What are the best detox foods?
There is much more to holistic health than simply putting natural substances into the body to heal disease and promote health. One of the fundamental principles of holism is getting unnatural substances or toxins out of the body on a regular and sustained basis. By using “detox foods” as your daily medicine you are getting the best of both worlds, filling your body with life-giving essential nutrients and clearing out wastes and toxins: a perfect recipe for glowing health.
Water is essential for detoxification; in fact it’s essential for life and most people simply don’t get enough of this essential and overlooked nutrient. One of the simplest, cheapest and most effective ways to ensure your body is cleansed and detoxified each day is to drink more water. You are literally a community of cells and every single cell is bathed in a watery fluid. Cells absorb nutrients from this fluid and excrete their wastes into it, to be drawn away by the lymphatic and venous system and taken to your liver for processing. If you become dehydrated, your cells are literally swamped in their own waste products. Think how smelly and toxic your house would become in a matter of days if your water was disconnected and you start to get the point.
Water is also essential for kidney detoxification. Your liver sends water-soluble toxins to your kidneys where they are dissolved in water and excreted. The more concentrated these waste products are, the darker your urine and the stronger smelling it will be.
In fact, you can use the colour of your urine to assess your level of hydration. Healthy urine should be a very pale yellow. If your urine is still dark yellow by early afternoon you have some serious water drinking ahead of you to hydrate and cleanse your cells.
If you are dehydrated during your detox, toxins will be forced out through your skin, often termed the “third kidney”, resulting in rashes, itching skin and a worsening of conditions such as acne and eczema. This can be avoided by ensuring your body is well hydrated before and during your detox. Dr Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, believes many people today aren’t sick, they’re simply thirsty. He believes that thirst for water is a sign of serious dehydration and it is a mistake to rely on thirst as a guide to how much water you should drink.
After many years researching the role of water in health and disease, Dr Batmanghelidj recommends the following guide to calculate exactly how much water you need to drink each day. Multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.033; the figure you get is the amount in litres of water you need. For example, if you weigh 60kg you need to consume 1.98 litres of water each day in order to stay sufficiently hydrated. Add one extra litre for each hour of intensive exercise.
Water is best taken in small amounts through the day rather than all at once. If you simply guzzle two litres of water before you leave the office each day you won’t be doing your body or your bladder any favours. All that water will simply be filtered straight out by your kidneys and won’t reach your parched cells.
If you are struggling to drink all the water your body needs, the following tips will ensure that you’ll be well hydrated for healthy detoxification.
- Have a large glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning, as soon as you get to work and as soon as you get home.
- Carry a bottle of water with you into meetings and keep one with you for car trips (have a sip at every red light).
- Find a jug or several water bottles that meet your daily water requirements and fill them up each day; this makes it easy to monitor how much you’re actually drinking.
- Buy a beautiful glass jug and water glass to keep at your desk or on the kitchen bench to help inspire you to drink.
- Follow every trip to the bathroom with a large glass of water: water out, water in.
- Focus on benefits: clear and glowing skin, bright and sparkling eyes, reduced pain and allergies and a more productive brain.
- Remember, your bladder is just a big stretchy muscle; it will get used to the increase in water and you’ll have to visit the bathroom less often.
Before you rush off and gulp down a big glass of water from your kitchen tap, you need to pay a little attention to the quality of your water. After all, if you are drinking more water to ensure a cleaner, healthier body, you don’t want your water with a dash of pesticides, heavy metals, potentially nasty bacteria and bleach. Yes, the chlorine in your water is the same stuff you use to bleach stains out of your clothes and clean the toilet.
It makes sense to choose water that is as clean and uncontaminated as possible. A good-quality water filter is a very worthwhile investment. Filtered water also tastes better, making it easier and more satisfying to drink without having to disguise the chlorinated taste of tap water with cordial or juice.
To improve the absorption of water, add a few drops of a good liquid mineral formulation.
Tasty Foods to Detox Your Digestive System
Vibrant health starts in your gut and the food that passes through it can make or break detoxification. Food can assist your gut to detox by:
- Encouraging the health of good bacteria
- Providing the right kind of fibre
- Assisting in the absorption of nutrients that your body needs for detoxification
- Preventing and treating constipation.
You have more bacteria living in your gut than you have cells in your body. Good bacteria create beneficial chemicals and nutrients that assist in detoxification while bad bacteria and yeasts such as Candida albicans create a range of toxic chemicals that are absorbed into your body, increasing your toxic burden.
In fact, for many people, the major source of nasty toxins in their body is being generated right inside their digestive tract 24/7. Having an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut is like having a bottle of wine with dinner and breakfast each day. Certain types of bad bacteria can also reactivate oestrogen and send it back into circulation, leading to hormonal imbalance. Replacing the bad with good can dramatically cut the toxin exposure.
Foods that help to encourage healthy populations of good bacteria include those foods rich in soluble fibre. Soluble fibre is the food and fuel source for beneficial bacteria. Other beneficial foods include those that actually contain small amounts of good bacteria — these are known as probiotics.
Yoghurt is the first food that comes to mind for most people when they think good bacteria; however, a relative newcomer to the probiotic scene is the fermented beverage kefir. While yoghurt certainly has a place in a detox diet — it’s also rich in essential protein — kefir contains a far more impressive range of health- and detox-promoting bacteria. Yoghurts tend to contain one or two strains of bacteria, whereas Kefir can contain up to 30 different types of veritable colon-cleansing bacteria. Kefir also contains the candida-killing therapeutic yeast Saccharomyces.
Kefir probiotic drinks can be found in most good health-food stores. You can also purchase the powdered culture to make your own at home. True kefir aficionados use kefir grains, a living, multiplying symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts that looks a little bit like cottage cheese. It doubles in size every few weeks and can be used to ferment literally just about anything from milk, rice and coconut milk through to fruit juice.
Other colon-cleansing probiotic foods that can be included in your diet include sauerkraut, kim chi, beet kvass, kombucha and miso. The acetic acid present in both kefir and kombucha reacts with calcium, sodium, magnesium and potassium in your body to form alkaline complexes that help to alkalise your body. Apple cider vinegar also contains acetic acid.
When it comes to probiotic foods, less is more. Start with small amounts and increase gradually to allow your digestion to acclimatise to the changing balance of bacteria. Bloating, wind and a gurgling tummy are all signs you’ve probably overdone the probiotics.
Your blood must be maintained within an extremely narrow pH of 7.35 to 7.45, making it slightly alkaline. All of the organs and systems in your body will sacrifice their own health in order to maintain this critical pH of your blood. If you are eating too many acid-forming foods you will overwhelm your liver, lymphatic system and kidneys whose job it is to detoxify and excrete acid wastes.
As your body becomes more and more acidic, alkaline minerals are pulled out of storage to try to buffer the excess acidity, calcium is slowly leached from your bones and magnesium and potassium stores are used up. You begin to feel more and more tired, sore and toxic.
To keep your body detoxing effectively it is essential you include plenty of alkalising foods in your diet. The general rule is 80 per cent alkaline foods and 20 per cent acidic foods. In his book Surviving in a Toxic World, Dr William Kellas states that an alkalising diet is also essential for removing mercury and other harmful heavy metals from the body.
- Fruits and fresh fruit juices, especially banana and apricots
- Vegetables and fresh vegetable juices, especially spinach
- Lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, kombucha and kefir
- Cottage cheese
- Tofu and tempeh
- Organic eggs
- Nuts and seeds, especially hazelnuts
- Mineral water (especially those higher in calcium)
Acid-forming foods to reduce or avoid
- Noodles and pasta
- Processed meats
- Soft drinks
- Hard cheeses such as parmesan
- Canned or processed fruits in syrup
- Excess red meat
Most people cringe at the word fibre, envisioning tasteless pellets of bran that are about as appealing as cardboard. But fibre can be fun and tasty; it’s also essential to detoxification. Fibre feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract and also binds with toxins and waste products in your gut, allowing them to be excreted and not reabsorbed. The analogy of it being a broom for your digestive tract is quite correct. However, not all fibres are created equal in the detox department.
Dietary fibre can be divided into two camps: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre is what your grandmother probably called roughage and adds bulk to your stool. It can be helpful for some types of constipation but it has no real detox benefits. Sources of insoluble fibre include wheat bran and whole grains.
Soluble fibre, on the other hand, is often referred to as functional fibre and can help lower cholesterol, aid toxin removal, normalise blood sugar and even reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
Ditch the processed fibre pellets in favour of these delicious high-fibre foods:
- Chia seeds
- Linseed meal
- LSA (linseed, sunflower seed and almond meal)
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains: oats and quinoa
- Fruit: raspberries, blackberries, bananas, apples, pears and plums
- Vegetables: Jerusalem artichokes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots and broccoli.
To ensure you’re benefiting daily from the detoxifying effects of functional fibre, get into the habit of sprinkling chia, linseed or LSA on your breakfast or in smoothies, stirfries and salads or even cooking it into muffins and bread. A delicious detox-friendly, high-fibre snack can be something as simple as a few carrot sticks with some home-made hommous or bean dip.
Your liver is one of the prime movers and shakers when it comes to detox. Staying truly healthy in an increasingly toxic world means nourishing your liver on a daily basis. Here are some of the best liver cleansers:
- Beetroot has a long history as a cleansing and purifying food for the blood, liver, gallbladder and digestion. It is an excellent source of betaine which helps keep bile flowing. Your liver excretes many toxins via bile. Beetroot is also an excellent source of soluble fibre. Add it roasted or grated raw to your salads or drink beetroot juice daily.
- Artichoke hearts are used in herbal medicine for improving liver and gall-bladder health and are just as impressive when used as a food. They can also help to lower cholesterol.
- Turmeric, a culinary spice from India where it is known in Ayurvedic medicine as the king of spices, improves all aspects of liver detoxification and also helps to increase bile flow, ensuring that those toxins are cleared out completely. Add it liberally to stirfries, curries, soups and casseroles.
- Lecithin and eggs’ yolks are both rich sources of the nutrient choline which, along with folate, is essential for a healthy liver and gall bladder as well as the detoxification of oestrogen. Asparagus, spinach and organic beef liver are excellent sources of folate. Sulphur-rich foods such as garlic and onions help to boost the elimination of many drugs and medications, bacterial toxins and environmental chemicals.
- Brassicae family members such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, collard, mustard greens and water cress are rich in both sulphur compounds and powerful anti-cancer and detox chemicals called glucosinolates that stimulate your genes to start increasing detoxification at a cellular level. They literally disarm toxic chemicals before they can damage your cells. Most of the research has been focused around broccoli and broccoli sprouts so be sure to include some in your diet on a daily basis, especially if your family history is riddled with cancer. Their bright green colour also indicates high chlorophyll levels. Chlorophyll is an excellent blood detoxifier and is highly alkalising.
- Protein is often overlooked in detox diets but it is essential for your liver to create the enzymes needed to detoxify. If you’re not getting it from your diet it’s going to have to come from your body’s precious stores: your muscles. Detox-friendly proteins include spirulina, fish (avoid high-mercury fish such as swordfish, flake/shark, tuna and deepsea perch), organic chicken, eggs and yoghurt.
- Nuts and seeds are sources of many of trace minerals that your liver needs to detoxify, especially selenium and zinc. Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium and pumpkin seeds or pepitas provide zinc.
- Asparagus, avocado and walnuts are rich sources of glutathione, an important antioxidant and detox agent in your body required for clearing out heavy metals, drugs and chemicals.
If you want to truly nourish your liver for a longer life you’ll also need to cut down on alcohol, sugar, refined foods, trans fats and fried foods. Chemicals in food must be detoxified by your liver — these include colourings, flavourings, preservatives, anti-caking agents and stabilisers found in processed foods but also residues of pesticides found in fruits and vegetables. Meat, chicken, eggs and dairy products are also overlooked sources of pesticide residues and antibiotics.
Not everyone can afford to buy 100 per cent organic but the higher up the food chain, the more concentrated the pesticides and other toxins will be, so try to choose organic eggs, meat, poultry and dairy products. The Environmental Working Group releases an annual list of the Dirty Dozen top 12 most pesticide-contaminated foods. This useful guide can help prioritise what fruits and vegetables should be either avoided or organically grown. It can be found at www.foodnews.org.
While a regular detox is essential to staying healthy in our toxic modern world, it’s important to remember that your body is always detoxifying. By including plenty of detox foods in your daily diet you’ll be giving your body a much needed helping hand and ensuring that daily detoxification proceeds smoothly and efficiently. It also means that when your annual spring detox comes around, your body you won’t have as many stored-up toxins to deal with and you’ll heal at a much deeper level.
Foods as Medicine
If you have an illness or a weakness in a particular organ or body system, be sure to include beneficial detox foods to support it on a daily basis.
Reproductive system and hormonal balance
Good bacteria in the gut and plenty of fibre help ensure healthy oestrogen detoxification. Compounds found in broccoli and other members of the cabbage family also ensure healthy oestrogen clearance. A healthy liver is also essential for healthy hormone balance. Increase: yoghurt, kefir, broccoli and other members of the cabbage family.
Kidneys and urinary tract
Hydration is the key to kidney detoxification. Foods that promote an alkaline system are also essential. Increase: water, yoghurt, alkalising foods, cherries and cherry juice.
Your lymphatic system is your internal sewage system; it picks up waste products and toxins that your cells release and sends them to your liver for processing. Avoid: sugar, colourings, flavourings, preservatives and other unnatural chemicals, excess fats. Increase: kelp, wheat grass juice, onions, garlic, flaxseed oil and fish.
Skin often picks up the slack if other organs of detoxification are not working optimally. If you suffer from skin problems, you must also focus on supporting liver, kidney, lymphatic and digestive detoxification during your detox or there is a chance that your skin problem may temporarily worsen. Increase: water, turmeric, fish, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts and alkalising foods.
Your body’s chemical processing plant detoxifies wastes and toxins then sends them to your gall bladder, kidneys or skin for excretion. Increase: beetroot, asparagus, artichoke hearts, turmeric, broccoli and other members of the cabbage family, spirulina, fish, eggs, chicken, whey protein, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds.
Lungs and respiratory system (including sinus)
A relatively minor detoxification organ; however, some toxins are excreted in mucus through the respiratory tract. Dehydration is one of the most common contributors to poor detoxification in this body system. Increase: water, garlic, onion, Brazil nuts, yellow-coloured vegetables (carrot, pumpkin and beetroot) and turmeric.
Your major organ of elimination. If your digestive tract is not functioning optimally, detoxification will slowly but surely grind to a halt, leading to a range of health problems. Increase: yoghurt, kefir, miso, chia seeds, linseeds, LSA, broccoli, pumpkin, carrot, oats, quinoa, beans, chickpeas, raspberries, blackberries, pears, prunes, bananas and avocado.