Dear Dr. Young,
Cleanse your body with the alkaline diet
Alkaline eating helps the body maintain healthy pH levels which improve digestion, skin tone and mood as well as weight loss. Natasha Corrett’s new book has a range of four cleanses with recipes to rebalance your body.
Five years ago, Natasha Corrett was overtired, overworked and unhappy with her weight. And when her back seized up in a stress-related spasm the day before her 26th birthday, she sought acupuncture treatment in a desperate effort to ‘‘un-knot’’ her in time for her party. What the gourmet cook didn’t expect was advice on food which would revolutionise her diet, lose two and a half stone “without noticing” – and find relief from the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome that had dogged her for years.
It was while she was having the needles inserted that the therapist told her about the benefits of an alkaline diet: one which avoids “acid forming foods” such as dairy, meat, sugar and coffee and replaces them with plant foods and wholegrains.
Now 31, Natasha is in radiant health and her series of best selling Honestly Healthy cook books, based on the principles of alkaline eating, have a big celebrity following – one fan is Victoria Beckham. The latest book, Honestly Healthy Cleanse, is launched this week and contains 100 meticulously tested new recipes that combine her alkaline diet principles with four “cleansing plans” to kick start a new eating regime.
Each detox is tailored to individual needs: the six-day slim down cleanse, for example, suggests a menu of raw salads with soups and smoothies, to inspire those New Year weight loss plans; while for those in search of something more ambitious, the 30-day life-changing cleanse is, she promises, a stepping stone to a new, healthier life.
‘’Once you’ve achieved the first 30 days, there will be no turning back,’’ shepromises, ‘’you will make definite lifestyle changes for the better as you’ll feel so energised and full of life.’’
Natasha, who is engaged to fitness guru Simon Bateman, 36, comes from a family who know about food. Her mother, interior designer Kelly Hoppen (actress Sienna Miller is her stepsister) was always a ‘’health freak’’, she says, and the fridge at home was full of ‘dairy-free milk and similar products.’
From her father Graham Corrett, a restaurateur, owner of fashionable Le Boudin Blanc in Mayfair, Natasha developed a fondness for good food, learning to cook at his restaurant during her school summerholidays. Like many of us, she admits she has always been torn between knowing what is ‘’good for you’’ and not wanting to deny herself a dish she enjoyed.
So what led to her passion for “the alkaline way?” ‘
’Five years ago,’’ she explains, ‘’I was always on the go, making and delivering fresh food for my company Fridge Fill, working hard but not making a living, and feeling tired all the time.’’ In addition, Natasha admits that being dissatisfied with her weight and years of yo yo dieting meant she was on the verge of an eating disorder. ‘’When I was at boarding school, it was fashionable to be really skinny and my weight fluctuated massively as I tried to fit in.’’
It was her mother who recommended the therapist specialising in Ayurvedic medicine as well as acupuncture. When he pointed out that Natasha’s whole system was out of balance, she was more than ready to listen.
‘’The therapist told me my body had become incredibly acidic from years and years of yo-yo dieting, even though I thought I was super-healthy being vegetarian and knocking back a green smoothie with spirulina every morning,” she says.
‘’He suggested my body was in such a toxic state from stress and overwork that there was no way it could absorb the nutrients I was consuming. He said I needed to do an alkaline cleanse.”
Claims as to the benefits of an alkaline diet are not new. Pioneered by an American biologist Dr Robert Young, the theory is that the digestive process causes foods to become either alkaline or acidic, as measured by their pH levels. The results are sometimes counter-intuitive: dairy for example becomes highly acidic when digested while lemons become alkaline..
Fans of alkaline eating maintain that while alkaline forming foods help the body maintain healthy pH levels, too much acidity does the opposite; and that sticking to an alkaline diet can help with weight loss and bloating as well as improving digestion, skin tone and mood. An acid based diet is blamed for diseases such as osteoporosis, heart problems, back pain and kidney stones.
‘’At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to try this way of eating,” says Natasha. “I had promised myself I would never do another detox or diet, as I had become so obsessed with food, and felt so unhappy. I had sworn never to put myself through that misery again. But I was persuaded to try an alkaline cleanse for 21 days, and in the end, I just didn’t stop. I felt so well.’’
Gradually, the weight came off, while her symptoms of PCOS – acne, mood swings and bloating – disappeared as her hormones became more balanced. ‘’I look at old photos of me and can’t believe the difference.’’
Whether or not the theory holds up, much of the advice on alkaline eating chimes with official guidance on a healthy diet, Natasha advocates replacing acid forming foods with alkaline foods fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains. Wheat is also considered acid forming, while almonds, garlic, olive oil and herbal teas are highly recommended.
As Natasha points out following this way of eating is mostly common sense and her delicious recipes prove it need not be painful. ‘’Think about eating as Mother Nature intended,” she advises. “Make your diet plant based, with lots of pulses and grains, although don’t eat too much fruit – certainly not on an empty stomach as that is very acid.’’
She recommends following the alkaline pattern of eating 70 percent of the week and then relaxing about the other 30 percent. “And if you can’t resist meat on a 30 per cent day, she says: ‘’Just be sure that all the meat you buy is organically and sustainably reared.’’
Exercise is also plays a large part in Natasha’s life and, she says, complements.
‘’When I’m feeling low or tired, a burst of activity just gets the ‘happy hormones’ (aka endorphins) pumping around my body, and in that state I find that I naturally reach for healthier foods. What’s more,research has shown that just eating healthy food can boost endorphins in the brain – so combine that with exercise and you’ll double the hit.’’
She blogs enthusiastically about the alkaline lifestyle, and runs occasional exclusive cookery classes, too. There’s also a recipe app, and Londoners can join the Honestly Healthy supper club. Naturally, both mother (for health) and father for (taste) approve of her venture. Best of all was a surprise endorsement from one of the UK’s leading chefs
Marcus Wareing who, Natasha was thrilled to learn, cooks from her books at home. ‘’Natasha has a really, creative, inventive and forward thinking attitude to food and cooking,’’ he says on the book’s cover.
‘’That was my Michelin star,’’ she says proudly.
‘’What’s important to me is how can we get to optimum health,” she adds. “It’s what is going on inside that matters, not about how you look. And if you follow a healthy diet, your skin will glow and the weight will drop off. But the food has to taste good too.’’
Honestly Healthy Cleanse by Natasha Corrett (Hodder & Stoughton, £25) is available to order from Telegraph Books at £21.50 + £1.95 p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit
Foods to avoid
All of the below are extremely acid forming. To rebalance your body towards a more alkaline state you need to cut these items out of your diet.
wheat and gluten
Alkaline foods to indulge in
Barley, millet, soya bean
Avocado, berry, lime, mango
Carrot, garlic, butternut squash
Almonds, coconut oil, olive oil
Cleansing the Honestly Healthy way
Each of the four cleanses in the book is designed to fit in with your lifestyle, depending on whether you want a weekend cleanse, a pre-event slimdown or a cleanse for heavy exercise.
A two- or three-day liquid cleanse, comprising smoothies, juices, teas and soups – all designed to give your body a rest from digesting and to help draw out the toxins naturally.
This six-day cleanse will give you a gentle kick-start to shift any extra pounds before a party, holiday or special event. You’ll be eating raw salads with soups and smoothies, which will boost your immune system.
This six-day cleanse is designed for people who are exercising a lot, who want to find out how to get more vegetarian protein into their daily diet and cleanse their body at the same time.
This 30-day cleanse is a stepping stone to a new, healthier you. Once you’ve achieved the first 30 days, there will be no turning back – you will make definite lifestyle changes for the better as you’ll feel so energised.
Top tips for any cleanse
Get all your shopping done before you start a cleanse. Make up the first day’s worth of food so you are ahead of time.
Remove or hide any food that you normally turn to for a ‘fix.
Drink plenty of water – ideally, at least 2 litres of water per day.
Clear your mind of any problems. Do whatever works best – read a book, meditate or pay yourself some attention
How you might feel and what might happen
If you have not undertaken a cleanse before, be warned that you might feel worse before you feel better. The process of drawing toxins out of your body results in classic symptoms, such as:
These recipes are high in alkalinity and low in acid. Ingredients can be sourced from organic supermarkets and online suppliers]
[Suitable for all cleanses]
I first fell in love with acai, a South American superfood, while travelling around Brazil, where I had the most amazing smoothies made from freshly frozen pulp. This smoothie is the next best thing. Throw in a few ice cubes and you will get a deliciously cold smoothie that will nourish your body with its supply of antioxidants and immune-boosters.
1 small banana (about 100g)
100g cucumber, peeled
3 tbsp acai powder
bee pollen or raw cacao nibs [roasted cacao beans, broken into pieces] , to garnish (optional)
Put all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth. Serve either in a bowl or in a glass, with a garnish of bee pollen or raw cacao nibs for extra crunch. The smoothie is best drunk straight away, but you can always put it in a jar and take it out with you to drink as soon as you can during the day.
Cauliflower and pink peppercorn soup
[Suitable for all cleanses]
I love nothing more than a velvety soup to help cleanse my body from the inside out. Here, I use the umeboshi plum purée (a Japanese condiment) for its natural saltiness and its alkalinity. I also love to add nutritional yeast to this soup to give it a deeper flavour. I buy the brand that has added vitamin B12 as it can be hard to get adequate amounts of this vitamin on a vegetarian diet.
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 tsp sumac (a spice often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking), plus extra to garnish
¼ tsp ground coriander
10 pink peppercorns, plus extra to garnish
5g oregano leaves, plus extra to garnish
250ml cold water
1 leek, chopped into 2.5–5cm chunks
1 whole cauliflower, chopped into 2.5–5cm chunks
800ml boiling water
½ tsp umeboshi plum purée
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
In a medium-sized pan, heat the coconut oil and sauté the sliced shallot and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the sumac, ground coriander, pink peppercorns and oregano. Add the cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for a further minute.
Add the leek and cauliflower pieces to the pan and be sure to stir well so all the flavours can mingle. Add the boiling water and leave to cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. You will know it’s ready as the cauliflower will start to break up into much smaller pieces and will be soft to the point of a knife.
Add the umeboshi plum purée and stir well. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender and whizz until very smooth. If you are going to add the nutritional yeast stir it into the soup once it’s blended.
Serve the soup hot with a garnish of oregano and a sprinkle of sumac or a few pink peppercorns on top.
Carrot ‘noodles’ and avocado dressing
[Suitable for slimdown, high energy and life changing cleanses]
This wonderfully cleansing dish is incredibly alkalising too. The creaminess of the avocado dressing transforms a few humble ingredients into a delicious meal.
2–3 carrots, spiralised
2 ripe avocados, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp sweet miso
1 small clove garlic, grated
a pinch of Himalayan pink salt
½ small red onion, finely chopped
15g coriander, chopped
40g pea shoots
Tamari-toasted seeds (Tamari is essentially a gluten-free soy sauce)
finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp pumpkin oil
Place the carrots in a bowl.
Put the avocados, lemon juice, sweet miso, garlic and salt in a blender and blend until completely smooth.
Pour this dressing over the carrot ‘noodles’ and mix in – using your hands is best – then stir in the red onion and coriander.
Divide the pea shoots between 2 plates, add a pile of the ‘noodles’ on top, garnish with the tamari-toasted pumpkin seeds and lime zest and drizzle the pumpkin oil all over.
Spiced overnight oats
[Suitable for highenergy and lifechanging cleanses]
An oaty breakfast is a great way to start the day as oats release energy slowly, balancing blood sugar levels. If you can’t find Chinese pear, use half an apple and half a regular pear.
60g Chinese pear (see above)
juice of ¼ lemon
80g gluten-free oats
¼ tsp ground allspice
10g goji berries
2 star anise
200ml rice milk
1 tbsp coconut oil
Chop the Chinese pear into thin slices about 2cm long and squeeze the lemon over them to prevent the fruit going brown. Then put the rest of the ingredients into a bowl, finishing off with the chopped Chinese pear. Mix together and leave overnight or for at least 2–3 hours. Divide between 2 bowls, discarding the star anise. If you’re eating alone, store the other serving in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 5 days.
Butterbean and butternut curry
[Suitable for highenergy and lifechanging cleanses]
This is quick to make and perfect if you’re having friends round for dinner. It’s now a staple in my house – all you need is some fresh herbs and a butternut squash to transform dried ingredients from your larder into this delicious meal.
1 tsp coconut oil
½ white onion
1 clove garlic, grated
½ lemongrass stalk, bashed with a rolling pin
400ml coconut milk
200g butternut squash, cut into 2cm cubes
20g coriander leaves
For the curry paste:
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp paprika
5cm piece of root ginger
2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
5g galangal [from the ginger family] (optional)
2 tbsp sesame oil
¼ tsp Himalayan pink
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Put all the curry paste ingredients in a small food processor or blender and whizz until you get a nice chunky paste. Set aside.
Melt the coconut oil in a pan and sauté the onion and garlic for 1 minute. Tip in the curry paste along with the whole lemongrass stalk. Leave the sauce to bubble for a further 2 minutes, then add another 4 tablespoons of the water.
After another 2 minutes add the coconut milk and butternut squash and continue to cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat. Finally, stir in the butterbeans and half the coriander leaves and leave to simmer for a further 7 minutes. Test to see if the squash is cooked; if not, then simmer for another few minutes until totally tender.
Remove the lemongrass stalk before serving, and sprinkle the curry with the rest of the coriander. If you’d like your curry with some rice, then use a brown basmati or perhaps some quinoa on the side.
[Suitable for slimdown, highenergy and lifechanging cleanses]
Here’s my go-to recipe to transform a salad – also perfect as a snack. Packed full of protein, these little salty seeds are great for adding to any recipe.
serves 1 as a snack
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp tamari (Like soy sauce but wheat-free)
30g pumpkin seeds improving digestion, skin tone and moodimproving digestion, skin tone and mood
Put the sesame oil, tamari and pumpkin seeds in a pan on a medium heat and toast for 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
Quinoa, teff and almond bake
[Suitable for highenergy and lifechanging cleanses]
Quite often I find that the best recipes, like this one, arrive through a mistake. I decided to experiment with teff flour (a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour) expecting to create a more biscuit-like texture, but in fact ended up with a super-fluffy result, so this recipe became a bake. The mixture is also ridiculously healthy – with the whole grains as well as the omega fatty acids in the chia seeds.
2 tbsp ground chiaseeds
6 tbsp cold water
130ml warm water
2 tbsp coconut oil
150g almond butter
100g coconut blossom syrup or agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g teff flour
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
finely grated zest of 1 orange
30g cacao nibs
1 tsp orange-flower water
raw walnuts and almonds, roughly chopped, for the topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a baking dish with baking parchment, or line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases if you prefer.
Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions. Drain and leave to cool in a bowl.
Soak the ground chia seeds in the measured cold water for 10 minutes until you get a thick gloopy texture.
Put the warm water, coconut oil, almond butter, syrup, soaked chia seeds, vanilla and cooked quinoa into a blender and blend until fully mixed.
Sift the teff flour and the bicarbonate of soda into a largish bowl and add the zest and cacao nibs.
Now, stir in the wet mixture (from the blender) – it will be thick.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared baking dish, keeping it about 3cm thick. Pop the tray into a preheated oven and bake for 12–15 minutes.
The bake will be ready when a sharp knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Lift the bake out of the dish, using the parchment to help you, and transfer to a wire rack. Sprinkle with the crushed nuts (if using) and drizzle with orange-flower water. Set aside to cool.