Seasonal transitions (as we’ve remarked before) present a ripe opportunity for cleansing and coaxing vitality into relentlessly overworked organs and systems. And the process need not be all toil and deprivation, as this tasty amalgam of apples (A), beets (B), and carrots (C) sweet-and-sourly attests.
More than a cool, colorful addition to summer fare, this satisfying salad improves lymph and bile flow, for smoother digestion, detoxification, and elimination. If hearing lymph and bile triggers little more than a hopeless glaze as you attempt to harken back to grade-school biology, then some cliff notes might clue you into the power of packing your ABCs regularly.
Lymph is a clear fluid, like blood without the red blood cells, that flows passively throughout the body, nourishing all the tissues, granting asylum to immune system defense cells, and carrying off waste. That waste disposal system is crucial.
When congested, lymph can’t flow or drain toxins properly. This causes immune activity, inflammation, digestive issues, food sensitivities, and other prevalent signs of bodily dis-ease, as toxins and other unwanted substances linger in the body or accumulate in fatty tissue, including the brain.
While the less glamorous lymphatic system has long been underappreciated in Western medicine, researchers are recently realizing its widespread impact in the body. They’ve discovered new lymphatic channels in the brain and central nervous system, so keeping your lymph healthy supports healthy cognition and mood, too. And fresh evidence identifies lymphatic channels that drain the reproductive system, with the corollary that congested lymph may contribute to fertility issues. Who knew how far-reaching this inconspicuous bodily fluid could be!
Well, actually, the ancient Ayurvedists knew this oh-so-well. Thousands of years ago, they identified lymphatic fluid—along with blood plasma and white blood cells—as the first of seven elemental structural tissues that constitute the human body. Called rasa, literally meaning “the juice of life,” this first tissue receives nourishment from ingested food and provides nutrition to every cell and tissue in the body. Its primary function is therefore nutrition, but the ancient sages also respected its role in immunity and hormone balance. In fact, they listed healthy fluids like lymph as a sine qua non of optimal fertility—and all this long before the invention of high-powered microscopes, imaging technology, and modern research!
Bile is another essential bodily fluid. Produced by the liver and secreted into the small intestine, bile is a yellow or greenish alkaline fluid that emulsifies fats, aids absorption, and regulates the stool. As a linchpin in the digestive system, it also signals stomach acid and pancreatic enzyme production. When not needed for immediate digestion, bile enters the gallbladder for concentrated storage.
So bile production, coupled with optimal liver and gallbladder function, contributes sizably to the smooth flow of digestion, absorption, assimilation, and elimination, but again, in the hubris of modern science, we often overlook the essential nature of key bodily fluids, processes, and organs. You likely know someone who has had their gallbladder removed—or perhaps you have yourself. Even though surgeons are extracting these bile-storage sacs at record rates, the reality is that the gallbladder is an innocent bystander: support the liver, clean up the bile, and have yourself a merry little cholecyst…
Here again, Ayurveda stands in stark relief to the when-in-doubt-cut-it-out mentality of modern surgery. The ancient Ayurvedists, in addition to revering rasa, the life juice, had a deep respect for the liver. The liver, they believed, is the root of the second elemental structural tissue. Called rakta, this second tissue consists of red blood cells (distinct from blood plasma) that maintain life, oxygenating every cell and transporting nutrients to the tissues. Rakta is intimately connected to the heart, blood vessels, skin, spleen, and liver—the source of bile, which, much more than a mere waste product as we’ve already seen, functions vitally in the body.
Both fluids—lymph and bile—need to be flowing smoothly to keep your digestion, immune system, hormone balance, and more on even keel. All too often, however, lymph dehydrates and stagnates (hello, swollen lymph nodes!) or bile gets sludgy and congests (hello, gallstones!). And with such balky bodily fluids you feel less than your best.
For a quick reboot (that’s tasty, to boot) commit to a month-long lymph- and liver-loving side salad. It’s as easy as ABC!
A is for apple
Apples, especially the sour kind, contain large amounts of malic acid, which dilates the bile ducts, thereby improving bile flow. Also found in cranberries, tart cherries, and other fruits, malic acid makes the body more alkaline, which enhances lymphatic flow as well. The natural boost in detoxification capacity improves bodily function in general and may even help break up kidney stones and gallstones.
B is for beet
Beets also have constituents—in this case, natural nitrates and bile-thinning betaine—that open up the bile ducts and increase bile flow. Beets improve liver function directly by increasing the production of certain detoxification enzymes and antioxidants, like the critical glutathione, and enhancing blood flow to the liver itself. The vasodilation effect spills over into other areas of the body, improving systemic circulation to benefit cognitive function and memory, normal blood pressure, and even physical performance. Like other brightly colored fruits and vegetables that stain your fingers, beets supply antioxidants that reduce inflammation and move the lymph, and have been found to curb or prevent autoimmune and allergic disorders.
Pairing a beet with an apple a day just might keep the doctor away…but reach for C for even more potent lymph moving and bile decongesting. (Plus, both B and C build the blood—a handy helper for the many struggling with recalcitrant anemia.)
C is for carrot
Raw carrots contain indigestible fibers that improve liver function, hormone metabolism, and pathogen eradication. Raw carrots consumed regularly prevent the intestinal absorption of estrogen and stress hormones, shifting the balance away from estrogen and cortisol (too often dominant in modern life) and toward progesterone and thyroid hormones (too often depleted). In addition to promoting overall balance in the body, this frees the liver to more effectively regulate metabolism and carry out essential detoxification. Carrot fibers also contain natural antibiotics, which when combined with mild antimicrobials like coconut oil or vinegar suppress bacterial overgrowth, promote intestinal healing, improve immune function, and induce gentle bowel cleansing.
A little ABC for improved lymph, bile, and bowel function, plus a boost in hormone and thyroid health—who among us couldn’t use some help here?
The supporting cast
While apple, beet, and carrot play the leading roles, the supporting cast offers liver, lymph, and digestive benefits of their own. If you’re short on time, you can certainly keep your ABC salad to those three. Or spruce it up with these accompaniments.
Lemon juice, given its similarity to the stomach’s digestive juices, triggers bile production and secretion, which as we’ve seen, is critical to proper digestion and detoxification. (Raw apple cider vinegar has a similar effect and can be substituted for convenience.)
If you’re amenable to the atypical (and you have a good blender), may we propose that you use more than just the juice? While the lemon pith—that spongy white layer between the fruit and the peel—does lend a little bitterness, it’s a phenomenal stimulant for the lymphatic and circulatory systems. It even noticeably improves cellulite. The lemon peel, too, has its own claim to fame: it’s an excellent source of naturally occurring terpenes like d-limonene that purge extra estrogen and other impurities from the liver. The ubiquity of xenoestrogens and estrogen-like chemicals in our air, water, food, and personal products, combined with the deleterious effects of these compounds in the development of cancer and more, makes lemon peel ever more appetizing.
Our conclusion? Put the whole lemon in the blender and whip up a concentrated lemon cocktail that melts magically right into your salad.
Sufficient dietary oil causes the gallbladder to contract, expulsing bile sludge into the intestines, where it can be escorted for elimination. While olive is the traditional oil for stimulating the liver and gallbladder (especially when combined with lemon), coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that also make it a good choice, although its solid state at room temperature presents a challenge for cold salads. That’s why we like this olive/coconut blend from Calton Nutrition for a superb anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, metabolism-enhancing, liver-friendly oil.
For an optional kick, grate in some ginger. Deemed the “universal medicine” in Ayurveda, ginger acts on all bodily tissues and channels, but it has special affinity for rasa and rakta, the two tissues associated with lymphatic and liver health. In addition to being anti-inflammatory and analgesic, ginger stimulates digestion and supports adequate production of hydrochloric acid, which works in conjunction with proper bile flow and pancreatic enzyme production for seamless digestion.
Coriander and cumin
For a final optional accompaniment, call on complementary spices. A cooling spice suitable for summer and all body constitutions, coriander supports the digestive as well as the urinary tract. Cumin, its own digestive and diuretic properties aside, improves the flavor of food and amplifies the blood-building effects of beets and carrots.
And with that introduction, here’s our featured recipe.
Use the basic recipe below to get your daily dose of lymph- and liver-loving ingredients. You may increase the quantities proportional to the number of people you’re serving and the amount you’d like to keep on hand. You may also vary the ratios given below, depending on the size of each fruit or vegetable.
While the salad is preferably consumed fresh, daily preparation is not always realistic. In that case, make a batch for a few days and store it in an airtight glass container in the fridge. Aim for a small beet’s worth of salad daily for targeted one-month liver and lymph support.
The ABC combo makes a great addition to a leafy green salad topped with protein and other fixings. Or simply serve it alongside a dinner entrée or as a crunchy topping to a cool blended summer soup. Regardless of how you partake, make sure to chew thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth!
- 1 small organic green apple
- 1 small organic red beet
- 1 large organic carrot (or 2 medium)
- 1 small organic lemon (or 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar)
- ½-inch piece fresh ginger root (optional)
- 1 tablespoon organic, cold-pressed olive oil, melted coconut oil, or an olive/coconut blend (or more to taste)
- unrefined sea or mineral salt (optional, to taste)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- Wash and grate the apple, beet, and carrot. Place in a large bowl.
- Slice the lemon and squeeze out the juice. Peel and finely grate the ginger. Alternatively, if you have a high-powered blender, roughly chop the whole lemon, cut about a half inch of fresh ginger, and blend until completely smooth, adding a little filtered water if needed. (Do this if you can! See above for the benefits of lemon pith and peel. Plus, blending the ginger extracts more of the juice and saves you time.)
- Combine the lemon juice, ginger, oil, salt, and optional spices with the grated apple, beet, and carrot.
- Mix thoroughly, chew carefully, and enjoy daily.