When we hear the word detox, we often think of what not to eat. But what we put into our bodies is critical. Your body works to eliminate toxins all day every day—through sweat, elimination and internal systems (of which your liver is a part)—and certain foods help facilitate that process.
The way the liver removes toxins from the body is fairly complex and entirely amazing! Most toxins—prescription drugs, pesticides, alcohol, for example—are fat soluble, meaning they are unable to circulate in your blood stream, which is water-based, or be eliminated through urine, which is also water-based. With the help of the bioactive components of certain foods, the liver converts these toxins into water-based metabolites so they can be eliminated. If they’re not converted, the toxins are stored in your fatty tissue.
“Nutritionally speaking, your body [always] needs support for ongoing detox,” says Lisa Powell, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. “[This can include things like] enzymes you manufacture from protein, antioxidants, minerals … [Eating well is] great for a week, but you need to have these helpers all the time.”
Add these foods to your weekly shopping list. You’ll support detoxification and reap the many additional health benefits they offer.
The many different enzymes in this pungent bulb boost the natural cleansing process, and garlic is also the most effective dietary anti-microbial agent, which kills or inhibits growth of 39 different fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses! It’s also linked to lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides, cleansing the respiratory system and purifying the blood. Crushing garlic releases more of its healthy compounds, so flatten it with a knife before dicing the next time you’re cooking.
Layered with many health benefits, onions contain allocin, quercetin and several other polyphenol antioxidants, which help protect the body from oxidative stress. The healthy compounds in onions are more concentrated in the outer layers, so peel off as little as possible the next time you slice.
Cruciferous vegetables—like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts—are loaded with detoxifying sulfuric compounds such as sulforaphane, which give them their sharp flavor and smell. They help the liver perform its role as a cleanser of toxins. These crunchy veggies have also been linked to inhibiting the development of several types of cancer (sulphoraphane helps process estrogen, too), and have health-protecting antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Native to South and Southeast Asia, this yellow spice used in curry has been relied upon for centuries to treat liver and digestive problems such as colitis, ulcers and indigestion. Tumeric’s primary benefit is its role as an anti-inflammatory, which helps support strong immune function. Research finds turmeric supports brain health, lowers triglycerides and may protect against colon, stomach and esophageal cancer.
These tiny berries pack a concentrated punch. Anthocyanin, which gives them their blue/purple color, can act as an antioxidant and help neutralize free radicals, the unstable molecules linked to the developing cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Blueberries also contain dietary fiber (as do most plant foods), which passes virtually unchanged through your stomach, small intestine and into your colon, easing the passage of waste and keeping your system functioning normally.
6. Green Tea
If sipping green tea isn’t part of your daily ritual, consider trying it out. It’s concentrated with catechins, powerful antioxidants that can assist with the detoxification process. It also protects against cancer, cardiovascular disease and even cavities.
Yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics. These detoxifiers are actually good-for-you microorganisms that can help fight inflammation. Probiotics also support a balanced bowl ecology by producing colonies of healthy bacteria that can help fight their harmful counterparts. It’s been linked to aiding digestion and reducing your body’s toxic load by promoting healthy liver and kidney function.
Flaxseeds are by far and away nature’s most concentrated source of lignans, chemical compounds in plants that deliver antioxidant benefits, help the body regularly clear itself of waste and metabolize estrogen. They also contain omega-3s—alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), in particular—which fight inflammation. Flaxseeds may lower cholesterol, improve hemoglobin A1C (blood sugar over three months) and even relieve mild menopausal symptoms, too. Ground flaxseed digests more easily, giving you a bigger health benefit than whole seeds.
Good news for edamame lovers: Soy is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an anti-oxidant in detox reactions in your body. Plus, its isoflavones are involved in detox reactions that convert free radicals into water-soluble compounds so they can be easily excreted.
10. Red Grapes
Red grapes contain resveratrol, a phytonutrient that’s linked to healthy aging, disease prevention and longevity. (It’s also the compound that gives red wine—consumed in moderation—its healthy reputation.) But be conscious about the bunches you buy: Because of their thin skins, grapes contain more types of pesticides than any other fruit. Consider organically grown grapes to reap the greatest detoxifying benefit.