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10 Best Winter Detox Foods

Julie Daniluk, author of The Hot Detox, chooses her top ingredients for a cold weather cleanse.

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The Hot Detox

When most of us imagine the perfect winter detox, we think juice cleanses, cold smoothies and fresh salads, but according to registered holistic nutritionist Julie Daniluk, those cleanses don’t work properly during Canadian winters. In her new book, The Hot Detox, Daniluk creates a detox plan that utilizes an ancient principle of Eastern medicine: “When cold, stay warm with warm food,” she says. That means warming up your food, but it also means relying heavily on ingredients that are energetically warming according to Chinese and Indian tradition (for example, kale, beets and peaches are “warming,” while apples, bananas and asparagus are “cooling”). These “warm” foods are easier to digest in the winter, which means their nutrients are more readily absorbed by the body to provide nourishment.

For the in-depth version, see her book. For some quick substitutes and additions to amp up your regular diet, check out Daniluk’s top 10 ingredients for a winter detox.

The Hot Detox: A 21-Day Anti-Inflammatory Program to Heal Your Gut and Cleanse Your Body (Collins) by Julie Daniluk, $30, indigo.ca.

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Beets

Rich purple beets are a favourite warming food for Daniluk. “They’re filled with betalains, which are scientifically proven to detox the liver,” she says. A recent study also found that cyclists who drank two cups of beet juice 2.5 hours before a 2.5-mile race improved their time trials by 2.8 percent, likely because beets increase nitric oxide in the body, which supports the flow of blood (and, thus, oxygen) to the muscles.

Since beets can taste quite earthy, Daniluk recommends adding lemon juice to bring out their sweetness.

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Cauliflower

Daniluk loves cauliflower because it’s palatable for even the fussiest of eaters and is high in indole-3-carbinol, another nutrient that cleanses the liver. She recommends using it as a substitute for mashed potatoes or blending it into a soup to create a hearty, satisfying flavour similar to a potato-leak concoction.

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Turmeric

“I want to give a massive shout-out to the strongest detoxifier in my whole book: turmeric,” says Daniluk. “More science has been done on turmeric than virtually any other spice for its power to reduce pain. It’s fantastic for joint pain and healing the gut.” Turmeric has also been shown to protect the brain by reducing the plaque that can lead to Alzheimer’s. Buy it freshly ground in small quantities and use it up before purchasing more.

Other spices Daniluk recommends are cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and coriander.

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Coconut Oil

Instead of dousing your food in canola oil or refined vegetable oil, which can oxidize when heated and wreak havoc on the digestive system, Daniluk recommends cooking with coconut oil. “It contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and these MCTs make ketone bodies that run your brain so you end up having more brain fuel,” she says. “It also handles heat well, so you can sauté meat and veggies without oxidation.”

If you can add raw coconut into other areas of your diet, so much the better!

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Hemp Hearts

Grown in Canada, hemp hearts—a type of seed—are rich in iron, magnesium and zinc. Many women have low iron levels in their blood, which can leave them feeling cold, spaced out and tired. Hemp seeds can counteract this problem, while the magnesium eases menstrual cramps and migraines and zinc balances estrogen and testosterone. Need another reason to add them to your diet? They’re high in protein.

Blend hemp hearts into warm smoothies as a creamy dairy substitute or sprinkle them on a smoothie bowl or salad for extra crunch. You can also try this recipe for The Great Canadian Hemp Cookie, straight from Hot Detox.

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Dandelion Coffee

If you can’t give up your morning cup of joe, try a dandelion coffee substitute that you can make on your own (see The Hot Detox, p. 135!) or purchase at a health food store. Another option is to visit only indie coffee shops and purchase coffee that’s freshly roasted. “There’s a detox benefit to newly roasted coffee,” says Daniluk. “It’s a strong gallbladder tonic. Just try to take a break from over-processed conventional coffee from large chains. Their coffee is roasted and ground probably three months before you drink it.”

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Honey

Though many of us may find it difficult to stop adding sweeteners to drinks and desserts, Daniluk suggests swapping out white sugar for raw honey. Though honey still has carbs and calories, it’s natural, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and a healthier option than cane sugar that has been refined into the granular white sugar we all know.

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Black Cod

Red-meat eater? Daniluk recommends trying black cod instead. “It’s extremely rich,” she says. “It’s got good substance to it, so it feels really satisfying to an average guy who eats steak.” It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and are necessary for every cell in your body to function properly.

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Non-Dairy Milks

“Dairy forms mucus, which can hold back your body’s ability to rid itself of toxins,” says Daniluk. “Many people that cut out dairy clear their sinuses and their skin.” She finds almond milk a bit thin, and instead prefers coconut or cashew milk.

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Algae or Fish Oil

If you’re a vegetarian, algae oil is filled with omega-3 fatty acids and is a great booster for keeping your brain sharp and battling seasonal depression. If you’re not vegetarian, but still don’t eat a lot of fatty fish, try good quality filtered fish oil. Daniluk likes NutraSea because it doesn’t taste fishy and is full of antioxidants.