Here’s a seven-step, four-week detox plan that will help cleanse your body of all the holiday excesses. By Kavita Devgan

The first step to achieving a healthier self is to get rid of all the junk that has gone into your body over the last two to three months. And, to do that, you need to go the detox way.

WHAT IS DETOX?

The body has its own natural healing system that gets rid of chemicals it doesn’t want. But, sometimes, when there’s an overload, these toxins get deposited in the lymph and digestive systems. Detoxification enhances the functioning of these systems, enabling them to tackle waste better and absorb nutrients more efficiently. In effect, it’s like giving your system a thorough spring cleaning. A mild detoxification regime tunes up your body and cleanses the internal systems to remove toxins.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

Detox doesn’t mean a punishing diet. The main aim of the process is to help the body get rid of unnecessary toxins that may have accumulated because of daily excesses in food and drink, and other lifestyle abuses. The good thing is that you can do a detox at home without subscribing to a fad diet. All you have to do is make small changes in your diet and lifestyle to feel, and see the difference.

Fasting or drastically cutting down on your intake of food is not the correct way to detox. Similarly, short-term detox diets do not help much. What really works is adopting healthy eating and lifestyle practices in the long run. Adding antioxidants to your diet, keeping a tab on the amount of fat you consume, cutting down on unnecessary stimulants such as caffeine, decreasing your intake of non-vegetarian food, and hydrating your body regularly are some of the things to keep in mind when undertaking a detox.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

Here’s a seven-step, four-week detox plan to help you clean up your system now:

STEP 1: ADD ANTIOXIDANTS

To start with, increase your body’s intake of antioxidants; these include vitamins E and C, beta carotene, and some trace minerals, such as selenium. These help the body get rid of free radicals that make you feel unhealthy and fatigued, and lead to heart problems in the long run. While antioxidant supplements are available, it’s best to ingest them naturally through the food you consume. So, follow meal plans that ensure you get enough.

STEP 2: GO LOW FAT

All the fat you consume is processed by the liver. This process takes energy away from the regular detoxification that the liver does for the body. Several toxins are fat soluble, and liver’s job is to transform them into water-soluble substances, so that they can be excreted via the bowel or kidneys (the bowel and kidneys cannot process fat-soluble toxins). So, when you binge on fried food, your liver is unable to handle the load. The best way to ease the burden on the liver is to switch to a low-fat diet. Just strike the word ‘fried’ off your food dictionary for some time.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

STEP 3: CUT DOWN ON NON-VEGETARIAN FOOD

Meat requires several enzymes to digest, so its elimination from your diet enhances the detoxification process. It is very easy to go on a protein overdrive when you follow a primarily non-vegetarian diet. Agreed that meat, fish, and eggs are good proteins and required for the growth of the body. But, if your protein intake is more than 30 per cent of your daily caloric intake, it can result in a build-up of toxic ketones in the body, the symptoms of which are weakness and dizziness. And, in the long term, this may put a strain on your kidneys and liver.

STEP 4: WATCH WHAT YOU DRINK

Cut down on your consumption of tea and coffee. You need to give your liver a rest from breaking down caffeine. But taper off gradually to avoid the extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that include splitting headaches. And if you want to multiply the benefits, switch to green tea because it contains only a fraction of the caffeine in black tea and coffee, and is loaded with antioxidants, which make it an efficient detoxifier.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

STEP 5: HYDRATE WELL

Drink at least seven–10 medium-sized glasses of water a day. Water is not only essential for every bodily function, it is also an amazing detoxifier. It helps dilute toxins and waste products, and eases their drainage from the body. It regulates and maintains the body temperature, and also helps clear out excessive fat from the bloodstream. If you’re tired of drinking just water, try this: boil some cumin, coriander, and fennel in water, and drink regularly; it’s great for your digestion.

STEP 6: CUT DOWN ON SUGAR

It is inevitable that you will have little or no control over your sugar consumption while on vacation. And you know that it’s terrible for you—not only because it’s empty calories, but also because it suppresses your immune system and makes you susceptible to colds and the flu. Stop eating desserts. To satiate your sweet tooth, eat fresh fruits; they contain natural sugars and several essential nutrients.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

STEP 7: GET MOVING

An important step for those who want to detoxify is to be physically active. The lack of exercise contributes to weight gain and makes circulation sluggish, which eventually results in a build-up of toxins. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Even gentle exercise gets your circulation going. Start with a 30-minute walk at least twice a week. Or try yoga—it’s a wonderful way to gently detoxify the body. It stimulates all the bodily systems, and also teaches you how to live a less toxic life.

Now that you’ve understood the basics and know what to eat and what to avoid, you can start this four-week plan:

WEEK 1: Increase your intake of Vitamin E.

• Snack on walnuts, peanuts, and almonds, and sprinkle seeds (sunflower, flax, and watermelon) and wheat germ on your morning cereal.

• Add olives to your salads and a green, leafy vegetable to your main meal. It is a good idea to add lettuce to your sandwiches. If you are a non-vegetarian, try eating liver once or twice a week.

• Incorporate lemon juice in your diet—be it in a glass of lemonade or a generous squeeze in your fruit or salad bowl. It cleanses the body and strengthens the liver.

• Start limiting the consumption of non-vegetarian food to every alternate day.

• Make sure you drink more than six glasses of water a day.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

WEEK 2: Concentrate on Vitamin C this week.

• Start your day with a glass of lemonade. Eat citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit.

• Continue with a green, leafy vegetable for lunch and dinner, and add some broccoli twice or thrice a week to your meals.

• Try to eat two tomatoes a day. Factor in tomato soup thrice this week.

• In fruits, include guava and strawberries, and have some amla murabba (you can also have amla achaar) and drink vegetable juice daily.

• Start eating non-vegetarian food only twice a week.

• Start drinking eight glasses of water a day.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

WEEK 3: Focus on your dose of beta-carotene this week.

• Alternate between mangoes and papaya for your daily fruit serving.

• Eat a portion of pepper, spinach, pumpkin, or sweet potato daily.

• Snack on nuts and seeds in the evening.

• Start eating plenty of fibre, including brown rice, whole wheat, oats, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Limit non-vegetarian food to once a week.

• Keep water consumption to eight glasses, and start eating water-rich fruits and vegetables.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

WEEK 4: Time for the often ignored, but absolutely essential, antioxidants.

• For selenium, eat seafood thrice this week.

• For phytochemicals, gorge on green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, and cabbage.

• Eat sunflower seeds and flaxseeds.

• Add garlic to all your dishes.

• Eat beans and legumes in one meal at least.

• Drink lots of vegetable juices as they have cleansing properties. Try carrot and beet root juice with a hint of lemon.

• Limit non-vegetarian food to once a week.

• Keep water intake the same as Week 3.

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

WHAT DETOX DOES

Makes you feel more energetic and leads to holistic well-being.

Clears your skin.

Regularises bowel movements and improves digestion.

Helps you concentrate better.

Enhances your emotional well-being.

Helps you achieve inner peace and enlightenment.

Makes sure you become healthy in the long run.

Changes your eating habits and educates you about good and bad food.

Helps you sleep better

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan

DO’S & DON’TS

CHOOSE ORGANIC FOOD

These are free of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, growth hormones, and genetically engineered substances, which means fewer toxins in your body.

EAT PROBIOTICS

All the sugar and alcohol from your holiday can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut. Probiotics help boost the good bacteria and restore healthy digestion.

SKIM FAT OFF YOUR DIET

Make smart swaps. Opt for low-fat dressings, low-fat cheese, low-fat milk, and cottage cheese. Cook vegetables with vegetable broth instead of oil. Use a non-stick frying pan and spray oil from a spritz bottle. Remember, a little goes a long way. If a recipe calls for a tablespoonful of oil or butter, then you can safely cut it down to two teaspoonful or even lesser.

STEER CLEAR OF FASTING

Water fasts, juice fasts, and the excessive use of laxatives to clean out your digestive system are a no-no. In fact, fasting is the worst thing you can do. Your body needs nutrients and energy, and fasting just makes detoxifying even more difficult.

Related: 11 Homestays In The World That Offer The Detox You Need