8 Foods to Help You Detox Naturally
You can’t walk into a health food store today without being bombarded with products advertising how to detoxify your body. From 21-day detox programs to full-body cleanses, your detoxification choices are limitless. You’ll find recipes for homemade concoctions of ginger and cayenne water to a myriad of juices, supplements, and hot teas. You are inundated with this message that you need to detoxify your body to be truly healthy. However, what does this really mean? Is it even necessary?
Every day, we are exposed to tons of toxins thanks to our modern lifestyles. Toxins come from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the products we put on our bodies, and even from our homes. In fact, the CDC estimates that 80% of all illnesses have environmental and lifestyle causes.
Taming toxins is one of the best places you can start to detoxify your body is with your food. There are a number of foods to help you detoxify naturally that you can easily add to your daily diet. Let’s dive into what detoxifying your body is all about and why the need to do it is more than just hype.
What is Detoxification?
Despite the current trend of detoxification, it’s not at all a new tenant of natural health. Detoxification methods of healing date back thousands of years – all the way back to Hippocrates, who is known as the Father of Western Medicine.
Detoxification, by definition, is the removal of toxic substances from within your body. Your lymphatic and circulatory systems detoxify your individual cells, while detoxification on a broader scale is primarily carried out by your liver, kidneys, and intestines. Other organs such as your bowels, lungs, and skin also play a part in how your body detoxifies itself.
What is toxicity?
Toxicity is determined by the degree to which a chemical substance or a particular mixture of substances can damage your body. In short, a toxin is a poisonous substance. This includes heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, GMOs, food additives and many chemicals that we come in contact with every day.
Unfortunately, these toxic substances hide in everything from the food you eat, to the cosmetics you put on your skin, to the personal care products you use to wash your body, to the cleaning products you use in your home. Toxins are even emitted from your cookware. Currently, in the US alone, there are over 80,000 chemicals registered for use with little to no testing. The government leaves it up to manufacturers to test products and tell us whether their product is “safe.”
When you eat fruits and vegetables that are not organic, or beef that is not from grass-fed cows, you expose your body to harmful antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals and pesticides used in the production of your food. I recommend eating only organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meats when you can.
How to Support Natural Detoxification?
When your body’s natural detoxification system is overwhelmed by excess exposure to toxins, poor diet, stress, and infections, your body needs support for detoxification. If you have an autoimmune condition, your body is less equipped to manage toxins. What if there was a way you could detox your body naturally? Well… there is! The food you put on your plate is a great place to start, and I’ll talk about eight foods that can support detoxification later. Here are a few other ways to detox your body naturally.
Limit Your Toxin Exposure
I recommend a 2-step approach to tame the toxins: Prevention and natural detoxification. The first step requires some intentional steps. I do this by eating only organic food, and by making my home as toxin-free as possible. Since you can’t always control your environment when you leave the house, making sure you’re safe at home is your best defense. My husband and I are building a new home in Santa Fe that will be completely toxin free. Here’s how you can minimize the toxins in your home:
• Clean your air. Did you know that indoor air is 2-5 times MORE polluted than outdoor air? It’s true. For this reason, I recommend using a HEPA air filter in your home and office.
• Clean your water. Whether it’s the water you are drinking or bathing in, you can eliminate the toxins in your water by installing filters in your home on the faucets and shower heads or by having a full-house filtration system installed. Avoid drinking out of plastic bottles as well (use glass or stainless steel) as they are full of toxins.
• Buy clean food. As I said earlier, eat organic produce and meat when you can. Organic food can be expensive, so I recommend making sure at the very least eat organic, grass-fed meats such as grass-fed beef or wild-caught salmon. When you eat non-organic meat, you are also eating the accumulation of toxins that the animals are exposed to, such as the pesticides sprayed on the grains and grass they eat.
• Buy clean body products. Your skin is your biggest organ, and what you put on it, you also absorb! This is why it is so important to know what you are putting on your body, not just in it. Make sure your body products are toxin-free. If you can’t replace all your personal care products at once, you can replace them slowly. Make it your goal to eventually have all clean beauty products.
• Buy clean household cleaners. It’s that time of year when many people decide to tackle spring cleaning, reaching for the mops, brooms, and brightly labeled cleaning products. What you might not realize is that many of those bottles are loaded with toxins that can contribute to autoimmunity and other chronic health issues. I recommend using DIY cleaning products in your home.
What can I do about toxic exposure?
Because exposure to some toxins in our environment is unavoidable, the second step for taming toxins is through natural ways. To support your body’s natural detoxification, I recommend drinking lots of water to support your body’s ability to eliminate toxins.
Exercise is also a great way to detox your body. Your body eliminates toxins when you sweat, so spend 30 minutes a day doing something that makes you sweat. I love getting in a sweat session by doing yoga or by heating up my infrared sauna. Sweating is a great way to naturally detoxify your body.
Autoimmune disease makes it harder for your body to naturally detoxify itself because your immune system is in overdrive. If you have autoimmune disease, I recommend supplementing with glutathione to support your body’s natural detoxifying processes. Glutathione is an amino acid in your liver that binds to the toxins in your body and flushes them out.
Now that you understand how to tame the toxins in your environment, let’s talk about how certain foods can support detoxification in your body.
Naturally Detoxify with These 8 Foods
Your diet is a great place to start detoxifying your body. Eating foods that support your body’s natural ability to flush toxins out of your body is important. Let’s take a look at some of the best foods to help you detoxify naturally.
Chlorella tops the list of detoxifying foods for many reasons. This freshwater algae is a superfood replete with phytonutrients, amino acids, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, potassium, phosphorous, biotin, magnesium and B vitamins. It is by far one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods for supporting your immune system.
Chlorella provides a host of health benefits. Primarily, chlorella helps your body detox heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and uranium, and keeps them from being reabsorbed. This is mostly due to its high levels of chlorophyll. The list of health benefits is extensive with this amazing superfood, however I’m just focusing on its detoxification superpower!
Spirulina, a cousin of chlorella, is one of the most impressive greens you can add to your diet. Studies show that spirulina can help support regular immune function and a healthy balance of histamines in your body.
This blue-green algae, also called a cyanobacterium, originates from both fresh and saltwater sources.
In its powdered form, 100 grams of spirulina contains exceptional values of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Powdered spirulina is 60-70% protein depending on where it was harvested! It’s also full of vitamin A as beta carotene, vitamin K, and a range of B vitamins. Spirulina, which also contains a very high amount of chlorophyll, can help remove toxins from the bloodstream while supporting optimal immune function.
Spirulina is a popular ingredient in smoothies, however its diversity gives this superfood endless possabilities.
Turmeric is a perennial herb in the ginger family containing a phytochemical called curcumin. This gives it the distinctive deep golden color so commonly associated with curry, of which turmeric is a key ingredient. This amazing spice provides amazing detoxification support for your body.
Studies suggest that curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric root, is effective in promoting and encouraging optimal detox pathway activity. Curcumin gives turmeric its powerful effects such as supporting a healthy inflammatory response and fighting free radicals that it has become known for.
Including a dash of turmeric in your next meal certainly wouldn’t hurt, however relatively large quantities are needed to get the full advantages of turmeric. This is because turmeric spices contain about 3% curcumin, while extracts can contain around 95% curcumin.
Curcumin is also not easily absorbed by your body so you’ll need to get creative. Pair this nutrient with healthy fats like those found in coconut oil or almond or coconut milk to optimize the body’s absorption. Another way to introduce turmeric into your diet is with a tasty tea.
Ginger is a flowering plant closely related to turmeric. The root, or rhizome, of the plant has been used for thousands of years for its health benefits. There’s a reason your mom always gave you ginger ale when you were sick as a child. Ginger is full of nutritious properties that can ease bloating by enhancing motility and accelerating stomach emptying, making it easier to eliminate toxins.
Gingerol, the active compound in ginger, was used for centuries to treat illness and promote health naturally. Studies have found that gingerol supports inflammation balance and can reduce oxidative stress by eliminating free radicals in the body.
Ginger is a spice you can incorporate into so many delicious meals. Carrot and Ginger Soup with Lemon Zest is one of many ways to enjoy this tasty spice.
5. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are a great way to support your body’s natural detoxification, so add them to as many meals as you can on a daily basis! Certain leafy greens rank high on the list including spinach, kale, moringa leaf, alfalfa leaf, and parsley. Leafy greens are full of minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and vitamins. They are also full of fiber, which makes them slow to digest and good for detoxifying your bowels.
I saw this time and time again in my clinic: over the long-term, diets that are rich in vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease, when combined with grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and healthy fats. Yet, you may wonder which is healthier: raw or cooked vegetables? The truth is, your body breaks down and absorbs nutrients from raw vegetables and cooked vegetables in different ways.
Eating raw vegetables provides your body with optimal levels of folate and water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C. These help protect the body against oxidative stress. Yet the nutrients in cooked vegetables are actually easier to digest and absorb. The softened fibers of cooked vegetables leads to the release of vitamins E and K, and better mineral aborbption.
Whether you like them cooked or raw, incorporating leafy greens into your diet can be as easy as adding a handful of spinach to your next smoothie, so next time you’re blending up your breakfast, don’t forget to add some green.
The saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” There’s a reason for that. Apples provide amazing detoxification support for your liver. The pectin and malic acid in apples, particularly in granny smith apples, offer a one-two punch to the toxins in your body! The soluble fiber in the pectin in apples supports the elimination of cholesterol and toxins from your blood, while the malic acid is a blood-cleansing nutrient.
Remember to eat only organic apples as their conventionally grown counterparts are highly contaminated with pesticides.
7. Broccoli Sprouts
It’s true, you should eat your broccoli. More specifically, you should eat broccoli sprouts. Broccoli sprouts contain a chemical called sulforaphane, shown to help process toxic elements before they cause harm.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which are some of the most nutrient dense foods we eat. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that support cardiovascular health and overall cell growth. In addition to the health-promoting vitamins and minerals, these vegetables also contain potentially harmful goitrogens. We still are not sure how harmful the goitrogens in cruciferous vegetables may be, however, they have been shown to suppress thyroid function in animals.
What we do know for certain is that these antioxidant-rich foods contain lots of phytonutrients to promote your optimal health. You can further reduce any impact on your thyroid by cooking any cruciferous vegetables. A great way to enjoy the benefits of broccoli is to make a delicious broccoli and kale soup.
Beets are a blood-cleansing and purifying food, which your liver loves. Your liver is your detoxifying organ, meaning it filters out toxins during the digestive process. A healthy liver results in increased nutrient production in your body.
Beets are also high in antioxidants and many nutrients including folate, pectin fiber, iron, betaine, betalains, betacyanin, and betanin. Beets also contain pectin, a natural blood cleanser. It is important to assist your body in eliminating toxins by eating a diet high in fiber to prevent reabsorption, and beets do this beautifully!
FAQ About Detoxifying Your Body
How does your body detoxify?
Your liver, kidneys, lungs, and other organs work constantly to detoxify your body. To keep these organs functioning properly, it is important to eat a clean and nutritious diet and avoid over-stressing your organs with outside toxins.
Is detoxifying safe for your body?
Detoxification is a natural process that we all experience without even realizing it. Learning how to detoxify your body naturally is the best and safest way to achieve your optimal health.
How long does it take for your body to detoxify?
The time it takes to detoxify your body depends on so many variables. From your weight to the degree of your exposure to toxins, there are many facets to consider. Your body will detoxify on its own time. However, you can assist your body’s natural detoxification processes by eating clean, enjoying foods that help you detox naturally, and avoiding unnecessary toxins.
Dr. Grace - Founder of The Gut Institute