Over the years, we have seen our fair share of detox waters, teas, diets, and pills. Aimed to help the body rid itself of toxins, things that claim to detox our bodies are appealing to those who want to live a “cleaner” lifestyle.
A detox diet, often simply termed “detox,” refers to a short-term dietary intervention designed to eliminate toxins from the body. A detox can include a period of fasting, followed by a rigorous diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, and water. Some detox diets also incorporate teas, supplements, and cleanses to aid the detoxification process. The primary objective of detoxing is to stimulate the liver to drive toxins out of the body, improve circulation, and provide essential nutrients for overall health.
While these diets may sound appealing, the truth is that our bodies are remarkably equipped with a natural detoxification system that includes organs like the liver, kidneys, skin, and digestive system, raising the question of whether detox diets are worth doing. The liver, often referred to as the body’s detox organ, filters the blood to purify it from substances such as toxins and transforms them into waste products, which are then excreted through urine or stools. Kidneys help filter out waste from the blood and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in our bloodstream.
Yet, while there aren’t any foods that will magically detoxify your body from toxins, there are some things you can eat that may support your body’s ability to rid itself of them. “While ‘detoxification’ can be a polarizing word, from a science-based perspective, detoxification—which happens primarily in the liver—is a process that requires many nutrients to function properly,” shares Melissa Azzaro, RD, registered dietitian and author of A Balanced Approach to PCOS Cookbook.
Going on a strict “detox diet” hardly seems necessary, based on the medical literature. However, including some foods that support your body’s ability to naturally detoxify may offer some benefits. If you are on the hunt to include more foods that support your body’s natural detoxification process, here are 10 that are worth exploring.
Ideally, you will eat these foods while limiting dietary additions that can be considered “toxins,” like alcohol and food with high pesticide residue. Read on, and for more healthy eating tips, check out the 10 Foods That Will Completely Turn Your Health Around in 2024.
Azzaro highlights citrus fruits and their zest, especially grapefruit, as foods that may help support your body’s detoxification ability. They are rich in vitamin C, a vital micronutrient that enhances the body’s natural detoxification processes. Vitamin C is integral to producing glutathione, a compound that aids in the liver’s detoxification pathways.
These fruits also contain high amounts of water, which helps hydrate the body and promote the elimination of waste products. The flavonoids in citrus fruits can protect the liver, boosting its function and health.
Azzaro cautions that people should “use caution with grapefruit, as it interacts with many medications due to its effects on liver enzymes.”
“Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, arugula, and radishes) support detoxification because they’re high in sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, as well as in fiber and other antioxidants, which support multiple phases of detoxification,” says Azzaro.
Sulforaphane is a compound that helps support an important phase of the body’s natural detoxification process (phase 2). Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a plant compound that is converted in the stomach to several compounds, including diindolylmethane (DIM). Both I3C and DIM are antioxidants and stimulators of natural detoxifying enzymes in the body.
Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress, while fiber helps move waste through the digestive system.
“Berries are another high-antioxidant, high-fiber category of foods that support detoxification, with blueberries and pomegranate topping the list,” Azzaro shares.