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Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 12:39 am

Outfoxin’ those toxins

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Raw fruits and vegetables are an important part of the detox diet.

Still feeling sluggish and a bit bloated after all those holiday indulgences? Are you lacking energy and having trouble getting back to your regular routine?

Perhaps the biggest New Year’s resolution cliché is going on a diet. Almost as big a cliché is that most folks “fall off the wagon” in very short order.

This year, why not try something different? A “diet” that’s not specifically to lose weight (although that may be a welcome side effect), but that’s to help your body achieve optimum health and function. I’m talking about a detox program.

For many the word “detox” implies drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation, but the term is also used by natural health practitioners to describe regimes, diets and supplements that can help your body detoxify (a.k.a. cleanse) itself of things that assault our bodies — both things we ingest and substances in the environment, such as pollutants in the air and chemicals used in building materials.

Cleansing regimens aren’t new. From ancient Romans to wealthy Victorians, people took “cures” at spas, respites from their overly rich, overly abundant diets to eat lighter foods and drink quantities of mineral waters. Back in the ’60s, my health food pioneer family occasionally went on a week-long cleansing diet that was as simple as it was effective. Breakfast was half a grapefruit, and a single cup of coffee (with cream!) was permissible. Lunch was a salad with olive oil and lemon and dinner was cooked vegetables that could be dressed with butter if desired. There were a few proscribed vegetables, such as potatoes and corn, but most other non-starchy veggies were fine. During and between meals we drank vast quantities of a broth made from carrots, celery and parsley, and ate as many raw vegetables from the accepted list as possible.

The first couple days weren’t very pleasant: our stomachs rumbled ominously and the bathroom replaced the kitchen as the center of the house. But towards the end of the week, we felt fantastic and chock-full of energy. My folks usually did it in the summer when the delicious produce we’d grown was fresh and abundant. I actually remember doing a cleansing diet as being kind of fun (except for those first couple of days) although, of course, I would have died before letting my “normal” friends know what my weirdo family was up to.

Springfield naprapathic doctor and nutritionist Paul Mach says that our bodies are actually detoxing all the time through the “detox organs,” the kidney and liver. It’s only when those organs become overloaded that things begin to go haywire.

“It’s only” is actually a bit misleading. The problem today is that, according to Mach, “we’ve gotten to the point where we almost can’t eat healthy.” In an ideal world, says Mach, a special detox program wouldn’t be necessary. In the past someone would have had to try really hard to eat harmful foods that would overload the system, but today it’s just the opposite: it takes effort to eat optimally: unadulterated foods grown in or raised on healthy soil and pastures. And avoiding the external toxins and pollutants in our daily environment is even more difficult.

Those spa cures and regimens such as the one my family followed had varying degrees of efficacy, but most were at best guesswork based on limited knowledge. Some — such as extended water fasts — could even be dangerous, says Mach. These days, however, he says that scientific research and testing components are available to make a detoxification program truly worthwhile.

“Really what detoxification is about is giving the body a chance to heal — to rest, and cleansing the detox organs,” says Mach. He cites one of his favorite studies in which cells were grown in Petri dishes. Some were continually cleansed (detoxified) and the length of time those cells lived was much greater compared to the control group that wasn’t cleansed. There are detox teas, pills and formulas available (Food Fantasies, 1512 Wabash, 793-8009, has a wide selection), but Mach says that without accompanying dietary changes, they have limited effectiveness.

“The simpler you can eat for a time, the better,” says Mach. He advises eliminating dairy products, fried foods and white flour and eating primarily raw fruits and vegetables (preferably organically grown), along with vegetable broths, cooked vegetables and protein sources such as beans and legumes.

Mach offers a 28-day intensive detoxification program at his office, Holistic Health Alliance, 901-B Clock Tower Drive, that includes three support meetings, guidelines, training and materials. Contact him at 638-6224 or drmach@hotmail.com for more information or to register.

Contact Juilianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com

Raw fruits and vegetables are an important part of the detox diet.

One of the things that vegetable stocks usually lack in comparison to meat broths and stocks is the natural gelatin that’s extracted from meat and bones; consequently vegetable stocks often lack the depth of flavor and rich body of meat stocks (even though the calories are negligible). I fiddled around with various ingredients to try to come up with at least some of that flavor and body in a vegetable stock. Roasting some of the vegetables gave the stock the flavor I was looking for, but finding a substitute for that rich body eluded me, until one day a light bulb flashed: okra. The uniquely gooey, gelatinous quality that made me hate okra as a child (I love it now) might just be the missing piece of the puzzle. And so it was. Using potatoes also helped.

This vegetable stock isn’t just for detoxification. Yes, it does take some chopping, but it makes quite a lot, and is good enough to make it worthwhile to keep some on hand in the freezer. Some of its many uses are as an ingredient in soups, sauces and stews as well as a substitution for water when cooking rice or beans for an added flavor boost.

VEGETABLE STOCK

2 large onions, preferably red – do not use super-sweet onions, such as Vidalia
4 carrots
2 T. melted butter or olive oil
2 c. chopped okra
1 c. dried mushrooms, such as shiitake
4 stalks celery
2 leek tops (the green parts)
stems from 1 bunch of flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme, or several sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic or to taste
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 T. peppercorns
1 lb. red boiling potatoes, cut into chunks
Preheat the oven to 450°. Quarter the onions and two of the carrots. Toss with just enough of the butter to barely coat them, put them in a roasting pan in a single layer and place in the oven.

Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally until the vegetables are evenly and deeply browned. Put the onions and carrots into a deep pot. Deglaze the roasting pan with water, and add to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients except the potatoes and cover with 2 gallons of water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered for 2 hours. Add the potatoes and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to come to room temperature. (You can speed this process by placing the pot in a sink of cold water.) Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve, pressing lightly on the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible without pushing them through the strainer. Makes about 1 ½ gallons

This recipe is really a method rather than something that needs to be followed precisely. Use a combination of ingredients that are to your taste and that you have available, but be sure to include the okra and potatoes for maximum goodness.

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