I love this time of year. It represents new beginnings for me with the first blooms of Spring, fresh air, and open windows. Maybe being born in April has something to do with it. Whether I am going to start a new project, tackle those items that have been lingering waaaaaay too long on my “to-do” list, or change up my training program, these approaching months suggest a time of clean living. Not only is it a good time to spring clean the house and yard, its great time to “cleanse” the body as well. And while we are at it, we can step into a GREEN spring by making choices that can better our health and environment. It’s a win-win!
So lets focus on what you can do today to help improve your health and rid the body of some toxins rather then rid your wallet of money. I am certainly not saying you won’t see benefits with programs such as a 30-day detox with specialty products, but as a nutritionist, I like to educate my clients so they can make healthy choices on their own to better their lifestyle for years to come.
There are things you can do periodically, as well as daily, to help “clean”, refresh or reboot the body. But rather than spend all your hard earned bucks on nutritional products promising to change your life, simply follow these steps and put those dollars to better use like your child’s college education!
* Before you continue on, if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding your baby, this is not the time to restrict calories or perform any sort of detox. Please take note of those recommendations and any questions or concerns should be discussed with your doctor and a registered dietitian.
What does the word “detox” even mean?
The process, real or perceived, of removing toxins from the body.
What are “toxins”? There are two basic forms of toxins, external and internal toxins. External toxins are those that we are exposed to on a daily basis. They are created outside of the body and then absorbed into your system. Polluted air and water, car exhausts and chemicals in household products including cosmetics are included. Internal toxins consist of waste products created by normal metabolic processes within the body but most are byproducts of the air we breathe and the food we eat.
DAILY DOSE “DETOX”
The following are things to do on a daily basis to keep the body “clean”. These are perfectly safe for any individuals including pregnant women. Actually, if you are pregnant or nursing I highly recommend all of these tips!
Eat non-GMO foods. Eat organic. Eat locally. Eat seasonally. When did food become so complicated? While modern food processing and worldwide distribution of food has made year-round availability, which can certainly be attractive in those winter months, it all comes with a cost. This cost is having antibiotics, hormones, herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified proteins in our food supply, many times not even knowing it. The biggest concern is the unknown, combined effect of long-term use – which has not, and is not studied.
To eat clean, you must first understand the terms and processes below. From there, you need to make decisions on what makes most sense for you and your lifestyle, and what you feel comfortable with.
Genetically Modified Foods
What are genetically modified foods and why is this done? A GMO (genetically modified organism) results from a lab process in which genes from one species are inserted into another. In an attempt to obtain desired characteristics such as herbicide tolerance & the ability of the plant to produce it’s own pesticide. This process is called Genetic Modification (GM) or Genetic Engineering (GE)
How is GM or GE done? Since these desired traits would be impossible to obtain through natural processes (that’s why nature sets up barriers!), scientists have to find ways to force DNA from one organism to another, such as scorpion genes into tomatoes to help fight off bugs. (This cannot be achieved through traditional crossbreeding or grafting.) The two widely used methods of “forcing” are:
- Using bacteria to “infect” and penetrate the host cell with the new gene.
- Using a special gun, tiny metal pellets coated with DNA of the new trait are fired into the host cells.
Are GM foods tested? Nope! The FDA does NOT require testing for GE plants. Their view is that plants bred the conventional way are not test for safety, so genetic engineered plants don’t need to be either! Other countries do not share this same view…
How do I know if a food or food product is genetically engineered or has GE ingredients? If you live in Europe or Great Britain, Australia, Japan or Russia, you’re in luck. They have much stronger labeling laws than the U.S., and require food manufacturers to make it clear if a product contains GE ingredients. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. unless a food is certified organic you will not know if it is genetically engineered or has GE ingredients.. We should all have the right to choose foods that are safe and ultimately we are not given this choice and I think that’s the big issue.
What are the biggest commercialized GM crops in the U.S.?
Soy (~91%); Sugar Beets (~90%); Cotton (~88%); Canola (~88%); Corn (~85%).
Can I avoid GM foods by eliminating the above? You certainly can! But unless you are buying 100% organic all the time (expensive!), it would be almost impossible to avoid these ingredients. Do a quick pantry check and look at your labels. You’ll see that these ingredients are in EVERYTHING because of the products that are derived from above. These include oils from flour, soy protein, cornstarch, and high fructose corn syrup… Also food additives, flavorings, enzymes and non-food items such as cosmetics, soaps, detergents, etc…
What about meat, eggs and dairy products? Many meats and eggs come from animals that have eaten GM feed, and many dairy products from animals injected with rBGH - Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. rBGH is a genetically engineered growth hormone that was approved by the FDA in 1993. This hormone is NOT approved for use in the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Are we starting to see a pattern here with our food supply?? (I’ll give you a hint = politics).
Free Range, Grass-fed Meat & Dairy
Beef: Meat from grass-fed, organically raised cattle tends to be leaner and has about 5x the omega-3s.
Milk: Milk from organic, pasture-fed cows is produced without antibiotics, artificial hormones and pesticides and can also provide extra omega-3s and beta-carotene.
Tips to limit GE Foods:
Tip # 1: Opt for Organic when possible (see below for more information)
Tip # 2: Look for Non-GMO Project Seals
Tip # 3: Avoid at-risk ingredients
Ingredients derived from GM crops
Tips # 4: Buy brands that have gone GM-free. Many brands and restaurants are listening! Since we can all vote with our fork, we have a voice and it’s starting to be heard. Check out the guide below for a list of brands that are going GMO-free.
Helpful guide: www.nonGMOShoppingGuide.com
or ShopNoGMO App on iPhone
What is Organic? Organic foods are grown using sustainable methods of soil and water conservation. They are minimally processed and grown without any toxic pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, or GM seeds. Animals raised organically are housed properly, meaning they have room to move about and behave like animals, and they are fed healthy food sources and not given any drugs, antibiotics, hormones or any other chemicals to speed up their natural growth process.
The Dirty Dozen: According to the Environmental Working Group, “The Dirty Dozen” contains the highest levels of chemical & pesticides residues (in order). I recommend going organic on these fruits and vegetables when possible:
Apples; Celery; Strawberries; Peaches; Spinach; Nectarines (imported); Grapes (imported); Sweet bell peppers; Potatoes; Blueberries (domestic); Lettuce; Kale/Collard Greens.
The Clean 15: Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms.
Local and Seasonal Foods
It’s easy to forget about eating seasonally with year-availability of most fruits and vegetables, and depending on where you live, eating seasonally can pose more challenges. Farmers Markets are a great place to start and you can probably find an organic one too. Better yet, join a CSA! This has been personally been one of the best things I could have done. In addition to the previous stated benefits, begin a part of a community supported agriculture (CSA) can make weekly meal planning much easier! I plan all meals around what I receive from my weekly pick-up. I also made all of Annabels organic, homemade baby food from the same produce! For more info, check out to Local Harvest to find out what is offered where you live: www.localharvest.org
Thank you for reading and I look forward to writing more on a topic that is important to everyone in life! Stay tuned for my next writing on what you can do periodically to cleanse the body. In the meantime, remember every little step counts – living green and living healthy is not an “all or nothing” approach. Never discount the positive!
Eat well. Train smart. Live life.