Food for seasonal renewal
Spring is a time of upward movement as wild edibles begin to push up from the ground: violets, chickweed, ramps, dandelions and other greens. Spring is rising, and the changing of the season, from cold to warm to hot, is the appropriate time for cleansing and renewal of the body, says Uma Sawicki, an Ayurvedic practitioner at Living Alchemy in Weaverville.
Winter is a building time for the body, where it craves richer foods to get through the cold, but “once spring comes,” she says, “there’s heat that’s starting to come in the atmosphere; the body just naturally wants to shed off that winter excess.”
To restore and rejuvenate the system after the long winter, many turn to juice cleanses or other detoxes, where one modifies the usual diet in favor of simpler foods. However, cleanses should not be confused with fasts, in which the body is denied sustenance, says Dr. Brian Lumb of Asheville’s Nourish & Flourish, where he has developed a five-day juice cleanse. “The juice feast is you giving your body all the nutrients you need,” he says. “It’s being nourished completely. … When it gets what it needs, it gets rid of what it doesn’t need.”
According to Devon Kelley-Mott, the assistant manager at the new Wall Street juice bar Seven Juice, Tonics and Tea, cleanses not only allow for rejuvenation, but they also help restore balance to our bodies. “As we sip and enjoy a vegetable juice that helps detoxify the liver and gallbladder, or try a traditional homemade root beer that works to purify the blood, we return equilibrium to our systems,” Kelley-Mott wrote to Xpress in an email. To rejuvenate after the winter’s fat- and protein-heavy diet, Kelley-Mott recommends foods with high chlorophyll content. Dandelion leaves, according to Kelley-Mott, can act as a powerful liver detoxifier and provide nutrients for the intestines.
Consuming simple foods, like fresh dandelion leaves, juices or kichari (see sidebar) over the course of several days gives your body the opportunity to “clean house,” says Lumb. “[The] body is constantly managing food and it takes a tremendous amount of energy to break down food,” he says. “When you stop that process and are still giving yourself nutrition, you’re liberating energy through not having to digest. Our bodies are [efficient] machines given the right environment.”
Ayurveda, a holistic form of medicine rooted in India, has a similar philosophy. Through a monochrome diet, you only eat one food at a time, allowing the body to focus its energy on cleaning and rejuvenating. “The digestive tract streamlines itself, not having to digest a lot of complex foods, and uses its energy to cleanse the body,” says Sawicki.
Cleanses are not always easy for people, says Lumb. Generally, there is a typical arc with a juice cleanse: The first day or two are spent feeling tired, but by the fourth day, energy picks up and the body has heightened senses. But having a more restricted diet than usual can cause cravings. “Conceptually, your mind might be thinking, ‘I could go for a burger right now,’ but your body is getting what it needs,” he says. And people are likely to stick with the cleanse only if it was their idea, according to Lumb. “I see what happens when people are in that New Year’s resolution frame of mind, being driven by some outside source,” he says. “The reality is, and studies show us, that when people make decision based on other recommendations, they don’t follow through too well.”
Days, perhaps weeks, after you’ve made it through your cleanse, you may notice changes in your body, but also changes in your taste. At the conclusion of a cleanse, Sawicki says, you have stronger immunity, more vitality, an enhanced way of being and your palate becomes more sensitive. “You will notice what feels good for your body and what doesn’t,” she says. “Some things may feel too sugary or too salty. It’s a good way to kick cravings.”