Spring is right around the corner, representing a time of rebirth and renewal. The earth awakens after winter’s slumber and the sight of tender, young, plant life pushes upwards. For us it’s not only time to focus on clearing out the cobwebs and sweeping out the dust from the house, but also a time to focus on cleaning up our bodies and our diet. Consuming less heavy foods, and more fresh light foods, is just what the doctor ordered to cleanse our organs.
The practice of cleansing the body of unhealthy toxins has been around for centuries. According to the Chinese Five-Element Theory, Spring is the season to attend to the liver and gall bladder. These organs are so important to the body’s natural detoxification process, and they work hard everyday to eliminate harmful toxins that are created from internal waste products, and toxins that we are exposed to in our, food, water, and environment. When it comes to cleansing the body it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many techniques you can follow and supplements you can take, but an easy and natural process is to eat foods that are supportive to the body’s natural cleansing processes.
There are a number of foods that can be beneficial to the well being of the liver and gallbladder; I have chosen to highlight a few. Look for these tasty spring foods at your local grocery store or farmers market and include them in your meals to give your liver and gallbladder a little love.
Artichokes contain phytonutrients that some studies have shown may speed liver cell generation. Artichokes also stimulate bile production, improve gallbladder function, and aid in a more efficient breakdown of foods for overall improved digestion. One of the major benefits of artichokes is their natural defense against toxicity of the liver by guarding liver cells from the damage caused by outside pollutants, carcinogens, and toxins.
Beets are bright, beautiful, and high in antioxidants. Beets look like the color of blood, and coincidentally, they naturally cleanse and purify the blood, which boosts liver function, and nutrient production in the body. Beets also contain the soluble fiber pectin that helps flush toxins that are stored in the liver, so they can be evacuated out of the body instead of reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Beets are excellent eaten raw or cooked, and their greens are edible too!
Broccoli has a strong, positive impact on our body’s detoxification system. Researchers have recently identified 3 phytonutrients that are able to support all the steps in the body’s detox process, including activation, neutralization, and elimination of unwanted contaminants. Broccoli is also full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that lower the risk of chronic inflammation and risk of cancer. Both raw and cooked broccoli make excellent additions to your meal plan. You may also want to try broccoli sprouts, as some of the nutrients found in broccoli are especially concentrated in the sprouts.
Leafy green vegetables are one of our most powerful allies in cleansing the liver. Leafy greens are packed with chlorophyll to purify the blood, and they help neutralize heavy metals and toxic chemicals that burden the liver. Spinach, kale, chard, arugula, dandelion greens, and collards are some of the most nutrient greens. Enjoy them raw, cooked, or juiced.
Garlic is rich in allicin and selenium, two powerhouse nutrients for your liver. Selenium is a naturally detoxifying mineral, and allicin helps ward off immune system invaders, which lighten the load on your liver. Garlic also activates enzymes in the liver which help with overall digestion, flush out toxins, and nourish the blood. Like garlic, onions are also rich is allicin and support the liver and digestive tract.
Radishes are especially beneficial for liver and gallbladder functions. The sulfur-based chemicals in radishes help regulate the production and flow of bile, the substance that removes waste from the organs and blood to improve digestion.
Lemons love your liver and your liver loves them right back! Lemons are a natural cleansing food and essentially one of the best to get things going in all areas of your body. Lemons provide a wealth of antioxidants, primarily Vitamin C, and they help your liver produce enzymes which give you more energy, help with digestion, and break down fats.
Your liver works hard for you everyday, possibly more than you could imagine. It’s the second largest organ in your body, and you probably don’t give much thought about it until something goes wrong. Like a silent keeper, it’s always working around the clock, cleaning up whatever goes in, and assisting what goes out. Give your liver and gallbladder some plant- based loving with these foods, and remember to take care of them so they can take care of you.
Recipe for Kale Pesto
If you love greens – or hate them – a fast, delicious and simple way to enjoy them is by making a pesto. Pesto can be made with many types of greens, and is not merely limited to basil. You can use a mixture of whatever you have on hand, kale, spinach, etc., and its ready in 5 minutes! Enjoy as a spread on anything, a dip for fresh or cooked veggies, or with crackers or pasta.
• 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
• 3 cups packed kale (about 1 small bunch)
• 3/4 cup hemp seeds or toasted walnuts
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
• 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
• Red pepper flakes, option (if you want to add some kick)
• 1/4 cup flaxseed oil or extra-virgin olive olive
Make the pesto in a food processor. Start by adding the garlic cloves and process until the garlic is minced. Add the kale, hemp seeds, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the oil. Process until the pesto reaches your desired consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Taste and add more lemon, salt, or pepper if necessary.