With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming before we know it, we’re rounding the corner on the season of excesses. Some excesses delicious and worth it (PIE PIE PIE), others less so (canned-soup-soggy green bean casserole, perhaps?). And as we as a society chow down on a parade of turkey and casseroles and pies, we can also be sure another type of food will be paraded before us: so-called “detox” foods. You’ve seen them featured on Pinterest and the pages of magazines. Detox smoothies! Detox teas! Detox watermelon-broccoli salad! Having taken several classes on nutrition and biology, the idea of detoxing kind of drives me nuts. “Why, Sarah?” you may ask. “Shouldn’t we cleanse our bodies of unhealthy toxins? Shouldn’t we have squeaky clean colons that flap in the breeze?” Well, yes and no. (Yes to being healthy; no to flapping colons.)
Today I came across an excellent article that explains why the idea of detoxifying our bodies is essentially a myth. In it, Edzard Ernst, professor emeritus of complementary medicine at Exeter University, says there are two definition of “detox”: one, the medically respected term that refers to when people are treated for life-threatening addictions. The second: “the word being highjacked by entrepreneurs, quacks, and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.” (Could I love that quote more? No, I could not.) In essence, say Ernst and other experts, our bodies already possess their own detoxification process—also known as your kidneys, liver, and lungs. These organs work constantly to filter and excrete the things we don’t need, can’t use, or are harmful. There is nothing you can do, eat, or drink to make already healthy organs function better. So the idea of a kale smoothie or cucumber water atoning for the epic helping of roast beast you ate is pretty silly. The smoothie might be good choice, containing some great fiber and nutrients, but it won’t wash anything away that your body’s organs aren’t already working their hardest to process—(and it won’t change the fact that you ate 38 gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve). The best—dare I say only?—way to have a healthy body is to maintain healthy habits like eating well and staying active.
All that being said, I have a smoothie recipe to share with you. I could call it “detox.” I could call it “skinny.” I could call it “clean eating.” But for the sake of honesty, I’m just going to call it a really yummy (and pretty healthy) pumpkin pie-flavored smoothie. Made with wholesome ingredients like pumpkin, banana, and Greek yogurt, it’s a great way to enjoy the flavors of pumpkin pie on the lighter side. It might make a delicious healthy breakfast Thanksgiving morning, when you’re trying to save your calories for later in the day. I’ve even had it as part of a light lunch. It won’t flush your body of mysterious toxins or scrub out your intestines, but it will make for a cold, creamy, cinnamon-y snack or treat in the midst of seasonal excess.
Pumpkin Pie Smoothies
(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven)
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1 c. low-fat milk (or almond milk)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey
1 frozen banana
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 c. ice cubes
whipped cream, if desired for topping
Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.