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The Power of Produce

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Let your local farmer cure what ails you

nol_jan08_medres_page_14_image_0001.jpgSo, you overdid it. Maybe you had one too many helpings of stuffing, slices of turkey or spoonfuls of gravy at a Thanksgiving feast. Or maybe it was the winter holidays, with a few too many slugs of nog, liberally laced with whiskey—or that whole plate of potato pancakes—that did you in. Perhaps New Year’s Eve only added insult to injury and left you resolving to never indulge again—until the next day at the bowl game party, where, to soothe your Champagne hangover, you went in for more than seven layers of the chips and dip. Now Mardi Gras season is upon us (so early this year!), and you haven’t had time to make resolutions, much less get settled back into a healthy routine.

Never fear, the time for cleansing is here. But, wait! It’s not what you think! Most people hear “health cleanse” and think of high-colonic irrigations, harsh juice- or liquids-only cleansing, or the renowned Master Cleanse, which requires you to consume nothing but a cocktail of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and distilled water for a period of 3 days to 3 weeks. As a result, people tend to think cleansing is strictly the bailiwick of health nuts and extremists. Not so. It’s too bad so many people make this assumption because it’s exactly these naysayers who may stand to benefit from cleansing the most.

Cleanses are not just for yogis and vegans but for anyone interested in living in good health. If you’d like a little assistance in helping to rid your body of accumulated harmful substances; if your liver could use detoxing; if you’d like to effect more efficient digestive processes; if you’ve ever felt like your whole body needed a good tune-up, then cleansing can be of benefit to you, too. Cleansing is a practice that aids and supports the body in its own natural detoxifying processes, and the benefits of a cleansing can be myriad. A cleanse may result in increased energy and vitality, weight loss, clearer skin, improved sleep, sharper mental focus and improved concentration; if practiced repeatedly over time, cleansing may also help to increase longevity. Practitioners may also experience a more positive mental attitude and better moods during and after a cleanse. In general, cleansing can encourage more optimal performance of the body and improved overall health; but, practitioners may also enjoy more esoteric benefits like regaining a sense of balance and well-being and experiencing a heightened sense of clarity, too.

Still, despite all the potential health benefits we stand to gain from cleanses, many people never practice them because cleansing carries such a drastic stigma. Truthfully, some cleanses do require radical adjusting and may seem more like torture than treatment. But there is a milder, more moderate way to detoxify and cleanse your body of harmful substances and/or the aftereffects of the holidays, New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras: a gentle, organic fruits-and-vegetables cleanse. To do this, you only need to eat all organic fruits and vegetables (raw or cooked) and drink as much filtered water, fresh juice and herbal tea as you want for a period of your choosing—from a few days to a full week. Far less stringent than other cleanses, this practice proves effective, easy and deprivationfree. If even this sounds too strict, you may wish to add organic whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and millet; or, you might augment your produce with the protein in beans, nuts and seeds. To dress your fresh, organic fare healthfully, forget the cream-and-butter sauces and sauté in extra-virgin olive oil, soy sauce or tamari. You’d be surprised at how flavorful fresh, organic produce can be, but you can add extra zest to vegetables with kitchen herbs and spices—the fresher, the better—and sweeten (if you must) fruit and teas with organic, local honey. (Of course, you should always consult your physician before undertaking any major change in your diet or exercise routine.)

I recently tried this organic produce cleanse for a week. (The “organic” here is key because some of the substances our body needs cleansing of most are the pesticides used to farm conventionally grown vegetables and fruits—not to mention the additives and preservatives used in so many other foods.) While I did experience some normal hunger the first day, for the rest of the week, I never felt hungry. I also used the cleanse as an experiment in kicking caffeine; my withdrawal headache subsided after a day or two. By the end of the week, I was enjoying an increase in energy, a sharper mental focus and a state of heightened clarity. I also had markedly brighter skin and a shiny, happy disposition. People noticed. I was bouncing. And, by week’s end, I had developed a complete aversion to refined sugar, over-processed carbohydrates and dairy. I did eventually return to a more regular diet, and then, just like they did for everybody else, came the holidays—which is why I’ll probably begin another produce cleanse the day after Mardi Gras. See you at the farmers’ market, makin’ groceries!