This article originally appeared in Edible Toronto Magazine, where Kate regularly contributes articles about health, wellness and holistic living.
As buds appear on branches, purple crocuses and yellow daffodils push through the earth, and a warm, gentle breeze brushes my cheek, I know spring has finally blossomed in our neck of the woods.
Just as the plants and animals shake off the winter frost and prepare for the season of rebirth and renewal, so our bodies, in tune with the surroundings, begin to call for an internal cleansing, a spring cleaning. Having been holed up all winter long, staying warm with rich stews and hearty meals, spring reminds us that it’s finally time to open the windows, let the fresh air in, and support the body in its natural detoxification processes.
Although your system is constantly detoxifying, spring is an excellent time of year to further support this process. Nature, as always, provides the perfect local produce our bodies need to encourage internal cleansing.
The toxins we need to rid ourselves of come from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the cosmetics we use, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cooking equipment we use, and so much more. They must either be neutralized or eliminated; if this is not possible, they are stored, primarily in fat stores, for processing at a later date.
These toxins place a great burden on the system, adding up and eventually causing symptoms you might not think to associate with toxic overload: low energy, brain fog, frequent colds and flu, PMS, achy muscles, allergies, and bad breath. Effects like these make supporting proper detoxification and elimination very important.
The body uses five primary channels of elimination to process and rid itself of toxins. These channels are the intestines, liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin. Specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients help to support these organs and keep them functioning at their best. We are so fortunate in Ontario to have plenty of local fruits and vegetables available in the spring to encourage detoxification in the body.
Selecting local produce not only supports our farmers and the local economy, it’s also better for you! When fruits and vegetables travel long distances to reach your table, certain nutrients like vitamin C can decrease drastically. As well, a farm-to-table mentality allows your produce to be picked at the peak of ripeness, bursting with not only nutrients, but also with flavour.
By visiting your local farmers’ markets in the coming months, you can talk directly with the people responsible for growing your food. After all it is these experts who care about the seeds and methods they use to grow and deliver fresh produce to your table. Not only is this connection to where our food comes from good for the soul, it also lets you ask questions about how your food was raised and harvested.
Here are five local fruits and vegetables available this season that not only support our bodies’ channels of elimination, but also support our local economy.
Asparagus for the Intestines
Tender stalks of asparagus are one of spring’s most popular bounties, available locally in May and June.
Asparagus is particularly useful in helping to detoxify not only the intestines, but the whole body. It contains a type of fibre called inulin, a prebiotic that is also found in chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke, among other sources. The inulin found in these vegetables is particularly beneficial in helping the body to gently eliminate toxins from the intestines.
Rather than being broken down during the digestive process, inulin passes through the digestive tract to the large intestines. Here it provides much needed sustenance for the good bacteria in your colon. By nurturing this bacteria with inulin from whole vegetables in their original form, we not only help the body to get rid of harmful toxins, but we also help to increase the absorption of nutrients, resulting in a lowered risk of developing allergies and certain cancers, like colon cancer.
Cabbage for the Liver
Cabbage, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables, are high in sulfur-containing amino acids. Sulfur is used during several elimination reactions in the liver, particularly when it comes to excreting heavy metals. High levels of this mineral are crucial for proper detoxification not only in the liver, but in the whole body.
Additionally, cabbage has gained much popularity in cancer prevention because of its high phytochemical content. These phytochemicals, specifically glucosinolates, help to stimulate the activation of two liver enzymes that are crucial in helping to break down and flush out toxins from the body.
With cabbage and its cousins available almost year-round in Ontario, there’s no shortage of ways to incorporate this powerhouse plant into your diet. Try eating more kimchi, coleslaw, cabbage soup, and sauerkraut.
Radish for the Kidneys
Radishes have been used as a diuretic in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. This root promotes a healthy urinary tract and works to boost the production of urine. This increase helps to flush out the kidneys and aids in the elimination of toxins.
Radish juice also acts as an anti-inflammatory, helping to eliminate any burning feeling while urinating. In addition, radishes have disinfectant properties. They help to treat infections of the kidneys and urinary system, which are exacerbated by excess toxins.
Local radishes are available May through November.
Apples for the Lungs
Apples really are a local superfood. Not only are they packed with nutrients like antioxidants, flavonoids, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, studies show that apples help to maintain healthy respiratory function and prevent the development of lung diseases.
A study done with over 2,500 men at St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London, England, examined the effects that eating five or more apples a week had on respiratory function. The men who consumed the apples could pump more air out of their lungs more effortlessly than their apple-abstaining counterparts.
The study concluded that apples help to slow down the deterioration of the lungs caused by external factors such as pollutants, while also helping to lower the risk of asthma and lung cancer.
With local apples being available almost year-round, you can breathe easy. For a delicious way to enjoy more apples, try my Grain-Free Apple Crisp recipe.
Cherries for the Skin
We all want beautiful, glowing skin, but skin health is important for so many other reasons. You might not realize this, your skin is your biggest organ. Ensuring proper detoxification through this organ is of utmost importance to your overall health.
Cherries are just the fruit for this job, with high amounts of copper, vitamins A and C, and powerful antioxidants called flavonoids, which give them their deep colour.
Copper is a crucial nutrient for skin health. It plays a vital role in the production of collagen and elastin, both of which are needed to keep the skin flexible. While these nutrients prevent sagging and wrinkling, they also help to keep the skin barrier tight. This not only helps to expel toxins, but also keeps unwanted chemicals from getting absorbed in the first place.
Additionally, studies done at Michigan State University discovered that the flavonoids in cherries, particularly anthocyanidins, have superior antioxidant properties to vitamin E at the same levels. These nutrients are especially critical in protecting the skin and keeping it healthy.
Juicy, sweet local cherries are available in June and July.
Nature has a way of giving us just what we need, when we need it. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that so much of the fresh, local produce available in the next few months will help your body to reset by boosting the detoxification process and supporting the main channels of elimination. Help your body feel it’s best so you can get out there and enjoy everything that spring has to offer!