My interest in healthy food and detoxing started really young -- I did my first detox at age 12! I had just read 'Fit for Life' by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond and was convinced I had to do a fruit fast. I completely overdosed on fruit and upset my tummy so much that my dad had to collect me from school (sorry Dad).
Since then, long before it became mainstream, I have done juice fasts, gall bladder cleanses, liver flushes and pretty much every other ridiculous detox going.
Twenty four years on, after much experimentation and research, I realise that the body is an amazing creation that is fully capable of healing and functioning well if you support it, rather than abuse it. Post Christmas, most of us are feeling rather bloated and sluggish and looking to kickstart the new year on a healthier note.
So if you're looking for a quick fix on detox, this is not the column. What I can say is that if you follow these recommendations, you will have more energy, better digestion and you'll probably even sleep better. The human body has highly sophisticated organs of elimination.
Take the liver, for example -- it has over 600 functions that we know of, and even with extreme abuse still has the ability to regenerate itself. But that is no excuse to keep on hammering it with alcohol, sugar and fat as we do.
The myopic solution would be to do a 'liver cleanse'. In reality, it's mostly ineffective -- if you did stimulate phase 2 liver function and started dumping waste into a sluggish digestive system you would make yourself feel really awful.
The real key to start feeling almost instantly better and to benefit your entire body is to support your digestive system. A large proportion of lymph nodes are located around the colon, so the health of your colon directly affects your immune system. Colon and digestive health are also closely linked with brain chemistry and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and certain cases of depression and anxiety are related. This will come as no surprise as many of us suffer from heartburn, stomach cramps and upset stomachs when we are stressed.
The latest buzz word among the health-conscious, "eating clean" is a concept that stresses healthy, whole, unprocessed foods. And, although the phrase is relatively new, the principles of this plan are not.
The principles are based on current nutrition science and are similar to recommendations made by public health organisations. This sound approach to eating and living well maximises your energy and optimises your health, making it more than just a "January Diet" -- it's a lifestyle, with built-in flexibility, meaning it can be adapted to fit most routines. This makes the plan more sustainable in the long term.
"Clean Eating" dates back to the natural health food movement of the 1960s, which shunned processed foods for the sake of moral and societal values (rather than health and nutrition issues). This type of diet is called a wholefood diet, in reference to the unprocessed nature of the foods.
This way of eating eventually landed in gyms, gaining momentum among body builders and fitness models. Recently, however, it made the jump into mainstream, rejuvenating and inspiring a new generation of healthy eaters.
The ethos of this way of eating is really common sense, but it does help to have a checklist of the core principles to base your meal choices on.
1 Choose whole, natural foods over processed foods
Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can, or package, and although there are always a few exceptions to the rule (like a bag of fresh salad leaves) the majority of your foods should be fresh. Cosy up to fresh vibrant veggies, whole-grains, beans, chickpeas, lentils, fish and lean meat. For farm fresh, non-homogenised milk, look for the old-fashioned glass bottles of Adare Manor milk in supermarkets.
2 Choose unrefined foods
While it may not be possible all the times, you can up your intake of wholegrains like brown rice, millet, amaranth, and quinoa. Beans and legumes are also important. Clean sugars include honey, maple syrup, and date sugar. If you're avoid-ing wheat, try the gluten-free pasta from Dove's Farm.
3 Include protein, carbohydrate and fat at every meal
Most of us typically do well with carbohydrates and fat, but we often lack protein, especially in the early part of the day. Protein is an important muscle builder, and it can also help curb your appetite. When eaten throughout the day, it keeps us feeling full longer. Be aware of the kinds of meals you put together and space out your protein. I love using a dollop of nut butter in a breakfast smoothie or on rye bread. For a variety of different nut butters, see www.keennutbutter.com.
4 Watch out for fat, salt, and sugar
This is easier than you think, particularly if you've cut out processed foods, which are responsible for most of our excess. Clean foods are usually naturally low in fat, salt and sugar. The big offender are trans fats, so read labels and avoid anything that says 'hydrogenated' or 'partially hydrogenated' fats. I use a lot of cinnamon to add natural sweetness and to naturally balance blood sugar.
5 Eat five to six small meals throughout the day
Eating this way prevents you from skipping meals and overeating. It also keeps your blood sugar levels steady so energy doesn't lag. If you are struggling with portion control, why not get a diet plate? These are plates with the appropriate foods marked out on the plate like a pie chart (no pun intended). Many pharmacies stock these plates; see
www.stackspharmacy.ie and www.mccabespharmacy.com.
6 Don't drink your calories
That morning mocha-latte-frappuccino could clock in at a hefty 600 calories! Fizzy drinks are also a complete no no. 'Diet' sodas are even worse, with the artificial sweeteners linked to tumours in lab rats and adverse reactions in diabetics.
Choose water first and unsweetened tea or herbal tea. Other clean drinks include low-fat or skim milk and 100pc vegetable juice or fruit juice diluted with sparkling water. For a selection of beautifully blended herbal teas, see www.kingfishertea.com.
- For healthy-eating cookery classes, log on to www.rozannestevens.com.
- All recipes from 'Delish' and 'Relish' cookbooks by Rozanne Stevens.
- Twitter: @RozanneStevens