When I was young, my Nana had the most amazing garden full of potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peas, carrots, radishes, strawberries, raspberries… she even had a few stalks of corn! I ate peas from the pod, and young carrots I’d pulled from the ground and washed in the rain barrel. When we wanted potatoes for dinner we went out to the garden and dug a few up. To put it mildly, I was spoiled.
I think it was this yearly cycle of planting and growing and eating that turns me into Pavlov’s dog every spring at the mere suggestion of locally grown fresh fruits and veggies-not that I consider my quirky relationship to produce a bad thing. When you consider how much abuse our bodies take from the chemicals in the air and the products we use on a daily basis, the detoxing benefits of fresh, organic fruits and veggies is surely needed.
Since Nana doesn’t have her garden anymore and I don’t have the space for one, in the spring, summer and autumn, I rely on local farmers markets and nearby farms for organic fruits and veggies. Here are my five favorite detoxifying foods to get fresh from the farm.
Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, radishes, watercress, mustard plants are all members of this oh-so-good-for-you plant family. Compounds in these plants help the liver create enzymes that break down and eliminate toxins. There are tons of ways to eat these veggies. Add cabbage, watercress, radishes and mustard greens to salads or pile them on sandwiches. Munch on raw broccoli and cauliflower for a snack, or toss them in a stir-fry for dinner.
Sweet but low in calories, beets are great for detoxing your body. Packed with vitamin C and folate, this red veggie staves off free radicals and promotes healthy cell growth. Think pickled beets and Borscht (beet soup) are the only ways to eat this veg? Raw beets actually pack the biggest punch, so grate some on salads or add thin slices to a veggie sandwich or wrap. If you’re already a fan of beets, top a bed of baby spinach with ribbons of raw beets for a tasty and beautiful salad.
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, brambleberries… they’re all so very yummy. And while the berry season is fleeting, the health benefits are lasting. Researchers at Tufts University tested 60 fruits and veggies for antioxidants and blueberries topped the list. Blueberries neutralize free radicals, improve the structure of veins and generally strengthen the cardiovascular system, protect against cancer development, and have been linked to healthy eyesight. Raspberries are another great antioxidant, but they also have important antimicrobial properties, which can prevent overgrowth bacteria and fungi, as well as a yeast linked to vaginal yeast infections and irritable bowel syndrome.
There is nothing quite like a ripe, juicy tomato fresh from the field or a garden. Warm, juicy and sweet, you can almost taste the sunshine. But the health benefits are even better than the taste. The red skins of tomatoes are full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals in the body. Not only can it detox your system immediately, lycopene may help prevent cancers. Just be sure to get your hands on organic tomatoes – they contain more lycopene (even organic ketchup has three times the lycopene than a non-organic product).
Sure you can get them year-round, but fresh carrots are a totally different experience than carrots from storage. Since most of the good stuff is in the skin or just under it, don’t peel your carrots if you can help it-if they’re fresh, a good wash it all it will take. This root veggie is packed with carotene (which is converted to vitamin A by the body), vitamins B, C, D and E – all of which are antioxidants that protect the body from harmful free radicals. They’re also a mild diuretic, so they’ll help flush out your kidneys. The alkaline elements in carrots also help detox your blood, and maintain a neutral pH level.
So this spring, summer and autumn, eat to your heart’s content! Just don’t neglect legumes, grains and water: protein produces enzymes the liver requires to break down toxins, fiber helps remove waste from the body, and water keeps everything working properly.
Image: Melinda Shelton