Image by kirti Sharma 

Periodically simplifying what and how we eat can be a radical act of trusting the body. But it’s also an important one, because it allows us to get to the root cause of health issues, which is fundamental reversing disease and restoring balance.

If the body isn’t properly assimilating nutrients and eliminating waste, it’s much harder to feel well. Addressing digestion, assimilation, and elimination by simplifying our eating goes a long way in expediting the healing process.

When we simplify our eating as part of a plan to reset our system, we can target the organs that are primarily involved in digestion and detoxification. The liver and gallbladder, for example, are crucial to healthy digestion. They produce, store, and release bile to break down food in the stomach.

The liver and gallbladder need specific nutrients to function properly; otherwise, toxins are not eliminated but released into the bloodstream. In addition to the liver, the kid­neys and bladder filter toxins from the blood and return minerals to the bloodstream to maintain electrolyte balance and stable blood pressure.


Our relationship to sugar often has to do with how we were raised.

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Think back to the role that sweet treats and desserts played in your childhood. Did you receive them as a reward? Were they forbidden? Did desserts flow freely daily? These patterns get set up at an early age and become ingrained.

Food is emotional. Whether or not we’re eating because of hunger, stress, boredom, self-judgment, or compulsion, food can help either calm us down or rev us up. By redefining the way we relate to food and eating, we can shift our emotional center back to what’s really going on for us. We can step out of our conditioning and our stress response and live in the moment with food.

Sugar is highly addictive, and overconsumption generates chronic stress symptoms in the body. Why? Because our bodies can’t keep up with the amount of insulin and glycogen needed to metabolize foods high in processed sugars.

At the same time, when the body is under stress, it seeks substances to calm that stress—including sugar. Although soothing momentarily, especially if we are feeling emotional or exhausted, it sends our bodies on a blood sugar roller coaster that leaves us want­ing more.

The body eventually starts to operate in chronic survival mode, releasing far more stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) than we need into the bloodstream. Chronic stress leads to inflammation, decreased immunity, insomnia, weight gain, and insulin resistance.

Nutritional Simplification

During a time of nutritional simplification, the body will get off the roller coaster and be able to enjoy sweetness in a more bal­anced way. As the body eliminates toxins that naturally build up over time, there is an improvement in symptoms of imbalances:

* Lack of energy or fibromyalgia will shift into more sustained energy through­out the day.
* Brain fog, anxiety, and depression will transform into a more calm and present mental state.
* Rashes and other skin condi­tions will dissipate.
* Pain in the joints and muscles and headaches will lessen.
* Digestive function will become more regular as blood glucose becomes more balanced.

Seasonal dietary simplification can help the body reset to a true place of balance and even prevent the development of more serious conditions like autoimmune disorders and cancer. Because the immune system gains support when it doesn’t have to deal with inflammatory foods, it can function more effectively instead of being taxed by oxidative stress.

As the immune system restores itself, the nervous system also can heal frayed nerve endings and restore communication between the various branches of the nervous system and the endocrine system, also known as the glands. When inflammation is reduced in both the immune and nervous systems, other organs function more effec­tively. However, imbalance comes not only from what we put into our bodies, but also from what we are exposed to in our environment.

Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins include not only pesticides in foods, but also plas­tics, packaging materials, furnishings, and chemicals used to treat lawns and make household cleaning products and body care products. Certain homes or workplaces can be prone to developing mold or have chemicals in their water pipes or walls.

The body can detoxify these chemicals and pesticides for some period of time but eventually becomes too taxed to properly eliminate them from the system. Supporting the detoxification process through seasonal nutritional simplification is an age-old way of healing. In ancestral cultures, this process happens naturally because of seasonal food availability or lack thereof.

Recognizing Chronic Inflammation

When we have been feeling “off” or out of balance for three months or longer, it’s likely that some system in our body is imbalanced, and because all systems in the body are interrelated, the effects spread and trigger other symptoms. Many of the foods we eat regularly, even the ones that are considered “healthy,” may at certain times challenge digestion. Simplifying our eating by seasonally gives the body an opportunity to speak with us and creates space for us to hear its messages.

Signs of Inflammation

Lymphatic: puffy eyes, dark circles around the eyes, fatigue

Nervous system: difficulty staying asleep, occasional anxiety or depression, confusion, headache

Gastrointestinal: drowsiness after meals, gas, bloating, nausea, belching, constipation, diarrhea

Musculoskeletal: joint pain, stiffness, swelling, heart palpitations Respiratory: scratchy throat, itchy ears, shortness of breath, runny nose, chest congestion

Skin: rash, edema, eczema


Some people periodically give their digestive system a rest by fasting for a day. This kind of fast helps shift any eating habits that are no longer working and encourages present moment awareness. I suggest drinking bone broth during a fasting day.

When I was growing up, we would often start our evening meal in the colder months with a warm cup of broth. This was the same broth my father made each week to serve as the foundation of our minestrone, goulash, risotto, and other dishes. We would savor a cup of broth and enjoy eating bollito, the boiled veg­etables and chicken from the broth pot. The creamy, spicy-sweet flavor of the broth-boiled onions was always my favorite.

I have carried the habit of drinking broth into my life as a tool to reset. The broth itself, with its collagen content, is healing for the gut. A periodic bone broth day can reduce inflammation and promote autophagy, the cleanup of dead cells. I suggest drinking up to a gallon of broth, depending on hunger levels. It’s wonderful to also drink water and herbal tea alongside the broth. For those who do not feel satiated by just broth, adding a piece of salmon or chicken poached in broth can feel supportive in the middle of the day.


Simplifying your nutritional intake for ten days is a supportive way to detoxify, support digestion, reduce inflammation, and reset your whole system. I like to do it twice a year, usually in April and November, though you can do it anytime you like. It’s a great way to jump-start the body’s own internal healing capacity.

Foods to Avoid When Simplifying

Here are some foods to avoid when simplifying your eating.

Most grains: barley, einkorn, kamut, oats, rice, spelt, wheat, corn

Soy products: miso, soy milk, tamari, tempeh, tofu

Beans (though lentils are acceptable)

Dairy products, whether cow, goat, or sheep

Beef and pork

Sweeteners: agave nectar, beet/cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, and all others


Most fruit, including dried fruit

Nightshade family of vegetables: eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes

Most caffeine: one cup of green tea daily is okay

Refined/processed foods: bread, chips, cookies, crackers, pasta, popcorn, tortillas, and so on

Certain oils: canola, corn, peanut, soy

Foods to Enjoy on a Simplified Diet

The following foods are easy to digest, nutritive, and anti-inflammatory—they tend to work well as a system reset. As always, listen to your body and honor that some of these foods might not resonate with you.

Gluten-free grains: Enjoy amaranth, buckwheat groats, kasha (toasted buckwheat groats), millet (avoid if you have thyroid issues), and quinoa. These anti-inflammatory grains contain many essential amino acids that support the body’s rejuvenation process.

Nourishing oils: Use avocado oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil (do not cook; use only as a garnish), grapeseed oil, olive oil. These oils are anti-inflam­matory and promote effective digestion of carbohydrates.

Nuts and seeds: Enjoy pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. (Though if you believe you have an auto-immune condition, avoid all nuts and seeds.) Otherwise, enjoy between two tablespoons and 1/4 cup daily. Avoid nut butters, though, for the dura­tion of the simplified way of eating, as they can lead to mucus in the intestines.

All vegetables except those in the nightshade family: Dandelion greens, dark leafy greens, horseradish, and turnips help detoxify the liver and cleanse the intestines. Try to cook most vegetables; a salad of raw greens up to three times weekly is okay. Include daikon radish and burdock root in your sautés; they support lymphatic detoxification.

Fruit: Enjoy avocados and blueberries. But note that avocados have fer­mentable oligosaccharides, which could make them hard to digest. If you wonder whether you are sensitive to avocados, please avoid them and then reintroduce them.

Seaweed: Add kelp or kombu to steams, sautés, and soups. Sprinkle dulse flakes on food before you eat it. Seaweed detoxifies the lym­phatic system, stabilizes stress hormones, and supports balanced blood glucose.

Animal foods: Pastured/organic poultry and eggs, broth, herring, sar­dines, and wild-caught salmon are great choices. Consider adding collagen powder (I like the Ancient Nutrition brand) to warm water to create a healing broth.

Lentils: If you are looking for vegetarian protein, eat lentils but avoid beans. Lentils are much easier to digest.

Spices: Focus on cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, thyme, and turmeric to support the reset. These spices are detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, and strengthening to the digestive system.

Fermented foods: Try to eat two tablespoons of sauerkraut, kimchi, or some other lacto-fermented vegetables daily (if you tolerate them and do not have a yeast overgrowth condition). Enjoy 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut or cashew yogurt daily as a snack. If you notice bloating or gas­siness after eating fermented foods, it may be time to explore whether you have dysbiosis, or bacterial imbalance, in your gut.

Spice Blends

Try these spice blends to change the flavor palate of simple grains, vegetables, or proteins. Any of them would be appropriate to use for a simplified eating plan.

Bedouin style: black pepper, caraway seeds, cardamom, turmeric, and salt

Central American style: black pepper, cayenne, cumin, oregano, and paprika, with minced fresh garlic and onion

Lebanese style: sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, and salt, all toasted with olive oil and then ground in a mortar and pestle

Mediterranean style: basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme with minced fresh garlic

North Asian style: coriander, fennel seed, garam masala, cumin, and turmeric with minced fresh garlic and ginger

Sicilian style: black pepper, orange zest, thyme, chopped hazel­nuts, and salt

To make a marinade for meat, tempeh, zucchini, or other vegetables, mix any one of these spice blends with equal parts olive oil, vinegar, and water.

Simple Eating Suggestions

  • Make eating a sacred ritual. 

  • Eat in a calm environment.

  • Chew your food until it is of an even consistency.

  • Eat at a moderate pace and until you are only about three-quarters full. 

  • Drink only a little bit of liquid with meals.

  • Following your meal, let your body digest the food for fifteen to twenty minute before going on to the next activity.

  • Allow about three hours between meals.

  • Breakfast is important. Please try not to skip it.

  • If possible, eat your largest meal at lunch and the smallest in the evening.

Copyright 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted with permission of the publisher,
Healing Arts Press, an imprijnt of Inner Traditions Intl.

Article Source:

BOOK: The Culinary Pharmacy

The Culinary Pharmacy: Intuitive Eating, Ancestral Healing, and Your Personal Nutrition Plan
by Lisa Masé

book cover of: The Culinary Pharmacy by Lisa MaséExploring the healing power of food, holistic nutritionist Lisa Masé weaves together three ancestral healing philosophies—Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and the Mediterranean way of eating—with modern nutrition science to help you discover your ideal foods for vibrant health.

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For more info and/or to order this book, click here Also available as a Kindle edition

photo of author, Lisa MaséAbout the Author

Lisa Masé (they/she) is a nutritionist, herbalist, and food sovereignty activist. Lisa emigrated to the States from Italy and now homesteads on unceded Abenaki land with a partner and two children. Lisa is passionate about poetry, woods walking, travel, translation, meditation, and community weaving. Lisa's practice, both 1:1 and in group classes, focuses on holding space for personal empowerment and self discovery.

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