We’ve made it through another holiday season and many people are eager to atone for their holiday indulgences by doing a detox or cleanse.
The most popular detox programs often include eating raw and cold foods as well as using cooling and eliminating “detox” herbs.
But does eating cold raw foods make sense during the cold winter months? Is winter the ideal time to be purging and cleansing?
Many systems of healing believe that living with the seasons is a core practice for overall good health. Living in balance with the seasons isn’t some mystical act we need a manual for. Instead, it’s something many of us naturally do. We crave watermelon and lemonade in the hot summer months and hearty stews and crackling fires during the winter.
In Chinese Medicine winter is the time of the Kidneys. Rest and nourishment are accentuated so that we can restore our energy reserves for the busy months ahead.
In this light of seasonal living, cold winter temperatures and the importance of rest and nourishment make harsh detox programs that are filled with cold foods seem a bit out of place.
But there are ways we can support our body’s vital health and ability to detox in accordance with the seasons. These practices include eating warm cooked foods, especially nutrient-dense root vegetables cooked with warming spices.
Let’s look at two common examples of winter foods and spices with amazing abilities: beets and pepper.
Beet roots are an incredible food. They support liver health (one of our main detox organs) and are full of nutrients and antioxidants.
According to Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side, beets are some of the highest antioxidant foods and have nine times more antioxidants than tomatoes and fifty times more antioxidants than carrots! Beets’ unique combination of phytonutrients and antioxidants have been shown to be especially helpful in reducing chronic inflammation.
Beets have a special pigment, betalin, which strongly supports the body’s phase 2 detoxification process. Phase 2 detoxification is when the body neutralizes and removes potentially harmful substances from the body by making them water soluble.
Beets can also spice up your love life! They are high in boron, an element that has shown to increase testosterone levels and therefore sex drive in both sexes. Beets have also been shown to widen blood vessels. This increased blood flow throughout the body also supports sexual health.
What about beet greens?
Beet greens are some of the healthiest greens available at your supermarket and have a similar nutrient profile to kale. If you buy beets with the greens attached you’ll know you are buying recently harvested beets, which can also have greater nutrient levels.
It’s easy to dismiss pepper as a common spice. Its commonality almost makes it boring. What’s fascinating about pepper?
Turns out there’s lots of interesting things about pepper.
We’ve been studying pepper as our featured herb at HerbMentor.com and have been surprised at the amazing qualities of this spice.
Pepper has been in common use for thousands of years in the old world and is the most popular spice of our modern day. It accounts for 1/5 of the total spice trade in the world!
Besides adding a pleasant taste to our food, black pepper is a warming stimulant that promotes good digestion.
I think the most amazing ability of black pepper is its ability to increase the bioavailability of our herbs and foods.
Adding a bit of black pepper to herbal formulas or to our dinner plate means that we have increased the qualities and nutrients available to us. This can be crudely translated as getting the biggest bang for your buck. That’s a good investment!
Today’s beet borscht recipe is a beloved and traditional soup from Russia. Borscht soup is a fantastic way to support your body’s natural detox abilities while enjoying a delicious winter soup.
There are lots of different borscht recipes out there. In this version I included those incredibly nutritious beet greens and added extra pepper for zing and increased nutrient absorption.
What you’ll need…
- 1 1/2 cups cubed potatoes
- 2 cups cubed beets
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup chopped beet greens
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 3 cups coarsely chopped purple cabbage
- 2-3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- a couple handfuls of shitake mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup tomato puree
- sour cream (optional)
- green onions for garnish
- Heat the butter in a large pot. Sauté the onions until they are translucent.
- Add the garlic, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, bay leaves. Sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the celery, carrots, cabbage, beets, potatoes, mushrooms and stock. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
- Stir in the balsamic vinegar, beet greens, honey and tomato puree. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream (optional) and green onions for garnish.