To learn more, we turned to Cynthia Pasquella, board-certified clinical nutritionist, detoxification expert and co-founder of SoCal Cleanse, the world's first and only USDA-certified organic cleanse. She shares some of her top picks for the best cleansing foods and herbs.
This pungent addition to many Asian-inspired meals packs a lot more punch that just flavor. "Ginger acts as a cleansing agent for the bowels, kidneys and skin," Pasquella explains, adding that ginger is very soothing for the stomach and is effective for fighting off colds. "It also improves circulation throughout the tissues and is excellent for the respiratory system," she says. This great-tasting herb is famous for its amazing digestive benefits. Grate it into soups, stir-fries and marinades for a powerful health boost. But be careful – a little goes a long way.
One of the most popular herbs for the home cook, basil has many more uses than merely adding a pop to pesto. "This flavorful herb has been used traditionally as a powerful antioxidant, digestive tonic and detoxifier," says Pasquella." Basil is key for detoxifying and toning the kidneys, and its strong taste promotes the production of saliva, letting the body digest food properly. Along with the aforementioned pesto, add basil to pizza, sauces or chop finely and toss with warm pasta and olive oil.
We've been hearing more and more about the health benefits of hemp for the past several years – with good reason. Hemp has been called "nature's most perfect food," Pasquella says. The nutty-tasting seeds are high in the natural antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C and chlorophyll for cleansing the body. "Hemp also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber for deep-cleansing with immediate benefits," she explains. Top cereal and salads with hemp seeds, mix into yogurt or add to baked goods.
Many people drink lemon water to cleanse, which is great, but don't discount the peel, Pasquella says. "The real detox power lies in the peel. It strengthens the liver and encourages the release of gastric juices to digest food," she explains. "It's also packed with vitamins and nutrients." Add lemon zest to pasta, salad dressing or even muffins and cookies to get the added benefits of this much-loved citrus fruit.
Turmeric, an Ayurvedic spice, has a whole host of health benefits only now making their way into the nutrition spotlight. The bright yellow spice is a whole body cleanser, making it particularly beneficial. "It can reduce fats, purify the blood and promote digestion," says Pasquella. Typically used in curries, you can also put turmeric in just about anything – sauces, stews, marinades and dressings, just to name a few.
Not just a breath freshener or nice after-dinner tea, peppermint is much more useful than you might think. "Peppermint cleans and strengthens the entire body. It is also wonderful at bringing oxygen into the bloodstream," Pasquella says. "Peppermint is also well-known for soothing your tummy as it cleanses." Mint is an exceptionally easy herb to grow at home (it is invasive, so grow it in a container rather than allow to roam free in the garden). Dry the leaves and drink the tea as a healthy alternative to juice and coffee.
While not as widely known as some of the other items on this list, maca is a root from Peru commonly available in the US as a powder. If you've been bypassing this powerful health-booster, it's time to check it out. "Maca is naturally detoxifying and nutritionally dense, with high amounts of vitamins, enzymes and all of the essential amino acids," Pasquella says. "It's also amazing for boosting energy and balancing hormones." Mix into smoothies, add to baked goods and add to cereal or yogurt.
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