My month long detox diet challenge has come to an end. (See the Day 1 post here, the Day 7 post here, and the Day 15 post here.) I must admit that I cheated whenever I traveled. Over Victoria Day long weekend when I went to see my family in Toronto, I ate restaurant food that had sugar in the sauce, some tofu, and more homemade dumplings than I could count. Last week, when I went to Montreal, I ate a small slice of banana bread and onion rings with dipping sauces. As of midnight, June 1st, 2011, I will be free to consume gluten, dairy, refined sugar, soy products, caffeine, and alcohol once again.
When I first decided to do this, I thought that I would have the most difficulty giving up dairy. I also thought that I would crave bread. But to my surprise, I only had cravings for refined sugar (ie. dessert and baked goods). Luckily, the cravings subsided by week 3. Although this detox diet was slightly inconvenient in terms of meal preparation, and while it placed restrictions on my social life, it was easy to follow and, more importantly, it was effective at improving my general health. (See below for the health benefits that I saw.) I’m also happy that I used this opportunity to learn about new ingredients and try new recipes. Now that I’ve had a glimpse of the difficulties that people with food intolerance face daily, future guests of mine can expect delicious meals that will honour their dietary restrictions without compromising on flavour, texture, or creativity.
The main question now is whether or not I will turn the rules from the detox challenge into permanent changes to my lifestyle and diet. Here are my plans:
- I’ll start with the most difficult one – refined sugar. The health benefits from eliminating sugar from our diets is endless; just to name a few big ones: lowered incidence rates of cancer, diabetes, and obesity. In terms of overall health, whether you’re trying to increase your energy levels, manage your weight or improve your fitness, cutting sugar out of your diet will help. I believe that most of the benefits that I saw from my month long detox were a direct result of giving up sugar. For example, I am now confident that sugar is largely responsible for my headaches and migraines. My Chinese medicine practicing doctor has confirmed that. Unfortunately for me, it was the toughest thing to give up, and over the last two weeks of the detox challenge, I’ve been compiling a list of baked goods that I want to make immediately after this is over. If I don’t exercise some self control, I may HAVE to go back on the detox diet by July. 😉 So, although it is my sincere goal to significantly reduce my intake of refined sugar, I’m not sure how successful I will be. I guess it’s sort of like quitting smoking; it will be a life long challenge, I have to be persistent and I can’t have the all-or-nothing attitude. If I fall off the wagon one day, I just have to get right back on it the next. Every successful day counts and should be acknowledged, because no matter how few consecutive good days I have, one day being sugar (or smoke) free is still better than zero days of being sugar (or smoke) free.
- I learned that although I love baguettes and soft breads, I mostly eat bread and pasta out of convenience. So when it comes to gluten, I plan to reduce the amount of bread and pasta that I buy and eat. I’m sure that I will be quite conscious and mindful of how much all purpose flour that I use from now on, especially when baking. So I plan to try some gluten free dessert recipes. Hopefully my new found awareness will guilt me into reducing my gluten intake overall.
- In terms of giving up dairy, I discovered that despite my love for cheese, I can survive quite easily without it. So I will definitely reduce the frequency and amount of my cheese consumption. My waist line better show some appreciation for that! (I’m suddenly craving cheese as I type out this commitment. 🙂 ) I also plan to reduce the amount of yogurt that I eat. If milk alternatives weren’t significantly more expensive than cow’s milk, I would definitely make that switch permanent. Some foods, however, must be made using butter and/or heavy whipping cream, so as long as it’s in moderation, I have no plans of giving those up.
- In terms of soy products, I made it a habit to avoid soy products several years ago, so I don’t feel the need to remove it completely from here on. Also, I don’t think that anything would satisfy me as a substitute for soy sauce.
- In regards to caffeine and alcohol, although I enjoy both, I don’t normally consume either on a regular basis, so I will continue to be mindful of my consumption, but I will not remove them completely from my life either. As always, I will continue to minimize the amount of chocolate that I consume, since it is also a trigger for migraines.
The Foods I’ve Been Eating and Their Recipes
- For breakfast, I started making oatmeal with maple syrup, fruit (my favourite was bartlett pears), and cinnamon. Note that oats themselves do not contain gluten but oats are often processed in the same plant as gluten containing products, so look for brands that offer certified gluten free oats.
- Lunches and dinners over the past 2 weeks have also included vegetable soup (Chinese Borscht recipe to be posted within the next 2 weeks), soft polenta minus the cheese, and quinoa salads (one recipe here).
- Also, I experimented with two vegan creamy sauces. The creamy and “cheesy” sauce from gluten-free goddess had an excellent texture that I’m sure would make a nice vegan macaroni and cheese. Although I could see how it had hints of cheese properties, it wasn’t “cheesy” enough for my taste (being a non-vegan). The second vegan sauce I made was the creamy alfredo sauce from Vegan Yum Yum. The flavour was great but I recommend using a pinch or two of sea salt instead of the soy sauce. Being a non-vegan, I prefer traditional alfredo sauce.
- For snacks, I bought rice crackers and made hummus (see recipes here and here). Also, Chriss shared a delicious idea in a comment; she recommended making mango popsicles by pureeing mangos with just enough coconut milk to make them a bit creamy. (See my fudgesicle recipe here and my toasted coconut popsicle recipe here.)
- In terms of dessert, I never did end up attempting to bake anything, but my housemate and her friend were very successful at making sweet and dense “muffins” that were gluten-free, dairy free, and refined-sugar free. They used coconut flour and vanilla bean. So it can be done!
- Finally, I made gluten-free dog biscuits for the first time (healthy dog treat recipes here). My dog, Blue, is loving this whole detox thing. 🙂
Benefits of the Detox Diet
Since naturopathic, homeopathic and Chinese medicines tend to improve your overall health gradually (as opposed to traditional and Western medicine which focus more on immediate symptom control), often times people don’t even notice the effectiveness until either someone else points out the change or until we stop following the restrictions or taking the remedies. This definitely happened to me.
I noted that after just 3 days into this detox diet, my excess mucous production stopped. I didn’t notice any other significant changes until the third week when Ed commented that he was surprised that I hadn’t been having headaches. It had rained for over a week straight and I’m normally riddled with headaches or migraines when it’s gloomy, when it rains, or when the pressure changes drastically. After almost 2 weeks of basically non stop rain, I only had one headache that lasted just 2 hours. I also stopped getting dizzy spells. Then I had menses in the fourth week and I was curious to see if the detox diet would help with my painful and sometimes crippling menstruation cramps. Although the discomfort wasn’t lessened, I didn’t need medication as frequently as I normally do.
All people respond differently to detox diets and I was not expecting to see so much of a difference. Although I did not have as much energy as I thought I would, I suspect that I will feel more fatigue and lethargy as soon as I start to reintroduce the offending foods. I can only imagine the difference that a longer term detox would make. I’m sure I will do this again in the future and it would be interesting to see if gluten has a significant effect on my health (by allowing myself to eat gluten, but not sugar for a month).
During this detox diet, I did not focus on losing weight, nor did I increase my exercise. I was simply interested in seeing if there would be any resulting health benefits. I did, however, monitor my weight because I was curious to see if weight loss would be an added [effortless] bonus to maintaining such a lifestyle. Since I don’t own a scale, I measured my waist line at the beginning of the detox diet and once again on the second last day at approximately the same time of day. Unfortunately, I saw no difference. I suppose I shouldn’t be disappointed considering I ate as much as I wanted to and didn’t exercise. Let’s just hope I don’t gain weight the second I come off the detox. 😉