With the new year approaching and resolutions coming to the fore, what better way to start clean and fresh than with a detox!
What’s a Detox?
The term ‘Detox’ has become part of common language in today’s society, and is consistently linked to health, longevity and wellbeing. Detox is the shortened term for Detoxification, and it literally means ‘removing toxins from the body’. That’s right, we have toxins aka poisons roaming freely in our bodies all the time.
What’s a free radical?
Well ‘free’ is the operative word here…free radicals roam the body freely and indiscriminately. They are basically chemicals that have an unpaired electron which leaves an electron free, hence the term ‘free radical’. The unpaired electrons that make up free radicals are very volatile and erratic, much like a busy wasp searching for pollen in the summer months, whilst stinging unsuspecting passers-by on its way.
What do free radicals do to our body?
During the winter months our bodies (particularly our digestive systems) take a hammering from toxins impacting on our bodies in a number of ways. Firstly, we absorb all of our nutrients through our digestive tract, so if the villi (finger like protrusions in the lining of our bowel) are flattened or damaged due to circulating free radicals, then we are at risk of becoming deficient in certain key nutrients. The digestive tract is responsible for many of the free radicals that are produced in our bodies, meaning the cells in our bowel are generally first to come under attack. Although this part of our body is at high risk, other major organs such as the brain, heart, lungs and skin are also at risk of damage. Even our bones and muscles take a pounding from the ‘pinball effect’ (erratic electrons crashing into cells causing damage) that accompanies a build up of toxins! If this pounding persists then inevitably conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, atherosclerosis (arterial plaque), exaggerated ageing and cirrhosis can follow!
What causes the build up of free radicals?
Free radicals are natural bi-products of cell metabolism i.e. the processes involved in energy production. Cell metabolism results in a process known as oxidation which is perfectly normal and necessary…if controlled with a healthy diet, physical activity and antioxidants. Oxidation itself is essential to the production of energy in many living organisms, but the following triggers can cause this process to spiral out of control resulting in the production of free radicals:
-Lack of physical activity
-An excess of processed foods
-An excess of Saturated and Trans fats
-Lack of Essential fatty acids (Mono and Polyunsaturated fats)
-Lack of fruit and veg
Experts at the Food Standards Agency (2008) have concluded that you should consume the following foods and beverages to get a high quality hit of those all important ANTIOXIDANTS vitamin E, vitamin C and Beta-carotene (this list is not exhaustive):
Vitamin C and Beta-carotene
- Fruits and Vegetables:
Cliché, but aim for 5 a Day (2 fruit and 3 veg), this ensures a balance of soluble and insoluble fibre as well as delivering a hit of antioxidants! Opt for the orange varieties such as oranges, apricots, papaya and mango, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato and pumpkin. These are packed full of Beta-carotene and Vitamin C which donate an electron to the free radicals resulting in a calmer, less radical atom, much like a less erratic wasp that is full of pollen and on its way back to the hive.
Also try onions, berries, apples and tea as an additional source of flavonoids andantioxidants, as well as lemon juice with honey and fresh ginger (according to taste), wheatgrass beverages and green tea.
- Vegetable Oils e.g. olive oil, nuts, soya, seeds, whole grains e.g. wholegrain bread, cereals, brown rice/pasta, also opt for sweet potato, beans and lentils and green leafy veg.
An ideal way to get all of the abovementioned nutrients is to blitz them together to form a soup or smoothie (seeds and nuts also blend well so can be included in these foods/drinks).
NOTE: Cutting fruit and veg damages the cells and can reduce the availability of some of the vitamins; therefore it is always best to try to consume them in their whole, raw form if possible (Mann and Truswell, 2007).
So in order to rid yourself of the toxins and stagnation that has accrued during 2012 and before, try the above food and drinks, and get consistent with your training and rest cycle to give your body the DETOX it deserves!
Food Standards Agency, (2008). Manual of Nutrition, 11th Ed. London: TSO.
Mann, J. & Truswell, S. (2007). Essentials of Human Nutrition, 3rd Ed. Antioxidants and Flavonoids. Oxford: Oxford University Press.