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Our Top 9 Detoxifying Foods

Aug 13 2021
6 min read
woman washing kale in sink

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 remove 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.

Rather than thinking of detoxification as something you do to yourself (“I’m going to do a cleanse”), we encourage you to think of it as an ongoing process in your body that requires constant nutritional support from you. This assistance includes things like water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the enzymes you manufacture from protein. Antioxidants, for example, scavenge toxic free radicals, compounds that promote the harmful process of oxidative stress in the body. Eating well consistently will give you a steady stream of the helpers your body needs to support the detoxification process.

Biotransformation is a term we use at Canyon Ranch to describe detoxification. It refers to the process of changing an unwanted compound into a form that can be easily excreted. Most biotransformation takes place within the liver, removing toxins from the body in a manner that’s fairly complex and entirely amazing. Most toxins – including prescription drugs, pesticides, and alcohol – are fat soluble. This means they are unable to circulate in your bloodstream, 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. (We also eliminate toxins when we exhale air from our lungs.) If they’re not converted, the toxins may be stored in your fatty tissue.

To help support your detoxification system, add these foods to your weekly shopping list:

1. Onions

Layered with many health benefits, onions contain allicin, quercetin, and several other polyphenol antioxidants. These compounds help protect the body from oxidative stress, which contributes to conditions like heart disease and cancer. The healthy compounds in onions are more concentrated in the outer layers, so peel off as little as possible the next time you slice. (Fresh-cut and crushed garlic also contains allicin.)

2. Crucifers

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 also help the liver perform its role in eliminating toxins. These crunchy veggies have been linked to inhibiting the development of several types of cancer, and sulforaphane helps process estrogen, as well.

3. Turmeric

Native to South and Southeast Asia, people have relied on this yellow spice for centuries to treat liver and digestive problems such as colitis, ulcers, and indigestion. Turmeric’s primary benefit is its role as an anti-inflammatory, which helps support strong immune function. Research has shown that turmeric supports brain health, lowers triglycerides, and may protect against colon, stomach, and esophageal cancer.

4. Blueberries

These small berries pack a concentrated punch. Anthocyanin, which gives them their dark blue color, can act as an antioxidant and help neutralize free radicals – the unstable molecules linked to the development of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Blueberries also contain dietary fiber (as do most plant foods), which is digested by probiotic bacteria in the gut, producing a source of fuel for bowel cells. It’s a process that’s critical for digestion and helps balance immune function. Fiber also binds to harmful compounds, ensuring that they are not reabsorbed from the bowel back into the bloodstream. If you can, opt for wild blueberries, which pack more anthocyanins than larger, commercial varieties.

5. Green Tea

If sipping green tea isn’t part of your daily ritual, consider giving it a try. It’s concentrated with catechins, powerful antioxidants that can assist with the detoxification process. Green tea also protects against cancer, cardiovascular disease. and even cavities.

6. Yogurt

Yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, good-for-you microorganisms that can help fight inflammation. Anything that decreases inflammation supports detoxification and immune health. Probiotics also promote a balanced gut by producing colonies of healthy bacteria that can help fight their harmful counterparts.

7. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are 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, and 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. Ground flaxseed digests more easily (its nutrients are exposed for better absorption), giving you a bigger health benefit than whole seeds.

8. Soy

Good news for edamame lovers: Soy is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in detox reactions in your body. Plus, it contains isoflavones that convert free radicals into water-soluble compounds (also through detox reactions) so they can be easily excreted. We suggest purchasing only organic soy foods to avoid genetic modification and pesticides.

9. Red Grapes

Red grapes contain resveratrol, a phytonutrient and free radical-scavenging antioxidant that may protect us from heart disease. Resveratrol has also been linked to longevity and cancer prevention in studies on mice and other animals. 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.