To detox or not to detox, that is the question.
In one camp, you have people who say that detoxes and cleanses are unnecessary. Our bodies are perfectly capable of detoxing on their own.
In the other camp (likely located somewhere in Los Angeles) you have those who believe that aggressive detoxing (i.e. long periods of fasting and/or subsisting solely on single food categories or liquid meals) are a regular necessity in order to compete with the amount of dietary and lifestyle toxins we are exposed to every day.
Where are we camping?
Somewhere in the middle.
Our bodies are beautifully and wonderfully made. They are designed to handle a certain amount of toxins. However, now, more than ever before, we live in a time of toxic overload. From the air we breathe to the food we eat we are surrounded by chemicals that did not exist even 50 years ago.
There are roughly 2,000 new chemicals released into the environment every year.
So, while our bodies are brilliantly functioning machines, they probably could use a little help.
But you don’t need to take up a starvation protocol or a second mortgage on your house for expensive juices or supplements.
You can support your body’s detoxification processes, every day, just by incorporating a few key foods into your diet.
Our Top 10 Foods for Detoxification
These are veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, arugula, bok choy, radish and turnips. They are rich in phytochemicals called glucosinolates that help metabolize and balance hormones, like estrogens. These sulfur-containing compounds have also been proven to support the immune system, and speed the second phase of our body's detoxification process. Ideally, we want phase I and II of our liver detoxification to run at the same pace, but, usually, our phase I is in overdrive, since substances such as caffeine, alcohol, pesticides, paint fumes, and exhaust fumes all speed phase I.
Cruciferous vegetables help get phase I and phase II into balance.
Cruciferous veggies are also higher than citrus fruits in vitamin C, which is required in large amounts during phase I and II.
PRO TIP: To maximize their nutrient content, chop your cruciferous vegetables and let them rest for a bit – this makes the glucosinolates more active. Cook them lightly (this will help preserve the vitamin C) and serve with a generous helping of grass-fed butter and sea salt.
Leafy greens include beet greens, bok choy, chard, cilantro, collard greens, endive, escarole, kale, mustard greens, parsley and radicchio. Leafy greens get their color from chlorophyll. Chlorophyll and chlorophyllin are able to bind to certain carcinogens, including those found in cigarette smoke and charred meats. (GREAT if you’re a BBQ lover!)
Leafy greens are also full of minerals, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and vitamins, including some B vitamins, as well as vitamins K1, C, & E. Many of these nutrients are involved in the detoxification process but they can be destroyed by high-heat to make sure to eat your greens raw or lightly cooked.
Finally, they are full of fiber, which helps you poop – your primary elimination pathway!
Pro Tip: Rotate your greens! Don’t just stick with kale smoothies every day (you shouldn’t eat any one food every day anyway). Shop for a variety of different greens and eat a different one every day or every week. And to up the detoxification factor even more sauté your greens in bone broth with added garlic and onions (see below).
Garlic & Onions
Also known as “Alliums,” or “Thiols,” garlic and onions are in a category of foods that also include chives, daikon, leeks, scallions and shallots. The Allium family contains sulfur compounds, which are responsible for their strong smell and flavor, as well as their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. How do they help you detox? Sulfur is needed for phase II of our liver’s detox process, which is the stage that eliminates the toxins – as we said above we want to prioritize nutrients that support phase II.
Garlic also has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties, which can further promote detox by cleansing harmful bacteria, intestinal parasites and viruses from your body. Additionally, garlic helps clear the respiratory tract by expelling mucous build-up in the lungs and sinuses.
PRO TIP: Always choose only fresh garlic, not garlic powder, which has virtually none of the above properties and let your garlic sit for around 10 minutes after chopping and before cooking – this triggers enzyme activity that activates its natural cancer-fighting components.
Ginger has been used for centuries in various forms of traditional/alternative medicine to help digestion, reduce nausea and help fight the flu and common cold. Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Ginger is used in many detox programs because it stimulates digestion, circulation, and sweating – three major pathways your body uses to rid itself of toxins.
Truly one of the most powerful healing foods, blueberries are full of antioxidants and contain natural aspirin that helps lessen the tissue-damaging effects of chronic inflammation, while lessening pain. Berries are also high in ellagic acid, which is a phenolic compound that may slow the growth of cancer cells and help the liver neutralize carcinogens.
You might not think of avocados as a cleansing food but these nutritional contain a nutrient called glutathione – also known as “The Master Antioxidant,” which blocks at least thirty different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals.
Because apples are high in pectin, a type of fiber that binds to cholesterol and heavy metals in the body, they help eliminate toxic build up and to cleanse the intestines. Apples are also high in fiber which helps facilitate digestion and eliminate waste.
Turmeric contains the phytochemical curcumin, which gives it its bright yellow color. Curcumin inhibits Phase I while stimulating Phase II detoxification in the liver and also helps increase glutathione.
The polyphenols in green tea are multiple flavonoids, the most significant component being epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). They are strong antioxidants that help balance liver detoxification pathways. Green tea polyphenols may enhance the detoxification of carcinogens and have been associated with decreased risk of certain types of cancers in humans.
PRO TIP: Try your green tea with a slice of lemon, which boosts the potency of its polyphenols.
The leaves of the cilantro plant have potent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal, antimicrobial and significant chelating properties, that bind to heavy metals and are removed from the body through our excretory system.