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 2017 resolution was to avoid alcohol in January and to end the month with a detox to flush out toxins. I wanted to treat myself to a revitalising energy boost before my 54th 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 a 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 a 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 wizzed 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 home made 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 a 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 a low heat for about 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil and then cover and cook over a 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 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), 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 of flax seeds and pine kernals. 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 with breakfast.
Orange and ginger juice: 3 sticks celery, 1 orange (skin and pith removed), 2 small apples, 1 large carrot, small knob of ginger
Lunch 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)
- 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.
Whilst it would have been nice to say I’d made all of my detox meals from scratch I did find 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’ve 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.
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.