Considering some of the things I’ve read online, I think it’s safe to say there’s a good deal of confusion about exactly how detoxification works. I want to break down the science so that you can best incorporate the foods that help our bodies it itself of waste and toxins. Let’s get down to it…
What, exactly, is detoxification?
Biochemically speaking, detoxification is a two-step process. First, potentially harmful toxins are converted into water-soluble compounds and second, they’re excreted from the body (through sweat, urine, stool, and bile). This process relies heavily on compounds that we can find in a number or whole foods.
The Wrong Way to Detox
Unfortunately, I find myself coming across more and more detox programs that have over-simplified the science behind metabolic detoxification. These “diets” are often completely void of solid foods and rely on fruit and/or vegetable juices and claim to boost energy and promote weight loss.
These types of programs aren’t supported by strong research and could even be harmful. They increase chances of nutritional deficiencies and are problematic for anyone with issues managing blood sugars. Any weight loss is usually a result of shifts in body fluids or a loss of muscle mass (not a good thing, people!) and is often quickly regained once the program is complete.
But before you feel like we’re stuck hoping for the best when it comes to eliminating toxins, there are foods that have been shown to aid our natural detoxification systems.
The Right Way to Detox
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale contain phytonutrients that have been shown to support detoxification by enhancing enzymes in the liver. Broccoli has even been shown to clean up pollution.
Here are some foods to look for:
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic contain organosulfur compounds which promote the production of an antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione is critical for detoxification and also helps prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals.
Whole Plant Foods
Present in most whole plant foods, fiber works like sticky glue that binds toxins and takes them out of the body. Fiber also acts as a food source for the healthy bacteria in our guts. To maximize fiber intake, get plenty of whole vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Fermented foods (like tempeh, miso, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut) provide probiotics (healthy bacteria within the gut). Probiotics have been shown to inhibit toxin absorption in the gut. Probiotics also compete with pathogens that sometimes release toxic metabolites.
There’s a wrong and right way to detox. Be weary of full liquid cleanses and include plenty of whole plant-based foods for the best results.
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