|Heidi Moretti, MS, RD|
Functional Medicine Nutritionist
In this article, I will share with you 8 powerful foods with unique natural properties in them that are backed up by science to help your body detox naturally, effectively and safely.
We all know that we need foods to nourish our body, repair and rebuild damaged tissues. The detox foods I am about to share with you, have both: nourishment and toxins elimination.
On that note, very often people get excited with detox diets and cleansing, and perhaps think less about eating well. I want to remind you that for a healthy body, it is essential to find that balance between detoxification and nourishment.
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Is It Necessary to Detox Your Body?
“We live in a modern world where new chemicals and toxins are being introduced all the time. Then the combination of those chemicals is making new chemicals that we’ve never seen before. Our bodies do not always identify these new toxins correctly or know how to effectively get rid of them”.
Dr. Jennifer Kessmann, MD,
Functional Medicine Approach to Biotransformation
Never before were we exposed to so many potential toxins in our environment. These toxins may come from:
- Air pollution
- Foods such as processed foods, herbicides and pesticides in fruits and vegetables
- Common beverages that often contain various chemicals such as artificial sweeteners
- Skin care products
- Homes (cleaning products, pest control products, toxic mold growth).
How to Detox Your Body?
Toxins can enter the body through air, skin, food and water. Your body naturally releases toxins through the sweat, urine and stool. There are natural ways to strengthen and support these natural filtration systems and organs of elimination in the body to optimize health:
Converts toxic substances into harmless substances or makes sure they are released in the bowels so they can be eliminated throughout normal bowel movements.
- Digestive System:
Essential for eliminating toxins and waste through the stool.
Filter water soluble toxins so they can be eliminated through the urine.
- Lymphatic system:
Helps remove toxins from the interstitial fluid in between the cells.
Eliminates certain toxins through sweat
The Top 8 Detox Foods (Evidence Based)
Here are the top detox foods that are backed by science to help support your body’s natural filtration systems:
1: Broccoli Sprouts, My Favorite Detox Superfood
Broccoli sprouts are not the same as a head of broccoli. They are the sprouted seeds of broccoli that have 10-100 times the amount of cancer-fighting compounds compared to regular broccoli.
As a functional nutritionist that works with many clients with toxicity issues, Broccoli sprouts are one of my favorite foods to support detoxification.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider eating Broccoli sprouts to help detox your body:
- Broccoli sprouts can help clear air pollutant toxins from the body:
This was shown even in a population of people heavily exposed to excessive air pollutants! A Chinese study had 291 people consume broccoli sprouts or placebo for 12 weeks. The researchers found that the broccoli sprouts group had 61% less benzene and 23% less acrolein in their blood than the placebo group. Benzene and acrolein are both air pollutant toxins that can increase the risk of cancer.
- Broccoli sprouts may promote enzyme production that protect against certain chemical carcinogens:
While you may get these cancer protection abilities from eating broccoli, research suggests that broccoli sprouts are much more effective.
- Broccoli sprouts are packed with nutrients:
In addition to these impressive toxins removal properties, several studies suggest that broccoli sprouts are much more concentrated compared to the mature broccoli. Even when eating small amounts, you will be getting much more.
How to Eat Broccoli Sprouts When Detoxing
Always eat broccoli sprouts raw; avoid cooking to prevent destroying the sulforaphane and other compounds.
While some people find that broccoli sprouts taste bitter, adding them in the following ways can help reduce the bitter taste. I like to add a mustard vinaigrette to balance the flavors. You can add fresh raw broccoli sprouts to salads, blend into your morning smoothie, or add as a condiment to any dish.
2: Protein: A Forgotten Detox Pillar
Many people make the mistake of following a juice or vegetable fast for a cleanse for several weeks and as a result, do not eat enough protein Your body needs enough amino acids as they play a key role in the repair process including your muscles, skin, hair and other tissues.
You may be wondering then, why I consider protein as a detox food. Certain amino acids are also essential to support your detox pathways in the body. If you go too low, you may be at a risk for impaired detoxification.
For example, protein is the building block of the master antioxidant in the body known as glutathione. Glutathione is well known for its ability to reduce damage from toxic chemicals in the body. In fact, many researchers consider it as one of most potent natural detox agents in the body.
How to Get Enough Protein During Your Detox Plan
Make sure to include healthy proteins each time you eat. This can include grass-fed beef, wild game, organic eggs, spirulina, chlorella, poultry, nuts, and seeds. Caveat: many toxins are found in commercial animal proteins and fish, so choose organic and clean sources.
No need to get overboard, just make sure you eat enough. Your body’s protein needs depend on your age, health, weight, the amount of exercise you do, and other factors. A general rule of thumb is to eat around 60-100 grams of protein foods for an average weight person.
3: Lemon Detox
I am a big fan of the traditional Ayurvedic medicine practice of drinking warm water with lemon in the morning on an empty stomach to promote healthy digestion. Besides the long traditional use, the cleansing and detoxifying effect of lemon has actually been studied and suggested by multiple studies.
To summarize the key evidence, the nutrients in lemon can help:
Liver & Kidney Cleanse:
The research data suggests that lemon and lime juices can prevent kidney stone formation due to their high citric acid content. Citrate has the ability to bind with urinary calcium and calcium oxalate crystals which may help to prevent crystal growth.[5,6]
As for the liver cleansing benefits of lemon juice, the data suggests that lemon juice can regulate elevated levels of serum ALT and AST liver enzymes as well to balance triacylglycerol and lipid peroxidation in the liver.
Protect the digestive tract:
Limonene, one of the main antioxidants found in lemons, was shown in one study to restore and protect the stomach lining from toxins, including alcohol and ibuprofen.
How to Use Lemons When Detoxing
I always like to bring fresh lemon slices to the table to squeeze onto vegetables, meats, and fish just before serving. Most of my clients are excited when their digestion improves with using lemons.
You can also add fresh squeezed lemon juice to your water in the morning. For an extra healthy morning tonic drink, add a tablespoon of raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to the water. Lemons can be added to just about any food to make them healthier and tastier: add to stir-fry dishes, stews, soups, salads, baked chicken, and more.
4: Cilantro: The Detox Herb You Have to Know
Cilantro is a nutritious herb that can be very helpful as a natural way to remove excess heavy metals and help detoxify the body. These detox benefits include:
According to research, Cilantro is able to bind, or chelate heavy metals, such as lead, in the digestive tract. People with mercury toxicity were able to safely remove mercury from their bodies by taking cilantro capsules. The removal of mercury was actually observed through imaging called a SPECT scan.
Another toxic heavy metal, arsenic, may be reduced in your body by cilantro. Over an 8 week period, cilantro leaf given to mice was found helped with kidney detoxification by by removing arsenic from the kidneys.
According to research, this fresh herb has natural antifungal properties, which may be useful as a part of your candida cleanse.
How to Use Cilantro
Cilantro is a delicious herb that you can add to many dishes, such as salsa, tacos, stews, soups, smoothies, and more. You can use cilantro to make a pesto that can be added as a topping at the table. Combine it with avocado to make a healthy guacamole.
5: Garlic, Raw Detox Power
It’s hard to think about parasite cleansing without mentioning one of nature’s most potent natural antibiotic, antifungal and antimicrobial detox foods, Garlic. Since the days of ancient healing systems such as the traditional Chinese medicine and ayurvedic medicine, to our modern days with multiple studies that backed up the detoxification power of garlic, this little allium vegetable can increase your body’s ability to detox in multiple ways, here’s a summary of some of the key evidence:
Several animal studies found that Garlic was able to eradicate parasites, including cryptosporidium, nematodes, and trematodes.[11,12,13,14]
This may happen by reducing trypanothione reductase, a vital compound for survival of parasites. The studies also found that garlic also supported healing and repair of intestinal function in these infected animals.
Liver detoxification: According to research, eating garlic activates the Nrf2 gene, which plays a key role in detoxification and stimulate the production of both phase I and II liver enzymes. This gene also plays a key role in the body’s antioxidant stress response, which is also helpful when you detox and release toxins.
Candida and mold cleanse:
A clinical study of 40 patients with candida-related denture stomatitis in the mouth showed that garlic was as effective as antifungal nystatin medication at treating candida oral infection.
Due to its potent antifungal properties, many fungi are sensitive to garlic, including Candida, Cryptococcus, Aspergillus, and Trichosporon. Garlic works to reduce the growth, oxygen supply, and stickiness of these molds in the body.
On that note, before you chew garlic in your mouth to eradicate oral thrush, an important disclaimer: the research used garlic extract and did not have people hold garlic in their mouth. There are various reports of cases where prolong use of garlic inside the mouth caused oral damage, including a burn inside the mouth as a result of a topical application of crushed raw garlic.
How to Use Garlic When Detoxing
You can add garlic to just about ANY lunch or dinner recipe to enhance the flavor and health of the food!
According to research, fresh raw garlic is more potent than cooked or boiled garlic, and is higher in bioactive components.. Allicin becomes available when you cut, crush or chew the garlic, but is highly unstable, and may change quickly. For this reason, try to eat garlic shortly after you crush it.
Popular dishes using a lot of garlic include marinara sauce, poultry, Asian stir-fries, pesto, hummus, and more. Fresh garlic is extra potent in salad dressings, hummus, pesto, spreads, and more. Garlic’s pungent smell on you for a day or so is well worth the health benefits you will receive.
6: Apple, Detox Food Rockstar
Apples have long been known as potent gut cleansing and liver detox foods. In traditional medicine, raw apples have been used for their cooling and astringent properties, to aid heartburn, prevent gallstones, and support liver health.
Research is catching up, here’s a q quick summary of some of the key evidence on the detox power of apples:
Heavy metal cleanse:
Pectin, a naturally occurring fiber found in Apples was able to reduce the blood levels of the toxic radioactive metal cesium 63% more than placebo in 67 children exposed to radiation in the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
The science on apples and liver health has shown to be very promising. Several studies suggested that the polyphenols and antioxidants in apples can protect the liver from damage due to toxins and prevent fat accumulation that may lead to fatty liver.[25,26,27].
In his book “The Amazing Liver Cleanse”, Andreas Moritz mentioned another naturally occurring detoxifying ingredient in apples, malic acid. According to Andreas:
“Malic acid in apple juice does exceptionally well in dissolving some of the stagnant bile and making the stones softer…The malic acid in the apple juice softens the gallstones and makes their passage through the bile ducts easy.”
Andreas Moritz, The Amazing Liver Cleanse
Amazing liver cleanse indeed! While there are no studies that tested these exact claims, the research data does suggest that cloudy apple juice (juice with the pulp) can regulate various liver enzymes, and therefore may protect the liver from damage.
Digestive and gut cleanse:
Another reason many health professionals (including myself) are exciting about apples, has to do with the way apples can benefit your digestive health, with the research data keeps growing. Here are a few findings:
- Apple polyphenol can prevent damage of toxins to the stomach lining.
- Quercetin in apples may reduce a colon damaging compound called nitrite.
- Malic acid, found in apples, increases saliva production, which is an important part of digestion.
- Apples may improve the microbiome and increase a gut healing nutrient called butyrate.
How to Use Apples When Detoxing
Eat fresh organic raw apples, always with the skin, with cinnamon, mix raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar in water, or use apple cider vinegar, lemon and olive oil to make a delicious detoxifying salad dressing.
Personally, I find that eating a fresh apple every day truly does make my digestive tract feel cleansed. If you prefer to drink apple juice, choose cloudy over clear. According to research, it has four times more the concentration of polyphenols than the clear juice.. And as always with fruit juices, watch the sugar content.
7: Chlorella, Heavy Metal Detox Powerhouse
When I talk about detox, I always emphasize both nourishment and cleansing.
Chlorella, a single cell green editable algae that has a long history of use as food and medicine, is perhaps the perfect example of such detox food. As a food source, the nutritional profile of Chlorella is truly exceptional, with unique and diverse composition of nutrients including proteins, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, vitamins and minerals.
As for its detox potential, multiple studies that evaluated cholera’s natural chelation properties, found that chlorella can enhance the elimination of toxic heavy metals from the body.[35,36] One study even found that Chlorella can help to reduce mercury levels in people who have amalgam dental fillings.
Chlorella may also help remove other heavy metals like cadmium and lead from absorbing into the body and reduce radiation damage to the body.
How to Use Chlorella When Detoxing
Because chlorella has a hard cell wall that humans cannot digest, make sure to get the broken cell wall chlorella for best results. Always find a clean source to make sure it is grown in a pure environment. Chlorella is available in powder form or in capsules. You can add it to your morning smoothie or shake, or mix in your salad, kombucha or all-natural pudding.
Detox Reaction/Healing Crisis Alert:
Chlorella is a very concentrated source of nutrients with potent detoxification properties, so always go slow and follow the recommended serving size. If you have heavy metals concerns, chlorella can be a very powerful tool that can remove these toxins, so it is always best to consult with your doctor during this process.
8: Turmeric, A Golden Detox Food Miracle
The use of turmeric in Ayurvedic medicine dates back 4000 years where it was used to reduce the effects of poisoning from foods. In Sanskrit, an ancient Indo-European language of India, turmeric has over 50 names!. Turmeric’s traditional uses include strengthening energy, reducing gas, treating worms, improving digestion, menstruation tonic, dissolving gallstones, reducing arthritis, and more. Turmeric is no stranger to health benefits according to research as well. In fact, It is one of the most studied natural food in the world. Here are some of the key findings regarding turmeric’s detox effects:
Turmeric was shown to improve gut microbiome diversity and reduce gut inflammation, which helps to support the gut cleanse natural processes.. Even more, Turmeric may also help with digestive cleansing by decreasing damaging compounds, including NFkB, IL6, and tumor necrosis factor..
Liver cleanse: In a meta-analysis of 4 clinical studies, turmeric improved liver enzymes in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.. The researchers found that Turmeric can help upregulate phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification enzymes in the liver, as well as Nrf2 gene, a potent transcription factor involved in detoxification in the body..
How to Use Turmeric
When using turmeric as part of the spices in their foods, many of my clients are very pleased with the improvements of how they feel.
As a flavorful spice, use turmeric in you curries, meat dishes, soups, stir-fries, and more. You can add powdered turmeric to your smoothies and baked items as well. Turmeric may also combine well with lemon water for a cleansing boost in the morning.
A common issue with turmeric is its poor bioavailability in the body. A known traditional remedy to address this, is to consume turmeric with black pepper. According to research, piperine, the major active component of black pepper can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%.
A relative of turmeric, ginger, is also a great add-in to help any of your meals become healthier.
Eating foods for detoxifying your body is a great natural way to support your health.
As a part of the process, it is also important to become aware of your daily exposure to toxins and chemicals, and minimize this as much as possible.
Make sure to also avoid or minimize inflammatory foods such as processed foods, gluten, and dairy, and others. If you have a history of digestive issues, you may want to consider an elimination diet to determine which foods you may be sensitive to. This is best done under the supervision of a functional medicine doctor or a functional nutritionist, but you can always start to experiment yourself by eating healthy, eliminate inflaming foods, and see how you feel.
Keep in mind, eating these detox foods may be helpful to promote overall good health, but is not meant to treat illnesses. If you have any medical concern, make sure to speak with your physician or healthcare provider.
Heidi’s work and research is focused on helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness using evidence based natural medicine methods, including foods, herbs, supplements and personalized diet plans.
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