Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas – with all of the festive foods celebrated during these holidays near the end of the year, it’s no wonder that come January 1, a “detox” not only seems desirable but may be needed. The holidays may have included a little alcohol (a known toxin), foods consumed out of the home (and perhaps non-organic), and icing-covered sugar cookies (with food additives like artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners).
Usually our bodies can handle the elimination of these toxins through the power of our liver and kidneys. However, an overload of toxic exposure on a regular basis (through herbicides, pesticides, food additives, alcohol, environmental pollutants, etc.) – and the under-consumption of key nutrients that help support the body’s natural detoxification processes (including B vitamins and antioxidants) – can set the stage for a slew of health concerns, like an increase in inappropriate inflammation, the disruption of hormone signaling, and metabolic disturbances.
So, NO, I’m not advising on a lemon juice detox, the “Master Cleanse,” a 21-day supplement plan, or a juice fast in the weeks leading up to the holiday celebrations. Rather, I’m encouraging you to choose foods throughout the holiday season that create a healthy foundation – so that if (or when) the holidays happen, you’re well equipped with some fighting powers to enable the body’s own detoxification pathways to do its job.
So how exactly can you pre-tox?
- Choose organic vegetables as the main feature of your plate for all meals of the day (yes, even breakfast!). Be sure to focus on cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. These veggies contain glucosinolates, which target phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification in your liver. Broccoli, in particular, is the king of glucoraphanin – a glucosinolate that, with the help of myrosinase, transforms into sulforaphane, a major player in your body's detoxification pathways. Do all these words from biochemistry sound confusing? The main point is that you already know that vegetables are healthy; so, make the goal (and keep the goal!) to include meals like a kale salad with broccoli for lunch each weekday, a Brussels sprout and sweet potato hash for breakfast on the weekends, or to snack on raw broccoli and cauliflower with hummus or avocado for snacks.
- On days you don’t “need” it skip the sugar and alcohol. Remember that a holiday is a holi-DAY…it’s not a week, it’s not a month. This may mean that you don’t choose the pumpkin pie or the glass of hot apple cider or the sweet potato soufflé at each holiday party…and you know what? You’ll probably be a-okay by skipping out. If it’s a treat made with quality ingredients, then aim to keep portion sizes respectful and indulge mindfully (check out the blog I helped write here for more help with that).
- Herbs and spices have properties that aid in helpful detoxification. Ginger, turmeric, garlic, cilantro - sprinkle these on your foods for extra flavor and a detoxification punch! Plus, they may deter you from flavoring your foods with salt or sugar, so that’s an added benefit.
- Make it a point to drink more fluids – and I don’t mean alcohol or copious amounts of caffeine. One of my favorite choices for a pre-tox is Brassica’s Tea with truebroc glucoraphanin. Like all green teas, it contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which helps boost glutathione-S-transferase (a major group of detoxification enzymes) and activates Nrf2 pathways. Even better? This tea includes the phytonutrient glucoraphanin from broccoli seeds, which is a potent inducer of phase II enzymes/pathways. The enzymes boosted thanks to glucoraphanin have dynamic activity for up to 72 hours, compared with other antioxidants, which may only have fighting powers for 3.
- Read your food labels! The holidays may mean a bit of extra time off work (yay for relaxation), so if you have an hour to spare, go through your cupboards to read your food labels. If you’re seeing ingredients like artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors, and “partially hydrogenated” oils, what you’re consuming is likely not whole-foods based. Consider (please consider!) tossing it out completely and replacing it with a better alternative.
- Non-food strategies matter too in your efforts to have a healthy holiday season. Get support from family and friends to stick to your health goals -- let them know of your intentions, and ask them to keep you accountable, provide encouragement, and support you. While you go through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, make it a point to pick up a few things (like healthy eating habits and exercise) and to slow down others (like the speed you chew, your breath, and your stress).
With these healthy strategies in mind, come January 1 you shouldn’t need to be bamboozled in to a New Year’s detox that you really don’t want to follow-through on. And if by chance you do need extra support after the New Year, check back here for new tips and healthy reminders.
This post was supported by truebroc. Thank you for supporting brands that support YES! Nutrition.