Spring represents fertility, renewal, rebirth, and the shedding of old patterns to make way for the new. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is most active in the spring, working to detoxify the body from toxins that have built up during the stagnant winter months. During winter, we are less active and eating denser foods that keep us warm and provide us with minerals for the colder months. Heavier, fiber-rich foods are in season such as the winter squashes, sweet root veggies like parsnips and yams, and pears. We tend to feast on richer meals such as roasts. We boost immunity with vitamin C fruits like citrus.
When spring rolls around, we may need to shed excess weight and support the liver and lymph to remove excess fat and stored toxins. Mother nature gives us an abundance of liver-friendly foods this time of year: beets, arugula, artichokes, carrots, chard, nettles, and eggs from spring chickens. Here are some tips for optimizing health during the springtime:
1. eat with the seasons: choose seasonal produce to support health. If you suffer with allergies, try nettles tea with seasonal nettles 3 times daily. Lighter fruits & greens are coming into season now, and they will help you naturally shed weight. During the winter, we crave more cooked, warming foods. Now, choose more raw foods such as green salads with arugula or beet-carrot-walnut salad, for example (simply grate beets & carrots together and toss with walnut oil and shredded coconut. Delicious!).
2. dry skin brushing before bath or shower helps to get the lymphatic system moving to capture and remove toxins.
3. start off each day with hot water and the juice of 1/2 or a whole lemon. Lemons are seasonal right now and help cleanse the liver, alkalinize the body, and get the digestive system moving.
4. get moving! It’s getting warm out, and the days are longer, so get started on your exercise program, or go for 20-30 minute walks at the very least.
5. consider a liver cleanse to drop excess weight and support detoxification. This can be as simple as removing dairy (which is especially called for if you suffer from allergies), gluten, sugar, alcohol, and coffee, or you can add in liver cleansing herbs such as oregon grape root, milk thistle, dandelion, and burdock root. Try a tincture or a supplement.
6. make a pantry clean-out part of your spring cleaning. Get rid of the white flour, crackers, cookies, white sugar, and cut down or eliminate coffee, alcohol, and processed/refined foods, including junk that comes in a box. This includes fats, too: get rid of canola, margarine, vegetable oils or any foods containing trans fats (shortening or crisco, for example).
Here’s a great cleansing springtime salad recipe to try. Also search my recipe section for numerous liver-cleansing beet recipes!
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (helps cleanse liver & gall bladder)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (helps detox heavy metals)
1 large grapefruit (supports detox pathways in the liver)
1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/4-inch lengthwise wedges (contains glutathione, a powerful liver cleansing antioxidant)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp (did you know the liver actually needs protein to detox?)
Mixed salad greens or torn butter lettuce (raw salad greens are naturally cleansing and detoxifying)
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the pumpkin seeds in a pie plate or on a small baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate and let cool. (or you can just buy toasted pumpkin seeds). Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with the lime juice, shallot and cilantro. Using a sharp knife, peel the grapefruit, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over the bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the grapefruit sections into the bowl. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into the bowl; discard the membranes. Gently fold in the avocado and season with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, tossing the shrimp until they are curled and pink, about 4 minutes. Arrange the lettuce on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, lift the grapefruit and avocado from the citrus vinaigrette and gently spread over the lettuce. Add the shrimp to the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Arrange the shrimp over the salad and drizzle the remaining citrus dressing on top. Scatter the toasted pumpkin seeds on top and serve right away.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.