HERE WE GO 2017! If you’re like me, you might have over-indulged just a little during the holidays and want to reset and detoxify. The good news is that you don’t have to starve yourself with a fast or a juice cleanse. You can detox just by feeding your body the right foods to support your body’s detoxifying functions. Did you know that many of your organs already function has detoxifying agents, for example your skin, liver, kidneys and intestines? So if going on a specific detox cleanse isn’t your thing, there are many foods you can eat that support the function of these detox systems within your body and promote your general health, metabolism and immune system at the same time. Talk about bang for your buck!
Foods, beverages, herbs, and spices that are high in prebiotics, prebiotics, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, alkalinizing, full of phytonutrients and antioxidants will be your best bets for naturally detoxing in a sustainable and ongoing way. Below is a long list of our favorites and why, but for the summary version check out the nifty infographic below!
GREENS AND VEGGIES
Foods high in inulin, aka prebiotic fiber, like artichokes (especially Jerusalem artichokes) and asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, chicory and bananas help promote the formation of healthy gut bacteria and boost immune function.
- Artichokes boost your liver function and contain silymarin, an antioxidant that helps the liver process toxins. Jerusalem artichokes are especially high in the prebiotic inulin which helps keep your gut healthy
- Asparagus contains enzymes that are known to help break down and detoxify your body from the effects of food and alcohol, and contains properties that are anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging.
Cruciferous veggies such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are high in fiber and contain phytochemicals such as sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol and D-Glucarate, which are super detoxifiers. They also act as anti-cancer agents by aiding DNA repair and keeping anti-cancer cells from negatively impacting other cells in the body.
• Broccoli is the super star. It contains those important phytochemicals above that work with the enzymes in the liver to convert toxins into substances that are easily eliminated.
Avocados. Get out the marimbas and the guac! Avocados contain soluble and insoluble fiber to aid in cleansing the colon. This delicious healthy high fat food is high in antioxidants and helps the liver detox carcinogens and other synthetic substances.
Kale helps flush out the kidneys and is packed has a ton of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, not to mention all of the vitamins and minerals it contains. It is the highest Vitamin K veggie around which helps with healthy blood clotting.
Beets fight infection and are blood purifiers and liver cleansers. This brightly colored root vegetable is a great source of betacyanin, which helps eliminate free radicals and has cancer-fighting properties. Plus, it’s full of magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium to help flush out toxins.
Watercress helps to release enzymes in the liver that clean it out and help rid it of toxic buildup.
Wheatgrass restores alkalinity to the blood. The juice’s abundance of alkaline minerals helps reduce over-acidity in the blood and thus is a powerful detoxifier and liver protector. It increases red blood-cell count and lowers blood pressure. It also cleanses the gastrointestinal tract of debris.
Dandelion has been used to treat liver problems for hundreds of years by both Asian and Western physicians. It has strengthening as well as healing qualities. Dandelions are super antioxidants that support the digestive tract and the liver.
Apples, blueberries, goji berries, cranberries and pineapples are the stars for detoxification. They all contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are used in various ways to support liver detoxification.
- Apples contain phytochemicals such as D-glucarate, flavonoids and terpenoids—all substances used in the detox process. Apples are also high in pectin, a soluble fiber that binds to metals and food additives to help the body eliminate them.
- Blueberries contain a super-detoxifying phytonutrients called proanthocyanidins.
- Cranberries help prevent urinary tract infections, are anti-bacterial and are associated with immune and cardiovascular benefits.
- Goji berries boost your vitamin C and beta-carotene intake. Gram for gram, goji berries pack more vitamin C than oranges and more beta-carotene than carrots. Vitamin C can help remove waste from your body, while beta-carotene improves liver performance.
- Pineapple contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps cleanse your colon and improve digestion.
Citrus Fruit including oranges, lemons and grapefruit are high in antioxidants and Vitamin C that can help improve liver function by aiding in the production of glutathione, a compound that is essential for detoxification in the liver.
- The rich pink and red colors of grapefruit are due to lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient. Among the common dietary carotenoids, lycopene has the highest capacity to help fight free radicals.
- Lemons and lemon juice are often included in detox cleanses, and there’s even a few Lemon Detox Diets floating around out there. This wonderful fruit stimulates the release of enzymes and helps convert toxins into a water-soluble form that can be easily excreted from the body. In addition, they contain high amounts of vitamin C, a vitamin that helps the liver detox from the negative effects of environmental chemicals.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Almonds are the best nut source of Vitamin E. They’re also high in fiber, calcium, magnesium, and useable protein that helps stabilize blood sugar and remove impurities from the bowels.
Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, which is key to flushing mercury out of your body. The body uses selenium to make ‘selenoproteins’, which work like antioxidants preventing damage to cells.
Sesame seeds’ phytosterols have beneficial effects and cardio-protective fiber, minerals and healthy fats as well. Sesame seeds contain minerals important in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzyme systems.
Flax seeds. When detoxifying your body, it’s essential to ensure toxins are eliminated properly. Ground flaxseeds provide a wonderful source of fiber that helps to bind and flush toxins from the intestinal tract. They’re also a great source of health-promoting omega 3 oils. Eat them as a snack in these delicious organic flax crackers!
Hemp might just be one of nature’s most perfect foods since it is full of antioxidants like Vitamins E and C, as well as chlorophyll that is wonderful for cleansing the body from toxins of all kinds, including heavy metals. The soluble and insoluble fiber in hemp can also keep the digestive tract clean and therefore reduce the toxic burden on other internal organs.
HERBS, SEASONINGS AND SPICES
Onions. This ubiquitous kitchen staple is as healthy as it is tasty. It’s brimming with sulfur-containing amino acids, which efficiently detox the liver. Onions are said to absorb heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. The total polyphenol content of onion is not only higher than its fellow allium vegetables, garlic and leeks, but also higher than tomatoes, carrots, and red bell pepper. Onions also help the immune system launch the appropriate inflammatory immune response, preventing unnecessary large-scale inflammation.
Garlic boosts the immune system and helps out the liver with its antibiotic properties due to its sulfur content. Plus it adds a ton of flavor to most dishes!
Parsley. Those pretty green leaves don’t just make your plate look great. Parsley boasts plenty of beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and K to protect your kidneys and bladder. It also has diuretic properties to keep our body’s urinary tract running smoothly and relieves bloating during menstruation. The flavonoids in parsley have also been shown to function as antioxidants that help to eliminate free radicals.
Basil has anti-bacterial properties and it’s full of antioxidants to protect the liver. It is also wonderful for digestion, supports the functioning of the kidneys and acts as a diuretic to help the body expel unwanted toxins.
Turmeric is an herb that usually shows up as a tea, and has specifically been studied in relation to its positive effect on the liver and its anti-inflammatory qualities. It’s said that you can do a detox using just turmeric tea, drinking it for a week straight along with a healthy diet. It is also often part of curry mixtures and can be used in cooking.
Cilantro, also known as coriander, Chinese parsley or dhania, contains an abundance of antioxidants. Cilantro helps mobilize mercury and other metals out of the tissue so it can attach to it other compounds and allow it to be excreted from the body.
The oils from cinnamon contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol. Cinnamaldehyde has been well-researched for its effects on blood platelets helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood cells. Cinnamon’s essential oils also qualify it as an “anti-microbial” food, and cinnamon has been studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida.
The fennel bulb is a root vegetable that tastes like licorice and is high in fiber. It boosts digestion and may be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.
Ginger is a root whose medicinal value dates back to ancient Chinese civilizations, and one that is still believed to offer many health benefits. Often used in a tea or other drink, you can add it to the meals you make as well. It is thought to help the liver function, and has some astringent properties. It spikes your metabolism and flushes out waste. Plus, a recent Columbia University study found that eating more ginger might keep your appetite in check.
Lemongrass is an herb that is used in Thailand and other parts of the world as a natural way to cleanse several organs at once. It not only helps the liver but also the kidneys, the bladder, and the entire digestive tract. Benefits of using it in your cooking, or drinking it as a tea include a better complexion, better circulation, and better digestion.
OTHER DETOXIFYING FOODS
Green tea is often thought of as a great addition to any detox program because of its high antioxidant value. Antioxidants are helpful because they will help seek out and kill free radicals before they can do any damage. Green tea has also been linked with lowering blood sugar.
Seaweed may be the most underrated vegetable in the Western world. Studies at McGill University in Montreal showed that seaweeds bind to radioactive waste that has found its way into the body from food so it can be removed. Seaweed also binds to heavy metals to help eliminate them from the body. In addition, it is a powerhouse of minerals. If you don’t like the taste, you could always try seaweed supplements.
Lentils and beans aid in digestion and liver metabolism because they are a good source of zinc and contain healthy soluble fiber. Zinc is important in immune system boosting as well.
Eggs. You’ve probably heard that eggs are the go-to “hangover helper,” right? It’s because they’re high cysteine, an amino acid that plays an important role in the breakdown of acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism.
Oats. This breakfast staple is rich in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber promotes healthy gut functioning and bacteria and stimulates the excretion of bile made by the liver. Development of short-chain fatty acids is improved. These fatty acids also improve gut health by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria, which helps even more with digestion and elimination.
The probiotics in yogurt help promote the health of beneficial gut bacteria so your body can more easily process and pass waste.
Water is often overlooked but it is one of the most important beverages for flushing toxins out of your body. Aim for 8 glass a day, and definitely replace those sugary beverages with nice cool glasses of water!
Remember, each of the foods on this list has some detoxifying qualities but none are meant to be the “one magical food” to cleanse your body. Consume a variety of these healthy foods and seasonings to maximize health and cleanse your body.
Lea Basch is a registered dietitian and has been in the nutrition industry for over 30 years, most of which she spent at Longmont United Hospital in Boulder, Colorado, where she was one of the founders of the facility’s nutrition program. Longmont’s Planetree philosophy of caring for the body, mind and spirit of patients is very much in line with Lea’s interest in both traditional and alternative therapies for treating chronic illnesses. Gluten-intolerant herself, Lea now focuses much of her time on the latest research and issues relating to gluten-free diets and other food intolerances. She is a diabetes educator and is a Registered Dietitian with the American Dietetic Association. Lea’s lifelong passion has been combining the science of nutrition with the heart that it takes to change lifelong habits.
Lea received her BS and MS in Nutrition and Dietetics at Florida International University and BA in Education at University of Florida. Ask Lea your nutrition questions at DearLea@tastefulpantry.com