As I mentioned in the Introduction, during the month of spring the body naturally kick starts its own cleansing and detoxing process. The food that we eat, and the lifestyle that we live, can either aid or hamper this process. More cleansing and nutritious foods will make it easier for you to detoxify, while on the other hand eating cold, damp and heavy, fatty foods will make detoxifying more difficult and will induce colds and sinus trouble. Some people like to undergo a fast during spring as a way of making the cleansing process more total. This can be great idea, but is not a substitute for eating healthy during the rest of the year. In other words, if you decide to fast, don’t “retoxify” when you’re finished; eat a balanced diet instead. If you take care of yourself for most of the year, you don’t end up in a position where you need to seriously detoxify in the spring.
Whether you’re fasting or not, the best spring diet is going to be more low–fat than diets corresponding to the other seasons. That means cutting down on fatty foods like dairy products, nuts (peanut butter), processed foods with hydrogenated oils or vegetable oils in general, and meat that has a high fat content. This is not to say there is something intrinsically wrong with fat, but at this time of year a lot of fat interferes with the natural cleansing going on in your body, which doesn’t expect a lot of fat to still be around after a cold winter. So this is the one time of year when a low–fat diet makes sense. Note: this does not mean low–fat versions of normally high–fat foods. Just eat smaller amounts of high–fat foods at their normal fat content. Fat cravings are not as common in the spring, although if you feel like you need some fat, then go ahead and eat it. Now, what about the foods that are good for the spring? A discussion of the spring diet follows below, and at the end of this article is a section on fasting.
The Spring Diet . The best foods for spring are dried foods left over from the winter and the fresh young greens and sprouts that are just beginning to grow. These greens have a high amount of chlorophyll, which is healing and cleansing for the blood. The greens usually have a bitter or pungent flavor, which is just what you need to break up accumulations of fat in the body. The dried foods, on the other hand, help balance the spring body’s high water content. Below is a list of nutritious spring foods, divided by food group, partially adapted from John Douillard’s The Three–Season Diet.
|Fruit||Dried Fruit||Drying (of course)|
|Lemons||Sour (liver cleansers)|
|Strawberries||High in antioxidants|
|Vegetables||Asparagus||Stereotypical spring food|
|Brussels Sprouts||Very alkaline, nutrient rich|
|Carrots||Balances bitter vegetables|
|Chili Peppers||Hot, breaks up mucus|
|Cilantro||Spicy/bitter, very cleansing|
|Dandelion Greens||Very bitter, detoxifying|
|Corn||Slightly sweet, goes well with greens|
|Endive||High in fiber, also cleansing|
|Garlic||Pungent, burns up fat|
|Grains||Cooked Amaranth, Barley, Corn, Millet, Quinoa and Brown Rice are all good, but reduce wheat. Granola is a good dry cereal.|
|Beans||All dried beans and bean sprouts are good, especially kidneys, lentils, split peas and mung beans.|
|Nuts/Seeds||Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are best, lowest in fat.|
|Dairy||Dairy is usually too cold and thick, but some butter and yogurt is okay.|
|Meat/Fish||Low–fat protein like chicken and fish is best; dried meats like naturally preserved beef jerky are okay too.|
|Oils||Olive oil is best, but reduce consumption of oil to below winter levels.|
|Sweeteners||Raw, local honey is perfect! If you have cravings for sugar and fat in the spring, combine honey with yogurt and berries.|
|Beverages||Water, Green Tea or Black Tea are good. So are pungent teas such as peppermint, dandelion and ginger.|
|Spices||Use lots of pungent spices when making rice and beans—especially black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic.|
In general, as you can see from above, what’s recommended is a mostly vegan diet, with a lot of whole grains, cooked beans and bean sprouts, fresh vegetables, dried fruit, and bitter, pungent and sour flavors. This is the diet that will help you feel the best in the spring and enhance the cleansing process. In regard to fruits and vegetables, some of the above don’t become available until later in the spring. Look for what is freshest and was grown locally. The foods that naturally grow at this time of year have the most healing properties for spring. Also, remember that low–fat doesn’t mean low–protein. Don’t just eat salads, but have plenty of rice and beans and enough chicken and fish to keep from getting too cold. It’s not summer yet!
The Detox Diet. Eating only the foods listed above is already going to be highly detoxifying. However, some people like to take a few days, a week or even two weeks in the spring to seriously cleanse their bodies. Fasting is a very old tradition, and is an important part of many different religions. Sometimes fasting can be an emotionally or spiritually cleansing experience on top of being a physically cleansing one. I think it’s worth trying out just to see what the experience is like. If ever you don’t feel well, you can always just go back to your normal pattern of eating.
There are obviously different levels of intensity in fasting. Just eating cooked whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits—the foods listed in the table above—would be the most relaxed fast. Presented below are some different options for fasting:
1. Whole Grain fast. You could also call this the “Bread and Water” diet. Essentially, it involves eating cooked whole grains such as millet and brown rice, chewed very thoroughly, with water as your sole beverage. The whole grains can also be combined with mung beans that have been cooked with kombu. This diet purges toxins from the body while still providing a lot of energy in the form of carbohydrates. Better for people on the thin side who can’t afford to lose a lot of weight.
2. Steamed Vegetable fast. This diet is good for people who would like to lose weight but can experience symptoms of coldness from time to time. Eat two or three different cooked vegetables combined at a time for your meals, and no other foods. Drink water or herbal tea if thirsty.
3. Raw fruit and vegetable/fruit and vegetable juice fast. This diet is good for those with symptoms of heat who want to lose weight and detoxify. Combining fruits and vegetables at the same meal is not always best, so alternate eating fruits and vegetables. As always, chew your food very thoroughly—even chew the vegetable and fruit juices to mix them with alkaline saliva. Beware of fruit and vegetable juices that have added sugar, which will cancel out the cleansing effects.
4. The Master Cleanser. This diet consists solely of water and a drink called the “Master Cleanser”—no food. One glass of the Master Cleanser consists of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a cup of water. Mix together and drink 8-12 glasses a day. Always drink a glass of water with the master cleanser to rinse out your mouth afterwards. Drink as much water as you like. Lemon juice helps detoxify the liver, while the hot pepper breaks up fat and mucus in the body. This diet can be followed for a day, a few days, or a week—continue for as long as you would like, but listen to your body and eat if you feel like you have to.
Some people can get too obsessed with fasting and fast against their body’s wishes. Remember that it is not an alternative to a healthy everyday diet, but it can be very helpful if you feel you need to cleanse yourself of toxins accumulated over a long period of time. Finally, if you choose to fast, remember that your body may not be able to sustain a high level of activity. Don’t work out too hard, and get plenty of sleep.