Some small Mediterranean island communities boast a large proportion of residents who live very long lives and suffer from few diseases that afflict people in other parts of the world. Very low incidence of heart disease or cancer, despite the fact that these people often look overweight and are not especially fit. They eat food that most dieticians dismiss as not particularly healthy, drink a lot of wine, and smoking is common.
So what’s the deal? How do they get away with that? They eat lots of pasta, olive oil, garlic, citrus fruits and nuts, because these things all grow well on Mediterranean islands. There must be more to it than just diet, of course, because people eat those same things in other parts of the world, and are still prone to what we think of as ‘Western Diet’ problems.
Diet, however, is a big part of the problem. There is a growing belief that eating a lot of processed food is probably at the root of the Western Diet problem, because of all the chemical additives commonly used to enhance color, flavor, or shelf-life. Food scientists are constantly developing new additives, which will be used in huge quantities to keep us all supplied with tasty convenience foods in our consumer-based, throw-away modern cities. They are tested under laboratory conditions, sure, but not under real-world conditions, so manufacturers really can’t be sure how they will affect us all over time or in combination with other additives. Those Mediterranean islanders don’t have many manufactured processed foods – only home-made ones, using natural preservatives like salt or smoke. Lucky them! For the rest of us, though, we are all exposed to a low-dose, high-frequency form of chemical poisoning, because those additives are in every type of food that we buy.
I read that perhaps we all should ‘de-tox’ our bodies about twice a year to counter the effects of that. That sounded like sensible logic to me and, consequently, I have just undergone my first de-tox, which was a 7-week regime that involved simply drinking a shot of ‘gunk’ once a day with my main meal. The gunk is just garlic and lemons, but in concentrations that no sane person would ever willingly consume! You take a 30ml shot every day for 3 weeks, then take a week off ( 8 days recommended ), and finally another 3 weeks taking the gunk daily. I made up just under 1 litre of the stuff for each of the two 3-week dosing periods.
Garlic and lemons, eh? That sounds suspiciously like a concentrated form of that Mediterranean diet. It is claimed that this de-tox process is primarily aimed at reducing arterial plaque and, if that claim is true, that would certainly help to reduce exposure to heart disease, a major part of the Western Diet problem. I have suffered heart disease, so this was a major reason why I decided to try the de-tox regime – I had nothing to lose.
How did it work? Well, I don’t really know. I can’t claim that I feel any better, or even any different after the regime has finished. In fact, I don’t even know if it did anything at all... but there was one surprising morning during the second week of the regime, when I went to the loo. That’s impossible! Surely something as big as a horse did that! So, remembering that little episode, unusual enough to stand out, maybe I lost a bit of weight? Of course, I didn’t remember to weigh myself before starting the regime, because I wasn’t expecting anything like that...
To make the gunk, you simply peel two whole bulbs of garlic ( about 30 cloves ), roughly chop two whole lemons ( skins, pips and all ) and whiz them up in a blender. Pour this pulp into a saucepan, add a litre of water, and bring to the boil, stirring. As soon as it boils, take it off the heat, cool, strain, bottle and refrigerate. I ended up with less than a litre because the pulp retains quite a bit of moisture after straining. I could have pressed the pulp to get more liquid out but I didn’t bother... because you need more than one batch, anyway. Unsurprisingly, the gunk tastes pretty strong but you swallow only a tiny amount at a time, with food, so it’s quite acceptable.
The whole de-tox regime was a pretty easy routine to follow, and making up the gunk was also pretty easy. I suspect that it may be necessary to undergo the whole process two or three times before deciding whether it does any real good. So when I do make more batches of this gunk, I will probably use three bulbs of garlic instead of two, because the white garlic bulbs you buy in supermarkets here are actually grown in China, and have much less flavour and power than the purple-streaked Australian garlic, which is a lot stronger and more expensive. I know that, when cooking, I usually double the garlic dose if using the fairly-tasteless white bulbs.
Verdict: The Jury is still out on the effectiveness of the de-tox regime... maybe it cleared out a bit of arterial plaque, but I can’t sense any difference. It has made me think, though. Increased public scrutiny of artificial additives in manufactured processed foods seems like a sensible precautionary policy! Maybe concerted public pressure will force manufacturers to be more careful... but can you see Health officials or politicians restricting manufacturers in any way? No, neither can I.
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