Whole foods are foods that have not been refined and processed. Refining and processing foods robs them of important vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre. Wholegrain rice is better than refined white rice, for example, because refined rice has lost most of its thiamin (vitamin B1) as well as important fibre during the polishing process which turns it from brown to white. While you are on a detox programme you should aim always to eat whole, unprocessed foods.
Eating whole foods means not peeling fruit and vegetables unless absolutely necessary. Potatoes, for example, need never be peeled, especially if they have been organically grown. Roasted potatoes are delicious with a crisply cooked skin, and unpeeled mashed potatoes are good too – the tiny flecks of skin dotted through the creamy white mash add flavour, texture and of course fibre to the dish.
You should wherever possible buy (or grow your own) organically raised produce. That way you can be sure you are not eating residues of toxic pesticides and poisonous herbicides. Organic food is, admittedly, more expensive than food produced the agro-chemical way, but remember that you will not be wasting any of the organic variety by peeling or scraping – you can eat every bit. It is not always possible to buy organic, however, and it is better to make sure you are eating a good range of really fresh food than to insist on consuming only organic food and finding you are left with one sad swede (rutabaga) to last you the whole week.
If you are relying on non-organic fruit and vegetables, there are some simple precautions you can take. Peel or at the very least scrub them extremely thoroughly. I usually remove the outer leaves of non-organic lettuces and cabbages. Non-organic carrots should be prepared by scraping, then removing the top 2.5 cm/1 in where the chemical residues are concentrated.
Avoid processed foods – they almost always include artificial additives such as colourings, flavourings and preservatives. They also contain astonishing amounts of added sugar, salt and processed fats, all of which you should avoid while you detox.
You should not be eating any added sugar – white or brown – while you detox. Sugar is an almost ‘empty’ food. It provides energy but nothing else – no fibre, no vitamins, no minerals. Sugar can also encourage unwanted bacteria and yeasts to grow in your gut. And finally, because sugar is very pure energy food, it can upset your body’s natural blood sugar levels – when you eat it, it is absorbed too quickly into your bloodstream, causing a short rush of energy to the body, then a low-energy dip.
Getting used to a diet without sugar is not easy, especially if you are used to munching biscuits, cakes and chocolate bars. You may find that going without sugar gives you a headache for the first day or two as your blood sugar levels rebalance. It is important to make sure you keep your energy levels up during this time by eating snacks – a handful of fresh dates, perhaps, or a banana. Do not allow yourself to get hungry. You will find that your body and your tastebuds soon adjust, so that you gradually feel you need less and less sweetness in your food. Indeed, highly sweetened stuff will then start to taste quite revoltingly sickly!
Banning sugar means not using it in cooking. For very sour fruits such as blackcurrants, you may want to add a very little cold-pressed organic honey or natural fruit juice concentrate (available from health food stores) to make them more palatable. Many fruits become quite sweet if you allow them to ripen properly. Ripe bananas, for example, are an excellent source of natural sweetness, as are fresh dates and dried apricots. Try mixing sweeter fruits with tarter varieties.
You should cut your salt intake down to an absolute minimum, too. Cut out all salty foods and avoid cooking with salt as far as possible. Be aware that some foods such as olives (even when well rinsed) and soy sauce contain salt, so should be eaten only in moderation. In very hot climates, however, a little extra salt in the diet may be necessary to help the body retain enough fluid.