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How to…detox

Vi Nguyen

7th January, 2011

If the festive season has left you a pound or two overweight, a detox could be just what you need. Here’s how to do it the eco-friendly way

After a month spent munching through a mince pie mountain and quaffing your way through a vat of mulled wine, you probably aren’t looking or feeling particularly great. Whether you’re struggling with the dreaded bloat, a smattering of spots or just the January blues, it’s no surprise that a detox is high on the list of New Year’s resolutions. 

The UK spent approximately £1.6 billion on food and drink over the Christmas period (of which £28 million was spent on Christmas cakes and puddings), and 230,000 tons of food with an estimated value of £275 million was thrown away. But weeks of feasting, boozing and slobbing out in front of the TV can take their toll. With Christmas comes significant weight gain, which has long-term health implications that are hard to stomach. According to the Association of Public Health Observatories, the UK has the highest adult obesity rate in Europe and while a few Christmas pounds won’t hurt if you make an effort to dispatch them quickly, leaving it too long could leave you seriously unwell. Enter the post Christmas detox: the greener way to shed festive weight-gain.

Healthier food

Giving your fridge a makeover is the first step in a healthy detox. Replace brandy butter, red meats and Christmas puddings with plenty of organic fresh fruit and vegetables, lean chicken and fish, and unsalted nuts and seeds. These ‘clean’ foods are key to eliminating the toxins, grouchiness and lethargy that go hand-in-hand with stodgy Yuletide treats. Raw vegetables and fruit are a great source of enzymes, which are essential for healthy digestion. Legumes such as beans, lentils and split peas are particularly enzyme-rich. Adding more of these to your diet can eliminate the symptoms of poor digestion, such as bloating, belching, gas and heartburn, all classic signs of stressed-out digestive system. Choose easily digestible soups and warming stews: while raw foods are packed with vitamins, they are hard for the stomach and intestines to break down.

Liven up your meals by working herbs and spices into your diet. A rich source of natural antioxidants, herbs and spices were traditionally used for medicinal purposes and their health benefits are widely known. Detoxing doesn’t have to be boring, so feel free to add garlic, onions, cardamom and coriander to your meals. Sprinkle tarragon into sauces to combat constipation and settle the stomach, chew parsley to help the digestion after a heavy meal, nibble caraway seeds and juniper berries to relieve gas and drop star anise into soups to ward off wind, hiccups and water retention.

Beat the booze

The UK consumes 40 per cent more alcohol in December than in any other month, and with an October British Medical Journal study showing that binge-drinking doubles the risk of heart disease, it’s a worrying public health issue. After a heavy drinking session, the liver struggles to clear out excess toxins and chemicals and a hangover ensues. Alcohol also suppresses the immune system, making drinkers more prone to seasonal ills such as colds and flu.

One way to reduce the ill-effects of alcohol is to go organic. Unlike standard bottles of vodka and gin, organic spirits don’t contain a trace of pesticides or of other agricultural chemicals, making them a gentler option for your liver. Combining natural juices with your organic spirits means your tipple provides nutritional benefits too. Try fresh fruits such as pomegranate, blueberries and açaí berries, all of which are rich in anti-oxidants and help to boost your body’s immune system. Or be a little more daring and sprinkle fresh herbs such as peppermint, ginseng or rosemary into your cocktails for an energising lift. These herbs also aid digestion and help shake off that Christmas podge. Fennel and ginger are also great for invigorating the liver and easing stomach cramps.

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