By Avril Broadley
I’ve just completed my own version of a 5-day detox and I can’t believe how amazing I feel. I’m sleeping well, I have a clarity of vision that seems super sharp and I’ve even lost weight.
My resolution was to avoid alcohol in January and to end the month with detox to flush out toxins. I wanted to treat myself to a revitalising energy boost before my birthday in February. I was doing very well on the alcohol front until the 21st when I drank a glass of red wine.
The result was a night of hot flushes and broken sleep. It made me realise just how good I’d been feeling before falling off the wagon and I was more determined than ever to do healthy eating cleanse.
I decided to create my own detox with foods I enjoy eating. The idea wasn’t to starve myself just eliminate dairy, wheat, sugar and of course alcohol (I don’t eat meat anyway). I scoured the web for detox suggestions and took ideas from all over the place. This post is a day-by-day diary of the full detox with recipes (my own in full and links to any online sources).
Detox day 1 – liquids
My idea was to start with a one-day liquid cleanse for no other reason but to feel totally virtuous. All through the detox I sipped at water, hot lemon water or Pukka’s herbal teas. I ended the first day with the beginnings of a dull headache but I wasn’t hungry.
Breakfast was Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘Best Green Juice’ as featured in The Guardian. I’d been reading about the benefits of kale all over the internet and I’d already bought a massive bag of curly kale at the organic farmer’s market. It seemed as good a place to start as any.
The juice was deliciously lemony with a ginger bite. Just a note – you don’t get a lot of juice from kale but even a little is enough to provide that luminous shade of green. (Here’s another post about the benefits of juicing kale.)
Early lunch had to be made at breakfast time and stored in recycled plastic water. I made the Sunset Blend liver cleanse juice from juicerecipes.com.
Pre-pilates boost was a smoothie designed to give me a bit of energy so I could exercise without fainting. I whizzed it up at breakfast, stored it in a glass bottle in the fridge and drank it at 4.30pm which was a couple of hours before class. This one is my own recipe which I’m calling Banana Berry Boost:
- 1 small banana
- 250ml of Koko dairy free coconut milk
- A handful of frozen cranberries
Supper needed to be warm on this cold January day so I made a Warming Beet Juice from Deliciously Ella and sipped at it as I curled up on the sofa with Ricci. This drink is heavenly, sweet and earthy – just what I needed. By this time of the evening, I could feel a headache growing and it persisted until the following morning. I drank more water than is humanly possible to shift it and flush out the toxins.
Detox day 2 – texture
Ugh. I woke up with the kind of lingering headache usually associated with a hangover! Thank god today called for a bit of sustenance. The headache wouldn’t shift so I took an ibuprofen mid-afternoon and finally started to feel better.
Breakfast was a bowl of homemade muesli: rolled oats, walnuts, raisins (soaked overnight in apple juice) and toasted flax and pumpkin seeds served with dairy-free coconut milk. I made my own juice recipe to go with it – a kind of paler shade of green – which was light and refreshing:
- 3 sticks celery
- 2cm ginger peeled
- 1 conference pear
Midmorning I snacked on a handful of nuts and raisins.
Lunch was a chopped salad made the night before and allowed to marinate in a simple lemon and olive oil dressing. Some vegetables can be difficult to digest raw so I thought I would help the process by chopping stuff up extra fine in the food processor.
I used bell pepper, a handful of kale, 6 radishes, a stick of celery and a handful of flat-leaf parsley. For texture, I added (at the last minute so they remained crunchy) a few nuts and the rest of the seeds I’d toasted for breakfast.
Mid-afternoon a small banana.
Supper was one of my all-time favourites – Ribollita (made without the leftover bread it is famous for). I love this Italian peasant stew and have made this a zillion times. The original recipe is from The River Cafe cookbook but I make half and add more tomato so I give it in full here:
Ribollita – Ingredients:
- 1 can of cannellini beans
- 1 can of plum tomatoes
- 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped (stalks removed)
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 1 head of celery, chopped
- 2 red onions
- 225g carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 kilo of Tuscan kale or cavolo nero, ribs removed and roughly chopped
- Sea salt and black pepper
In a large heavy pan fry the parsley, carrot, celery, onion and garlic in the oil, cover then let it sweat over low heat for about 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and then cover and cook over low heat for a further 30 mins. Add the kale and half the beans along with the liquid from the can. Simmer for 30 more minutes.
Puree the remaining beans with a spoonful of water. Add this to the soup with enough boiling water to make the soup liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve. Traditionally you put stale bread in this stew but as it isn’t allowed on my detox this recipe does not include it. In fact it is so delicious without bread I don’t think I’ll ever add it again.
Detox day 3 – protein
I felt a bit faint in the shower this morning. It’s ballet in the evening and I will need all my strength. The self-diagnosis was a lack of protein and decided to boost it with some fish. This smoked salmon salad* turned out to be one of the highlights of the detox for me – truly delicious.
Breakfast was homemade muesli (see day 2) and a small glass of juice (saving the other half for lunch). I made up the juice recipe as follows (kale is really difficult to juice by the way – it hardly seems to produce much liquid). Don’t try this juice – I’ve only listed it here for authenticity but it is not very nice. It proves you cannot stick any old combination through the juicer and expect it to work.
Disaster juice: 4 sticks celery, 1 lemon (skin and pith removed), a handful of flat-leafed parsley including stalks, two handfuls of kale, 2 carrots
Mid-morning a small banana.
Lunch smoked salmon and avocado salad:
- Half a cucumber peeled into ribbons using a potato peeler
- 50g smoked salmon*
- 4 radishes, sliced
- Small avocado, sliced
- Dressing of oil, cider vinegar, wholegrain mustard
- Black pepper
Mid-afternoon a small apple.
Supper was the remains of last night’s Ribollita which was quick to heat up when I got home exhausted from beginner’s ballet.
Detox day 4 – grains
The idea was that as the week wore on I would return to more normal meals. I added a few healthy grains today. Waitrose do pre-cooked packets of combined grains in their Lovelife range. I used a 250g packet of Spelt, Quinoa, red rice and wild rice and it was enough for my lunch and supper for two.
Breakfast was kale with avocado. I cooked the rinsed curly kale in a covered pan to soften it. Once it was wilted I removed the lid and dry cooked adding 1 teaspoon each of flax seeds and pine kernels. I served it with half an avocado and a squeeze of lemon. It wasn’t as delicious as avocado on toast but it was nice! I made a juice to go with it and had half for breakfast.
Orange and ginger juice: 3 sticks of celery, 1 orange (skin and pith removed), 2 small apples, 1 large carrot, a small knob of ginger
Lunch is a wholesome salad with grains:
50g of Lovelife pre-cooked spelt, quinoa, red rice and wild rice
4 green olives sliced
3 sundried tomatoes sliced
Half a Tesco bowl of crunchy salad with shredded carrot and sweetcorn
Dressing of oil, cider vinegar, wholegrain mustard
Mid-afternoon a second glass of the juice I made for breakfast.
Supper was roasted vegetables with the rest of the grains (my husband topped his with melted goats cheese):
- Small sweet potato
- 1 aubergine
- 2 roman peppers
- 4 shallots halved
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 50g of Lovelife pre-cooked spelt, quinoa, red rice and wild rice
- 4 sliced sundried tomatoes (in oil)
- A handful of chopped parsley
Toss the veg in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Roast in a high oven (200C) for about 45 mins remembering to turn the veg with a spoon every 15 mins. When tender and slightly charred at the edges stir in the parsley and the grains and return to the oven for 5 mins.
Detox day 5 – lazy
The last day was a Saturday so it had a day-off-work relaxation to it. I was out and about with my partner and the dog, then later we went to the cinema so I had to seek out some emergency rations!
Brunch was kale, avocado and smoked salmon. I steamed curly kale in a covered pan with the juice of half a lemon. When wilted I added 50g of smoked salmon with a teaspoon of flax seeds and cooked it until the smoked salmon* was cooked through. I made the banana and cranberry smoothie from day 1 to go with it.
Lunch was on the hoof walking the dog to London Fields and Broadway Market. I bought a freshly made Tuna sushi wrap from one of the stalls which ticked all the detox boxes. However, an hour later, after a hail storm and a bracing walk along Regent’s Canal, I was feeling peckish. I found the perfect healthy snack in Tesco – a bag of crunch sweet potato slices – literally dried sweet potato.
Returning home I made cups of Warming Beet Juice (see day 1) before heading off to see the early evening screening of T2 Trainspotting at the Hackney Picture House. At the cinema, my partner had a beer while I sipped a delicious organic apple and ginger juice. It was 9pm by the time we got home and I was in no mood to cook. I was ultra lazy and warmed up a tub of Yorkshire Provender soup – Indian Spiced Vegetable. You can see from the ingredients list that although it’s a ready-meal it’s all good stuff.
While it would have been nice to say I’d made all of my detox meals from scratch, I found the preparation quite daunting. I had to get up extra early to make juices and lunch. You also have to be on top of the shopping for all those fresh ingredients. Saturday proved that it is perfectly possible to eat well whilst not preparing everything yourself.
I cannot stress enough how good I feel. I’m quite surprised by the energy boost because I already eat quite healthily and don’t eat meat. I think it’s just the injection of all that super goodness with no toxins to dilute them that makes the mind and body sing. It’s also been a pleasurable experience – apart from a headache at the end of day 1.
I lost half a stone in January which was never intended but a nice bonus. Going forward I will definitely reduce sugar, dairy and caffeine. It’s all about having good substitutes ready for when that mid-afternoon biscuit craving hits.
As for alcohol – it will become an occasional treat limited to one drink which I will sip slowly. Just two days left now before I can celebrate my abstinence with a decadent and delicious Bailey’s espresso martini.
*Postscript The lovely Suzi from Alternative Ageing has kindly pointed out that smoked salmon is full of sodium and so not the best detox option. I’m sure that is why I loved it so much! Anyway, I think some simple grilled organic salmon would work just as well. Suzi is a nutritionist and has written a great post on diet for menopause which is well worth a read.
This post first appeared on GrownGals.com and Avril has very kindly allowed us to reproduce it here.
As Avril points out, a detox can make you feel great and can help with weight loss. It’s a great way of clearing out the digestive system, beefing up what may already be a healthy diet (or a not so healthy one) and may increase energy levels. That said, the human body has its own detoxification mechanism namely the liver and kidneys. But there are definite health benefits to providing a helping hand to the body’s natural detoxification process. Especially in menopause when our bodies are processing hormonal changes and it can get more difficult for us to flush toxins out of our system as efficiently as we have in the past.
During perimenopause, our bodies may especially struggle to process alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed food, and even dairy products. Short detox diets can be a quick way to give our overall health and even our immune system a boost. The more healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes we implement in midlife, can set us up for good long-term health and help protect us from chronic diseases associated with getting older. Unhealthy foods are not going to do us any favours at any time of life and may lead to health issues and weight gain especially as we get older.
Some of the things to consider when approaching a detox to push the reset button for health problems, or just helping the body’s detoxification process at any time are:
- Cut out (down) sugar, alcohol, caffeine and junk food (always try to avoid the latter!)
- Consume whole foods as much as possible including whole grains
- Eating organic and using natural skincare and cleaning products are the best ways to reduce the level of environmental toxins to which we are sadly all exposed these days
- Eat lean protein especially if you would like to also lose weight
- Eat (or drink in a smoothie) lots of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, always good for us
- A simple way to prepare the digestive tract each day is a drink of lemon juice in hot water
- Apple cider vinegar with fizzy water is a great cleansing drink to swap out for an aperitif!
- Eat gut-friendly foods such as live natural yoghurt, kefir and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut to improve good bacteria and overall gut health
- Make sure to drink enough water – it’s the healthiest drink there is
- It’s a good idea to prioritize quality sleep and regular exercise or just physical activity, which will support your vital organs and nervous system
- Getting a better handle on how you manage stress will be hugely beneficial for your mental health
You may not be ready for a full body detox just yet, but there are always easy ways to improve your health every day. If you are ready to take the plunge, just follow Avril’s plan above and you’ll be sure to see positive results. Good luck!
Avril Broadley is a graphic designer living and working in East London with her partner and Mini Schnauzer Ricci. She recently started a blog, GrownGals.com with the aim of sharing her midlife experiences with other like-minded women.
Why not explore more…
Sarah Cotton tells us how she got on with her 21 Day Clean Eating Detox. She wanted a whole new way of eating, not just another diet.
Tops tips from Suzi of Alternative Ageing who went on a retreat where she ate nothing but juice for five days. She tells us all about it.
Lauren de Vere explains how going vegan for menopause (and afterwards) can really help ease symptoms and make you feel great.
Last Updated on October 17, 2023 by Editorial Staff