk
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 16 drops vanilla liquid stevia
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of allspice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour the almond milk into a sauce pan and heat over medium heat until it starts to froth and bubble. Stir in the amaranth, salt, stevia and spices, and turn off the heat. Transfer your mixture into a small greased casserole dish, individual ramekins, or even a pie dish. Sprinkle with slivered almonds and an extra dash of cinnamon. Place in the oven for about an hour and ten minutes, or until the amaranth has a chewy texture. Keep an eye on things: you might have to add more milk if you notice things drying up too much. Serves 4 people who can restrain themselves, or 2 people who can’t.
Keep In Mind
Remember, adding any bit of clean eating into your diet makes a positive impact on your health. Perhaps start by incorporating one of these meals into your day before going on a full cleanse. Maybe challenge yourself to focusing on eliminating one thing on the “Foods to Avoid” list every three days to gradually ease into a cleansing weekend. Do what feels right for you, and enjoy the benefits of a clean, healthy, and vibrant body.