Beauty from the inside out: Cleansing diets

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Truly healthy eating is about more than just weight loss. It's an overall feeling, and most simply, the body's reaction to how you choose to fuel it. Today's diet trends are reflecting a growing understanding that good health comes from the inside out.

Clean diet plans, with an emphasis on raw foods and fresh fruit and vegetable juice, reflect an intuitive movement away from fast food or processed options.

"Two out of three people are having health issues and weird reactions to food right now," says Mehmet Ak, owner and founder of Cousin's Incredible Vitality, a raw food resource center in Chicago that houses its own restaurant and catering business as well as one of the area's only culinary academies specializing in raw recipes. "We ate raw foods millions of years ago before the invention of fire. This is our original way of nourishing the body."

Dietitians often attribute imbalances in the body, whether illness, bloating and indigestion, or general sluggishness, to inflammation. This cause can easily be identified and treated through diet.

"You're goal is to reduce inflammation in the body, which is what turns on all disease. It's not just the bodily pain you might feel on the outside," explains ChicagoHealers.com practitioner Valerie Early, R.D. "With fruits and vegetables, plus omega-3's, you can bring inflammation down more than some medications. In a sense, food is one of the greatest medicines,"

The science behind inflammation is as easy to understand as water, the greatest part of our body, and its ph level. In order to maintain good health, our fluids need to maintain a neutral ph. Too many animal proteins and saturated fats, or unhealthy lifestyle habits contribute to an excess of acidity beyond what we can normally discharge. The toxins left in the liver, for example, can cause everything from lack of energy to poor skin, weight gain and disease.

"Toxins make your body tired and your stress level higher," Ak explains. "Raw food is naturally anti-inflammatory. You're bringing the level of acidity and alkalinity to a neutral state, and you recover at a faster rate with the proper building blocks. You're eliminating toxins 24/7."

The easiest way to increase plant foods as part of an anti-inflammatory diet plan is with freshly extracted fruits and vegetable juices. The juicing trend has grown in popularity recently, with multiple detoxification programs like national delivery service Blue Print Cleanse.

Green Corner, located in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood, recently opened to offer juicing options. While single servings are available as a convenient boost, the core of the business is customized cleansing programs.

"There are so many nutrients in vegetables and fruits. When you combine them in juice form, they are easily assimilated into your system and you feel the immediate effects," says Elizabeth Murzyn, Green Corner's co-owner, of the natural enzymes, electrolytes and probiotics that are readily absorbed with each juice. "You see it in your energy levels, in your skin. The antioxidants give your skin that healthy glow."

Even a vegan such as Ak who, as a chef, saw his body and life transform through a strict diet overhaul, recognizes the practical value of incorporating fresh juices into a healthy lifestyle.

"Programs like juice cleanses make sense, as an easy to adapt maintenance program with quick, inspiring results,"he says.

These results contribute to a natural aging process from within, producing healthful skin and hair from such potent elixirs as green juice, named for its leafy ingredients like spinach, kale and parsley. The same nutrients that are responsible for detoxifying the body from within are responsible for ensuring outward beauty as well.

"Phytonutrients, like beta carotene, naturally occur in plant foods and help combat wrinkles and sun damage. Fruits and vegetables are full of water, and with hydration another huge issue for the skin, it's a win-win," Early adds.

With the key to renewed health as close as the nearest garden, it's simpler than many realize to revitalize health and beauty at any age. For a company like Green Corner, seeing a customer switch from a daily Starbucks run to a daily fresh juice is a sure sign of change.

"I think people are putting more value on their healthy in general. They are starting to understand more fully that what they put into their body effects the way it functions," Murzyn says over the roar of their juice compressor. "It's a lifestyle and a viewpoint toward preventative medicine."