Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Article: Junger's CLEAN Detox for Vegans (with Recipes)

Image: Charles Haynes via Flickr
I was considering a change in my diet (specifically, reducing the amount of soy and wheat) and wanted to try a gentle diet free of common allergens to see if I felt any different.  In my research, I heard praise for Alejandro Junger's CLEAN program, which has several different elements, including an Elimination Diet, which has you avoid foods that can cause allergens or irritants.  I how, even on the CLEAN program, Junger encourages you to eat plenty of food.  His detox wasn't necessarily calorie-restrictive, nor did it encourage eating nothing but juices.  Surprisingly, his restrictive diet included some meats and other non-vegan foods, so I had to find a way to adapt it for a vegan lifestyle.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a registered dietitian or medical professional. Please consult with a doctor if you are experiencing any health issues, wish to change your diet, or are considering adding supplements to your diet. Please verify any claims with the manufacturer, especially if you have any allergies or concerns.

The Diet:
While I encourage you to go straight to the source for your information, the Junger's book CLEAN promotes a program where you start on a whole-food Elimination Diet for three days or more, and then spend 21 days on the CLEAN program.  The CLEAN program consists of a few basic components:

  • Have a shake or smoothie for breakfast, a solid meal for lunch, and a liquid meal for dinner (pureed soup, shake, smoothie, juice, etc.).
  • Choose only foods on the diet and avoid those not included.
  • Include supplements from a variety of choices to help "support" the detox (optional)
  • Wait 12 hours between eating (evening to morning)
For more information on the diet, check out the CLEAN cleanse manual.  However, be aware that the information will differ slightly from the book, as it seems to go along with the CLEAN kit.

The Supplements:
WARNING:  Please consult with a doctor before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you are taking any prescription medications.
While the supplements are described only briefly in the book, the CLEAN kit includes the whole gamut, but the $425 price was out of my budget.  I chose to hit up my local whole foods for some of the supplements, including:
  • A probiotic - While it can be challenging to find a truly vegan brand (at least in stores), probiotics can help restore intestinal flora to its proper balance, which eases digestion.  If you only get one supplement, I'd recommend trying a probiotic first.
  • Ground flaxseed - Adds fiber to morning shakes and smoothies. I already had this on hand from my favorite Vegan Beauty Smoothies, but it helps keep things moving during the cleanse.
  • Milk Thistle - This is meant to support your liver during the detox process. I didn't actually take it.
  • Digestive Enzymes -These are meant to aid with digestion and are typically taken with each meal. If buying them in a store, watch out for animal ingredients.  These did seem to help food settle more easily after eating.
  • Garlic - If you aren't wild about the idea of eating a garlic clove daily, Junger recommends a garlic supplement.  I didn't see a big difference when I took this.
  • Natural Calm - This magnesium supplement is supposed to help with sleep, stress, and keeping you regular. I've heard good things about it, specifically related to sleep. I highly recommend the flavored version.
Sample recipes on the Diet:
I wasn't thrilled with all of the recipes in the book or in the CLEAN recipes booklet, so I dug up some recipes online that fit with the program but sounded more appetizing.  Below is a selection of options that I put together when I was following the program.

Image: Breville USA via Flickr
I highly recommend adding protein powder, such as RAW protein or Brown Rice Protein, to make your morning liquid meal more substantial.

You can make your lunch as simple or as elaborate as you want. Without soy, peanut butter, seitan, and other "common" vegan foods, I came to rely heavily on beans and lentils for protein.  Don't be afraid to modify an existing recipe to fit the "CLEAN" ingredient requirements.
I wasn't fond of the idea of eating shakes or juices for dinner, so I ate simple soups instead.  My tastes tend to run more sweet/savory, so I found two I liked and repeated them:
Snacks and Dessert:
While Junger doesn't really recommend dessert, I found a raw chocolate brownie recipe that seemed to include approved ingredients. For snacks, I ate rice cakes with almond butter, mixes of nuts and dried fruits, hummus and carrots, and rice and bean chips.

Recommended resources:
If you'd like to eat more foods like those listed above, check out the following resources:

My Results:
Image: Mike Haller via Flickr
I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I only lasted one of the three weeks on the diet.  I was mainly doing it as a test to see how I would feel excluding gluten and soy, and I did feel like my body liked it better without them.  I'm actively consuming almost no soy currently, and working to reduce my gluten gradually.

My main complaint with the diet is that it cuts out a lot of foods at once.  It was hard for me to have no sugar - no fruit juice, dark chocolate, etc. - and go without breads, pastas, and such as well.  When I went off the diet, I wanted nothing more than to stuff my face with bread.  Regardless, I think it was a good experience that showed me what types of foods can trigger reactions, and to look to reduce those first if I am having reactions.

I liked how the plan could be followed with relatively little investment; the book itself is around $10-$12, and the investment in supplements and protein powders is really up to you and your budget.  Otherwise, a lot of the food was "normal," just less processed. I preferred choosing to make simpler foods, rather than following the more elaborate recipes the CLEAN program suggested.

Regardless, I was surprised by how much this diet seemed to "shock" my system, as I was already eating a relatively healthy diet before this.  I was feeling really sluggish and didn't want to go out of the house.  While some people claim this is a natural part of "getting rid of toxins" before you feel surges of energy, I chose to go off of CLEAN and return to a more regular diet. I wanted to continue to move toward what agreed with me best (less soy, for sure) but go with a more gradual approach to reducing foods like gluten.

While the official  CLEAN kit is over $400, the program is still simple enough to follow, if you set aside some time to prepare your own foods and make a meal plan. I was frustrated by the difficulty eating out, which is simple enough if you eat meat, but limits your options quite a bit if you are a vegan. Also, even eating at "healthy food" restaurants could be challenging, unless you wanted to ask whether they use agave or evaporated cane juice, or ask for dishes holding ingredients such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and bananas.

I think the CLEAN program has its place, and I'm glad it doesn't encourage severe calorie restrictions like other detoxes. However, as someone who was looking to make small adjustments to a diet I already enjoy (vegan diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), I'm not sure such a drastic approach was necessary.

Disclosure notice: This program was tested by the reviewer, who purchased the book and supplements. No additional compensation was accepted and the opinions are my own. Please verify any claims with the manufacturer, especially if you have any allergies or concerns.

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