People often think of detoxing as torturous starvation relying solely on fasting, juices or raw foods to purge the body of dietary and lifestyle sins. But the good news is that our bodies are very well equipped with a number of organs that do a particularly good job of removing toxins themselves: liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and bowels.
However, there are certain foods that help these detoxification organs along, stimulating enzymes and chemical processes to help make sure that everything is working tip top and that we feel refreshed, vibrant and healthy both inside and out. We’ve selected our favourite nutritional gems below.
No health regime would be complete without including this powerful family of vegetables. We’re talking broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard, chard and watercress. Cruciferous veg help your liver to remove harmful toxins and they’re packed full of nutrients (kale has twice the vitamin C of oranges!) that all help ensure our organs have enough supplies to work efficiently.
Preparation: to benefit most, buy whole leaves, remove tough stems and chop yourself, around 10 minutes before using. This activates an enzyme that converts certain nutrients to super-powerful and protective ones. Adding a sprinkling of citrus juice at this stage helps the conversion. Some of the benefits are lost in cooking so eat cruciferous veg raw when possible – as crudités, massaging kale and adding to salads, in smoothies and juices. If you are cooking them, lightly steam for no more than 5 minutes to preserve as many nutrients as possible.
A great tonic for the liver as it stimulates the detoxification process. Not only does beetroot directly help the liver, it is also packed full of fibre which helps flush any toxins out of the body.
Preparation: we like to grate beetroot into salads, add to smoothies or juices (it blends remarkably well in a nutribullet) or steam or roast until soft. Our beetroot dip is a surefire way to give your liver a little boost.
This powerful little bulb is one of the most detoxing foods around plus, being antimicrobial, it supports the immune system. Garlic works by helping to stimulate the liver into producing enzymes for detoxification as it’s rich in sulphur, vital for the liver to efficiently remove toxins. Aim for around a clove a day (preferably raw).
Preparation: you need to crush garlic to release its powerful compound called allicin. It’s important to crush (or finely chop) at least 10 minutes before using as this allows the garlic to produce the maximum amount of allicin. This in turn means that some is retained in cooking as heat deactivates most of the allicin.
Globe artichokes are an amazing food, packed with antioxidants and B vitamins. They help to promote the flow of bile, important for the digestion of fats as well as for flushing toxins out of the body. A particularly useful role that artichokes can play in detoxification is that they help to protect liver cells from damage.
Preparation: life is too short to regularly eat fresh artichokes (and anyway they’re hard to find when not in season) but the nutritious attributes are also found in the jars of artichoke hearts that are readily available. We like to add them to salads and make liver-protective dips.
Our clients often avoid nuts as they think they’ll be fattening, but research shows that people who regularly eat nuts actually have smaller waist sizes. This is because they contain healthy fats that boost metabolism and help the liver work efficiently. Add to this their great protein profile that’s also vital to the detoxification process and they’ve more than earned a place on this list. It’s good to eat a variety as they all contain different nutrients and amounts of fibre, with chia and flax seeds being especially fibre-rich.
Preparation: it’s best to eat nuts in their natural state, roasting nuts and seeds at high temperatures can destroy many of the fragile fats and nutrients. If you are using nuts in cooking, keep the temperature as low as possible to protect the nutrients. If you have the time, you could try activating your nuts to really maximize the nutritional benefits.
Herbs and spices
We could have written a whole list just on the benefits of herbs and spices. Through various actions, they can have an incredible impact on liver detoxification and function. The main ‘medicinal’ ones to concentrate on for cleansing are ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, fennel and parsley.
Preparation: ideally look for fresh herbs and spices although many studies have shown that the dried/powdered varieties are almost just as good. Just adding a little to food and drinks can have an amazing impact. For example, adding a couple of slices of ginger to hot water and drinking as a tea is an easy way to reap the benefits of this amazing spice. Or take it a step further with our deliciously comforting turmeric tea.
Coriander (which can help remover heavy metals from the body) can be sprinkled liberally on soups, curries or in salads and our tabbouleh makes use of herbs, spices plus a number of other ingredients on this list making it a perfect detoxifying meal.
Let us know your favourite foods for detoxing and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to keep up with the latest nutrition news, healthy recipes and articles written by your Nutritional Therapists Emma and Caroline.