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Top 10 Foods to Help You Detoxify Naturally

Toxins are everywhere. They lurk in the water you drink, the food you eat, the air you breathe, and many products you’re exposed to daily.  

Your favorite lipstick that you reach for every morning? It can contain harmful levels of aluminum and other metals. That bottle of carpet cleaner you sprayed to clean up your red wine spill? It could expose you to phthalates, which are chemicals that can disrupt hormones. 

Your body was designed to eliminate a certain amount of toxins though sweating, pooping, peeing, breathing, or otherwise expelling them through the kidneys and liver. But with the constant onslaught these days, those detoxification pathways can quickly become overwhelmed. 

The result: a toxic burden, which creates widespread havoc for your overall health.  

Before you start a detox, you need to know these 10 things. 

Among their havoc, toxins can damage enzymes, inhibit hemoglobin production in your blood, and lower your body’s ability to prevent free radical damage that leads to aging and other problems.¹ 

That burden can show up in unsuspecting places, including weight loss resistance. (I recently talked about how toxins could be the missing link for fat loss.) 

How? If you’ve been on a diet roller coaster for most of your life, eventually your metabolism crashes, holding on to toxins as it goes down.  

In turn, holding on to too many toxins can lower your metabolic rate and impair thyroid function. As a result, fat loss comes to a grinding halt. 

The Top 10 Foods for Detoxifying Naturally 

Your liver, kidneys, and other organs have an amazing ability to detoxify naturally. But chronic exposure to toxins can leave them overwhelmed. Doing a deep detox at least once or twice a year—incorporating nutrient support and other detoxification strategies like eliminating trigger foods—can be an effective way to support that process.  

Take my Toxicity Quiz to determine your toxic burden here 

But detoxification isn’t something you do and then go back to your regular habits and routine. Your body is constantly doing it, and what goes on the end of your fork can support or hinder that process.  

Eating nutrient-rich foods is the best way to support everyday detoxification.  

“Certain foods speed up the process of detoxification and allow more effective and efficient weight loss,” says Mark Hyman, MD, in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. “The foods that help boost these detox pathways are those rich in B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants, and special detoxifying chemicals called phytonutrients.” 

With that in mind, I chose 10 of my favorite foods for detoxification. I focused on convenience, availability, taste, and price point. You’ll find delicious recipes to accompany these foods, too.  

Detox Superfood #1: Broccoli 

Broccoli is an all-around nutrient rock star. This cruciferous vegetable provides a host of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, which provides antioxidant support to aid detoxification. 

Like other foods on this list, broccoli also contains good amounts of fiber. Dietary fiber can bind toxins, eliminating them in your stool and preventing them from building up.  

Discover my top 15 fiber-rich foods in this blog. 

But broccoli’s big claim to fame for detoxification is a phytonutrient called glucoraphanin, which your body metabolizes into sulforaphane. This sulfur-rich compound supports the liver’s detoxification process.  

“Sulforaphane … increases the production of certain enzymes known as phase-2 enzymes, which can ‘disarm’ damaging free radicals and help fight carcinogens,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. 

That copious nutrient support provides a slam dunk to support detoxification. Plus, as the recipe below will attest, broccoli tastes so darn good. 

Recipe: Paleo Steamed Broccoli with Garlic Oil Drizzle 

Detox Superfood #2: Kale 

“Kale is part of the brassica and cruciferous veggie family, known for their liver detox-enhancing properties (diindolylmethane and indole-3-carbinole),” says Kellyann Petrucci, ND, in Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Diet. “These veggies have a higher anticancer phytochemical content than any other vegetable family.”  

In my What To Eat, When to Eat and Why Summit, I talk to Dr. Petrucci and other groundbreaking health and wellness leaders about detoxification and other ways to support your overall health. The event happens September 12-18, 2022! Learn more and register for FREE here. 

Kale is a nutrient powerhouse, too. Along with toxin-binding fiber, kale contains the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) as well as detox-supporting minerals like magnesium and manganese.  

Kale also contains chlorophyll, a green pigment that can help bind and eliminate heavy metals. Altogether, kale’s wide-ranging nutrient supports add ups to a detox A-lister that’s super versatile: use this leafy green as the base of your salad, toss it in a loaded smoothie, sauté it with some ghee or coconut oil, or try these munch-worthy kale chips below. 

Recipe: Chipotle Kale Chips 

Detox Superfood #3: Avocado 

This rock star fruit—actually a berry—is a nutrient powerhouse. Avocado is packed with monounsaturated fat (the same healthy fat in olive oil) as well as the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid ALA. 

Avocado also comes packed with glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant.  

It is hard to overstate the importance of glutathione,” says Joseph Pizzorno, ND, “which is involved in the detoxification of [many] compounds.”2  

Half of an avocado also provides 4.6 grams of fiber, important nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins, and the powerful carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.3 

Plus, avocado is so delicious and can be used in a variety of ways. You can add it to your loaded smoothie, make a yummy guacamole, or reinvent chocolate mousse with this healthy recipe below.  

Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Cacao Nibs 

Detox Superfood #4: Garlic 

The medicinal use of garlic goes back to 850 years B.C. Homer, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, and Aristotle all sang the praises of garlic.4 

Today, we know why. Garlic contains what we call organo-sulfur compounds, which can boost detoxification enzymes while supporting ideal levels of detoxifying nutrients like glutathione and sulfur.5 

Among its detoxifying abilities, research shows that garlic can help reduce lead levels. This vegetable (as garlic is botanically classified) might also help decrease the symptoms of toxicity, including headaches, blood pressure, and irritability.6 

Worth noting: correct preparation is critical. Garlic cloves contain an amino acid called alliin. When you crush garlic, the alliin reacts with an enzyme called alliinase. This process produces allicin, the compound that provides most of garlic’s health benefits.  

“Allicin starts to degrade after it’s produced, so the fresher it is when you use it, the better,” says Bowden. “Garlic experts advise crushing a little raw garlic and combining it with the cooked food shortly before serving.” 

Recipe: Garlic Hummus with Lentil Chips 

Detox Superfood #5: Green Tea 

Clean, filtered water is critical to help flush away toxins and otherwise support detoxification. But if you want to switch it up for something with a little more flavor (and added health benefits), make it green tea. 

Green tea contains several polyphenols, including catechins. These catechins exhibit protective effects against environmental toxins and other toxic exposure.7 An amino acid called L-theanine provides green tea’s calming benefits as well. 

I drink 32 ounces of unsweetened green tea every day. Iced or hot, it’s the perfect beverage to support detoxification. 

Recipe: Peach & Mint Iced Green Tea 

Detox Superfood #6: Cilantro 

Long used as a popular culinary and medicinal herb, cilantro earned its reputation as a heavy-metal chelator when reports surfaced that a cilantro-containing soup could enhance mercury excretion following dental amalgam removal.8

Cilantro may also help remove other metals, including lead and aluminum, when you consume it regularly. Some research suggests that cilantro works best when you consume it with chlorella, a kind of green algae.9

Chlorella is available in supplement form, usually in a tablet or powder. You'll find cilantro in flavorful Mexican dishes, including guacamole. (The recipe below also incorporates this herb.)

Cilantro is an acquired taste for some people. Those who love it, really love it. For others, a genetic variation means that cilantro has an off-putting taste (due to the aldehydes in cilantro leaves).  

Recipe: Cilantro Turkey Burger with Chipotle Ketchup 

Detox Superfood #7: Blueberries 

In all fairness, any kind of berries are great for detoxification. However, blueberries are head of the class because they carry a superior nutrient profile. Vitamin C and other vitamins? Check. Important minerals like manganese? Check. Fiber? Check. 

Blueberries also come loaded with phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, which provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Studies show that anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, protect your brain, help balance blood sugar levels, and even support a healthy weight.10 

Bonus points for choosing wild blueberries, which studies found have the highest antioxidant capacity of 20 fruits tested.11 

Recipe: Blueberry Power Muffins 

Detox Superfood #8: Artichokes 

Artichokes contain detox superstars like vitamin C and magnesium. Plus, one medium artichoke provides seven grams of fiber. But one compound, silymarin, really makes artichokes stand out in the detox echelon. 

“Artichokes are a liver-cleansing food [b]ecause this plant is a wonderful source of silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle,” writes Bowden. “Silymarin has a long and distinguished pedigree as a plant compound that helps protect and nourish the liver. And artichokes have plenty of it.”12 

You can enjoy artichokes hot or cold. Add them atop a salad, roast them as a side dish, or savor them in this dip recipe below. 

Recipe: Roasted Artichoke Dip 

Detox Superfood #9: Onions 

Researching the detox benefits of onions, I came across articles about the potential benefits of sleeping with onions on your feet and putting a raw onion in your sock. While I can’t attest to those benefits, I can confirm that the sulfur-containing compounds in onions support liver detoxification.  

Onions belong to the Allium family, which also includes garlic as well as shallots, leeks, and chives. They also contain over 25 different flavanols, including quercetin.  

Quercetin is an antioxidant, detox, and anti-inflammatory agent, which may help lower inflammation as well as reduce toxic effects,” says Alberto Boretti.13 

When you think about detoxification organs, you probably think liver or kidneys. But your gut is also a detoxification organ, and the right nutrient support can optimize its abilities. 

Raw onions contain prebiotic fibers, which support a healthy balance of the trillions of bacteria that your gut houses. Cooking onions lowers the amount of prebiotics, but still provides some. I recommend enjoying onions raw on top of salads, sautéed as a side dish or to top meal dishes, or in this delicious recipe below.  

Learn more about the benefits of prebiotic fiber here 

Recipe: Paleo Spaghetti Squash with Capers, Onions, and Bell Peppers 

Detox Superfood #10: Brussels Sprouts 

Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are sulfur-packed cruciferous vegetables that can help your liver detoxify.  

“Brussels sprouts are high in isothiocyanates and sulforaphane, which are compounds known to help fight cancer by inhibiting cell proliferation, neutralizing carcinogens, and helping to detoxify nasty environmental toxins,” according to Bowden. 

Brussels sprouts also contain impressive amounts of nutrients including vitamins C and K, along with fiber and even a little bit of protein.  

But I’ll be honest: Beyond their nutrient benefits, I’ve included Brussels sprouts because they taste so amazing. If your significant other or kids have ever balked at “Eat your vegetables,” the recipe below will quickly convert even the most veggie-phobic person at the table.  

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon 

Dr. Becky Campbell talks about how sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables can help you detoxify, plus she shares other strategies for detoxification in my What To Eat, When to Eat and Why Summit. This groundbreaking, informative, fun event happens September 12-18, 2022. Register for FREE here 

 

References: 

  1. Pizzorno, Joseph E. The Toxin Solution. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 
  2. Pizzorno J. Glutathione! Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb;13(1):8-12. PMID: 26770075; PMCID: PMC4684116. 
  3. Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):738-50. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.556759. PMID: 23638933; PMCID: PMC3664913. 
  4.  https://ail-echalote-certifie.org/en/history-health-benefits-garlic/ 
  5. Tapiero H, Townsend DM, Tew KD. Organosulfur compounds from alliaceae in the prevention of human pathologies. Biomed Pharmacother. 2004 Apr;58(3):183-93. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2004.01.004. PMID: 15164729; PMCID: PMC6361170. 
  6. Kianoush S, Balali-Mood M, Mousavi SR, Moradi V, Sadeghi M, Dadpour B, Rajabi O, Shakeri MT. Comparison of therapeutic effects of garlic and d-Penicillamine in patients with chronic occupational lead poisoning. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2012 May;110(5):476-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-7843.2011.00841.x. Epub 2011 Dec 29. PMID: 22151785. 
  7. Chen L, Mo H, Zhao L, Gao W, Wang S, Cromie MM, Lu C, Wang JS, Shen CL. Therapeutic properties of green tea against environmental insults. J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Feb;40:1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.05.005. Epub 2016 May 27. PMID: 27723473; PMCID: PMC5124528. 
  8. Sears ME. Chelation: harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification–a review. ScientificWorldJournal. 2013 Apr 18;2013:219840. doi: 10.1155/2013/219840. PMID: 23690738; PMCID: PMC3654245. 
  9.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/cilantro-can-remove-most-of-heavy-metals-from-your-body-in-less-than-2-months/photostory/68285600.cms#:~:text=03%2F7Cilantro%20works%20as%20a%20detoxifying%20agent&text=Chlorella%20with%20cilantro%20need%20to,the%20body%20within%2045%20days. 
  10. Kalt W, Cassidy A, Howard LR, Krikorian R, Stull AJ, Tremblay F, Zamora-Ros R. Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins. Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):224-236. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz065. PMID: 31329250; PMCID: PMC7442370. 
  11. Dinstel RR, Cascio J, Koukel S. The antioxidant level of Alaska's wild berries: high, higher and highest. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2013 Aug 5;72. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21188. PMID: 23977647; PMCID: PMC3751288. 
  12. Bowden, Jonny. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why (p. 19). Creative Publishing International. Kindle Edition. 
  13.  Boretti A. Quercetin Supplementation and COVID-19. Natural Product Communications. September 2021. doi:10.1177/1934578X211042763
     

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