When cleansing, challenge yourself to use unusual spices such as fresh turmeric root to add depth and flavor to your cooking. No time like the present!

Taking Stock Foods® asked holistic health coach Julie Johnson to distinguish clean eating and cleansing concepts and explain them. On this page, Julie also offers suggestions of what to eat, what to avoid, and what to expect when you are cleansing.

What is clean eating?
I like to think of clean eating as choosing foods that are as close to their source as possible. This means that when you are eating clean, you are eliminating “industrial” foods – foods that are processed in any way before you bring them home – and eating fresh, whole foods instead. Some clean eating foods include grass fed animal products (including meat, milk, butter, eggs, and yogurt), wild-caught fish and shellfish, whole grains and legumes, traditional (minimally processed) fats, and sustainably grown fruits and vegetables.

What is a cleanse?
A cleanse is exactly what it sounds like – a time to get rid of excess toxins and waste in your body. It is a time to flush and re-boot all of your systems, even your emotions. This re-boot in turn allows our bodies to better absorb nutrients and can jumpstart better health. A cleanse does not have to include fasting or be about deprivation.

Think about all of the toxins that our bodies deal with on a daily basis; chemicals in our foods, in our homes, in our personal care products, and even in our physical environments. These various toxins overload our bodies and force them to work overtime. During the cleansing period, your organs will work together to rebuild. They will flush the body of toxins that prohibit it to work at its best.

When you cleanse, you set a time to “get back to nature” by eliminating processed foods. A good question to ask yourself during a cleanse is, “how close to the earth is this food?”

As much as you are able, choose organic, whole foods that are near to the state in which they were harvested. Making food choices along these lines will keep you aligned with the power and force of nature. Eating pure nutritious foods (especially as a shift away from a diet heavy in processed foods) will help you gain energy, lose weight, have clearer skin, and strengthen your immune system.

Some of the foods that I suggest you avoid during a cleanse are foods that can cause inflammation, such as gluten, eggs, soy, corn, sugar, and dairy. Others are foods that break down into sugar, as they can trigger cravings for more sugar, trapping you in a cycle. Breaking away from these foods on a temporary basis is good for your body.

What can I expect during a cleanse?
The first 1-3 days can be very challenging, especially if you are eliminating a food that you depend on, such as sugar or caffeine. You may feel tired, have headaches and be irritable overall.

These are normal side effects. If you stick with it, you should start to feel better as the week progresses.

How do I start?
Prepare for your cleanse by determining the length of your cleanse. Any length longer than 4 days will allow your body to flush toxins.

Next, decide which foods you will include in your cleanse, and from which foods you will abstain.

A few days ahead of time, shop for ingredients. At home, create a cleanse-friendly shelf in the fridge, and prepare some meals and snacks in advance.

During your cleanse, keep a journal to check in with how you are feeling – both physically and emotionally. Note successes and failures. With successes, put a name to why your experience feels positive. With failures, explore your negative reactions and what makes this experience a failure for you.

Remember that taking the initiative to improve your health is already a positive move. Be patient, and treat yourself with loving kindness.

Suggested Foods to Avoid
• Processed Foods
• Sugar and artificial sweeteners
• Beef
• Pork
• Deli meats
• Potatoes
• Peanuts
• Soy
• Dried and canned fruit
• Corn
• Eggs
• Grains, oats (especially those containing gluten)

Suggested Beverages to Avoid
• Alcohol
• Caffeinated drinks like coffee, energy drinks, and black tea
• Fruit drinks and juices
• Sodas, regular and diet

Suggested Foods to Include
• Fresh fruit. Limit consumption to 3 servings a day. Choose low glycemic fruits such as berries, pears, and apples to lessen sugar cravings.
• Fresh vegetables. Eat a variety of colors and include leafy greens.
• Herbs and spices. Use fresh herbs on meat and vegetables. Keep dried herbs and mixes on hand as condiments.
• Fats. Choose high quality, non-dairy fats. Include olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, and avocados.
• Nuts and seeds. Include tahini (sesame paste), almond butter, quinoa, raw or sprouted nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
• Protein from animals. Include organic turkey and chicken, or wild caught fish.
• Protein from plants. Include organic lentils, chickpeas, black beans and white beans.
• Probiotic or fermented foods. Choose 1-2 of the following and build your dosage slowly from what is suggested here. 1 Tablespoon sauerkraut or kimchee with meals, 1 Tablespoon coco kefir drink with meals, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar with meals, 1 Tablespoon kombucha drink with meals, probiotic supplement capsules (follow serving suggestions, seek advice on which brand to choose from your preferred health food supplier.)

Suggested Beverages to Include
• Water. You may steep aromatics like citrus, ginger, or mint in refrigerated water overnight. Also consider drinking hot water with lemon and/or organic powdered turmeric.
• Non-caffeinated tea.
• Bone broth and vegetable based broths.

JULIE JOHNSON, is a Holistic Health Coach practicing in St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, email info@takingstockfoods.com