[IMG alt="There are many opportunities to "spring clean" our choices. "]http://www.mothering.com/articles/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Spring-Clean-Diet.jpg[/IMG]While I am not a fan of the trendy phrase "clean eating," I love the idea of clearing out habits that don't serve me and replacing them with habits that do. Since we make countless decisions daily about the foods we eat, there are many opportunities to "spring clean" our choices.

I can't promise that there are any miracle foods that will cure everything that ails us, nor can I promise that the same food choices are best for everyone.

What makes nutrition an interesting (and quite challenging) field to work in, is that context must continuously be applied to the content - such as advice from bloggers, media, and various health professionals. Foods are not necessarily good or bad - it simply depends on your health status, personal beliefs about food, how foods are grown, and so on. The list below contains general nutrition practices that, based on the research I've done, are fantastic for most of us.

As always, be sure to look into (and seek professional advice when needed), the best dietary choices for YOU!

1. Mix in Mushrooms

Mushrooms are packed with promising disease-blasting benefits. They've been linked to preventing and treating a variety of diseases including Parkinson, Alzheimer, and cancer. A webinar I watched recently touted cancer-fighting benefits with as little as 1/8 cup of mushrooms per day! It appears that certain types of mushrooms are associated with specific health benefits, and I encourage you to do research on all of the amazing varieties out there---shitake, cordyceps, reishi, and turkey tail to name a few.

My family's new favorite is the Lion's Mane mushroom, which has a taste and texture reminiscent of crab, and holds promising potential (according to research) for anticancer, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective properties.

Tip: It is best to cook your mushrooms prior to eating since many of them contain antinutrients that impair absorption of protein. It also makes their nutrients more accessible, by breaking down tough cell walls.

2. Include Natural Detox Foods

Believe it or not, for most of us, our livers are all we need to 'detox' our bodies efficiently. There are a few foods and lifestyle practices that can enhance this natural mechanism (which is technically a process that changes fat-soluble compounds to water-soluble compounds in our body).

These foods have been associated with removing heavy metals from the body.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale)
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Pectin-containing fruits and vegetables (apples, cabbage, bananas, beets, grapes, carrots)
  • Fruits containing ellagic acid (pomegranate, berries)
  • Sulfur-rich vegetables (onions, garlic)
Practices to Follow Often:
  • Choose organic fruits and vegetables
  • Limit added sugar, alcohol, caffeine, refined cooking oils (see below), highly-processed and fried foods, cigarettes, and other chemicals from cleaning products etc.

Related: Breast Cancer: Clean, Non-Toxic Lifestyle Makes a Difference

3. Mind your Magnesium

Around 60% of adults are deficient in Magnesium, a nutrient important for muscle relaxation, enzyme production, and strong bones. If magnesium levels are low, it can be more difficult to maintain your vitamin D levels. It may also cause many undesirable side effects such as poor sleep, cramps, and severe PMS. Aim to eat a great source of magnesium daily.

The Best Dietary Sources Include:
  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach
  • Buckwheat
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Black Mission Figs
  • Mustard Greens
  • Halibut
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Seaweed
  • Almonds

4. Digest your Best

Tummy trouble is no fun, and unfortunately there are many causes of poor digestion including stress, improperly chewed food, and dietary intolerance. I frequently recommend that folks add pineapple and papaya, two fruits that contain natural digestive enzymes, to their diet weekly. Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme wonderful for assisting digestion of protein. Papaya contains papain, an overall digestion enhancing enzyme. You may also consider adding herbs and spices that help digestion to your diet regularly too. A few include cardamom, fennel, ginger, and cumin.

Another important tip, do not eat while discussing, watching, or thinking about something stressful!

5. Try Turmeric (the Right Way!)

I bet that most of you have heard about the amazing health benefits of turmeric, the spice with a beautiful yellow hue used in India for over thousands of years. What you may not know is the best way to cook with turmeric to boost it's healthy effect. First, turmeric is fat-soluble, so your meal will need to have fat in it. Second, to make the active component in turmeric (curcumin) more available to your body, add black pepper. When sauteing vegetables, I typically add oil to my pan, along with garlic, onion, turmeric, and black pepper - then I add the vegetables!

6. Know Thy Cooking Oils

Using poor-quality oils and cooking oils at improper temperatures can turn a health-promoting oil into one that may lead to inflammation fast.

Here are two guidelines to follow:

- Choose oils that are labeled "extra-virgin," "cold pressed," and "unrefined" as they have undergone less processing.

- Look up the smoke point of the oil you will be cooking with and stay below this temperature when preparing food. This will protect the quality of your oil and prevent disease-promoting free radicals from forming. Excellent high-heat cooking oils are coconut oil and avocado oil.

7. Make Your Own

This tip probably goes without saying, but the more highly-processed foods you give up, the better. As busy parents, it can be quite easy to fall into the trap of relying on pre-portioned snack foods that are ready-to-go. While completely giving these up may be quite difficult, I challenge you to plan ahead and invite the kiddos to help you make one or two snacks from scratch this spring. Ideas include homemade granola bars, dried fruit and nut bars, cheese crackers, and fruit leathers.

Related: Easy Recipe: Vegan Pumpkin Granola Bars

8. Get your Vitamin D

After a long winter, it is never a bad idea to get your vitamin D levels checked. Even if you are not sure if your levels are low, including quality sources of the vitamin in your diet regularly is important, especially for building strong bones. A few ideas include mushrooms (that have been exposed to sunlight---these are hard to find, so you may consider exposing them yourself), cod liver oil, sardines, and vitamin D-fortified milk.

I recently attended a seminar that shared many links between low vitamin D levels and risk of autoimmune disease. The evidence is out there, and I urge all of us to know our numbers and supplement if needed!

*Tip: A vitamin D level of 40 ng/ml or less is considered "insufficient." A level greater than 40 is linked to reduced disease risk .

9. Show Self Love

This tip is not so much about what you are eating, but how you are eating. I encourage mindful eating daily, a practice that that allows us to truly taste and savor each bite. Mindful eating is sometimes indulgent, sometimes restrictive, and is always loving. When we learn to eat without guilt and shame, I believe that the foods we eat will simply nourish us better. To practice, put away all distractions and say something positive about yourself before each meal.

10. Drink up!

If you have a daily practice of waiting until you are thirsty to drink, it is already too late! Drinking plenty of water daily is essential for feeling our best and keeping all body processes, including digestion, working smoothly. If plain ol' water is not your jam, try naturally decaffeinated hot teas, unflavored seltzer waters, and filtered water infused with fresh fruit, herbs, or vegetables (such as cucumber).