To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse?

Fresh lemon juice, real maple syrup and cayenne pepper mixed in water. Is this the answer to the obesity epidemic and a cocktail for purity and wellness? The Master Cleanse was created in 1941 by Stanley Burroughs and had a resurgence in 1990 as a diet that would promote weight loss and detoxification. With supporters like Oprah and Beyoncé, cleansing diets appear to be an easy way to shed some pounds, but do they really work and, perhaps more importantly, are they safe?

The most common reason for using a cleansing diet is to allow one’s body to rid itself of toxins that have accumulated in the body’s cells and intestine. Specifically when looking at the digestive system, it is important to remember that the long waterslide of your intestine is constantly moving. Muscles and tiny little hairs move your food through the intestine much like a crowd surfer at a big concert. If those muscles or tiny hairs were somehow covered in a buildup of “sludge,” food would no longer move through your intestine resulting in severe pain and hospitalization.

It is true that our bodies can store toxins. Foods that are highly processed and contain large amounts of saturated or trans fats certainly need to be consumed in small amounts over one’s lifetime. Herbal products can absorb toxins, especially lead, cadmium or other metals, from the soil that they are grown in, therefore one needs to be vigilant in choosing supplements from reputable companies. A quick Google search will help to uncover any recalls or warnings that exist on products and companies.

The question remains, however—is a cleanse the best option for ridding the body of harmful toxins? The answer is no. Athletes require energy to perform their best. Carbohydrates are necessary for energy, protein for recovery and unsaturated fats for insulation, temperature control, shock absorption and energy. A variety of low-fat dairy products, vegetables and fruits are needed to provide all of the necessary vitamins and minerals to create efficient metabolism. Taking food groups out of your diet, even for a few days at a time, leads to over-training, fatigue and injury.

A more efficient way to detox would be to limit the offensive ingredients in your diet. Limiting prepackaged or fast food, avoiding alcohol and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and being careful to eat whole foods and vegetables will rid your body of toxins and have you full of energy for your training. Following a diet that is rich in lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables is a lasting solution to fatigue.

As a final thought, remember that our bodies are made to accomplish great things. The simple act of timing an approach and swing in a coordinated effort to hit a ball at speeds in excess of 50 mph over a net should tell you that the architecture and engineering of the human body is flawless. Trust therefore that the inner-workings of the masterpiece that is your body are just as remarkable. With an entire system—the lymphatic system—internally programmed to not only rid your body of toxins, but also to fight illness and combat injury, all we have to do is fuel the body properly to allow it to do its job. Handicapping your army of immunity by decreasing the energy and building blocks that are provided to your cells will slow your return to health rather than enhance it. Once again, there is no magic bullet to great health and fitness. Hard work, dedication and perseverance remain the fastest ways to success.

Practical Purity Solutions

Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal, sliced banana and slivered almonds and plenty of water

A.M. Snack: Organic non fat yogurt and trail mix

Lunch: Burrito (black beans, organic white/brown rice, grilled chicken, grilled sliced green/red bell pepper and onion with pico de gallo), water to drink

P.M. Snack: Hummus and carrots, cucumber, celery and whole wheat pretzels or pita chips

Dinner: Salmon/Tuna steak with whole grain pasta topped with garlic and olive oil, grilled/steamed/wokked broccoli (see recipe above) and lots of water

Nighttime Snack : Organic low-fat popcorn or cut fresh fruit

Salmon steak with whole grain pasta, broccoli, and garlic olive oil

4 ounces whole grain pasta
1 T extra virgin olive oil (to sear onions & garlic)
½ medium onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 T pine nuts, lightly toasted in a pan
¾ cup broccoli, cut into small florets
5 ounce (approximate) salmon steak
*For best results use fresh fish
½ large lemon (for juicing)
1 T extra virgin olive oil (for fresh lemon thyme dressing)
¼ cup fresh thyme
Sea salt flakes
Pepper (preferably freshly ground white peppercorns for their subtle flavor)

1. It is up to you when it comes to deciding on your desired cut/shape of pasta. In this recipe I’ve used spaghetti. Reward yourself and purchase a reputable organic brand even if it means diving in and trying something new; flavor and health benefits should reign supreme. I find it’s best to follow the cooking instructions on the package as some brands offer different methods.

2. Wash your fresh salmon steak under cold running water for no longer than 10 seconds. This is just a quick rinse to maintain the fish’s natural healthy omega oils and minerals. With a paper towel absorb any remains of water. This should help prevent any undesirable spitting/splattering during the cooking process. Heat up a nonstick fry pan, preferably one with a thick base to retain the desired heat setting of a moderate to high temperature. If desired, rub a mild pinch of salt and pepper into the salmon and sear it off with the skin side facing down first. I maintain a little jiggle and shake of the pan to prevent my fish from sticking and to encourage an evenly cooked and crisp finish. Practice this method on the flip side too. A perfectly cooked salmon steak will present a good amount of natural moisture with a very slightly undercooked mid-section (but not raw).

3. Toast the pine nuts in a hot pan, constantly stirring until golden in color. (Pine nuts are known to be a great source of “brain food.”)

4. Moderately heat 1 T of the olive oil in a thick-based pot or pan and sear your onion and garlic with a pinch of sea salt flakes. I practice this method with all of my basic dishes as it encourages the onion to become a little sweeter. For best results cook until transparent and glassy.

5. Steam or blanch your broccoli florets in high heat until they turn a beautiful bright green, usually about 30 seconds. You want to maintain the vegetable’s nutrients, color and fresh texture. I prefer my vegetables steamed to lock in the goodness.

6. Combine another T of the extra virgin olive oil with lemon juice and fresh-stripped thyme leaves with a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper to taste. Stir vigorously in a cup or use a small container with a firmly closed lid and shake your dressing for a good 20 seconds.

7. Drain your cooked pasta and mix it in with the onion, garlic and toasted pine nuts. Add the broccoli and lemon thyme dressing and stir or toss. To finish, gently rest your salmon steak on the warm pasta and enjoy.
*Recipe for one

Andre Sicklinger is a Los-Angeles-based chef. For more information visit theautralianchef.com

Originally published in June 2011

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