Your body has the natural ability to flush out toxins, but it can benefit from the support of detoxifying foods in your diet. So instead of turning detoxification into a form of punishment that leaves you hungry at the end of the day, why not promote gentle, daily cleansing—by eating more of these natural detox foods?
There’s an easy way to naturally cleanse your body. And luckily, it doesn’t involve making seventeen trips to the bathroom before you’ve had breakfast. Instead, Mother Nature has provided us with naturally detoxifying foods to help us efficiently eliminate toxins from our bodies. And you can eat them in abundance: no detox symptoms required.
Why Bother Detoxing?
Unless you live in a bubble, the sad truth is that you absorb health-damaging toxins through your bloodstream every single day.
These toxins rob you of your energy, deplete your immune system, and age you faster than you can blink. They also promote inflammation in the body, which is cited as the root cause of all illness and disease. When absorbed, toxins can form free radicals, which destroy healthy cells and increase your risk of cancer.
Many of the toxins we’re exposed to on a regular basis linger in our environment through the air we breathe and food we eat. Our food is heavily sprayed with pesticides. (And yes, even some organic crops are given a small “pesticide allowance.”) Our water supply is contaminated with toxic residue from pharmaceuticals, while plastic water bottles contain hormone-disrupting toxins (such as BPA), which leach into bottled water and get absorbed through your bloodstream.
Now, that’s not to mention the elaborate, disturbing list of carcinogenic chemicals found in everyday household cleaning products, body care products, cosmetics, and processed foods. And even if you were somehow able to avoid all of the substances listed above, your body naturally produces its own metabolic toxins.
As you can see, there’s no way to completely avoid toxins. And while your body is always capable of detoxifying from harmful substances, it never hurts to add naturally detoxifying foods to your diet. They support the cleansing process and help take the burden off your system.
That being said, here are the best naturally detoxifying foods you can eat every day—to up-level your health and prevent the soul-sucking symptoms that toxins can cause.
Sauerkraut isn’t just the hallmark condiment of hot dogs. In fact, sauerkraut (i.e., fermented cabbage) is one of the most powerful foods you can include in your diet each day for natural detoxification.
As a fermented food, sauerkraut contains beneficial bacteria (i.e., probiotics) that help promote bowel regularity, efficient digestion, and healthy-gut microbiome. Without a sufficient supply of healthy-gut bacteria, the small amount of “bad” bacteria that naturally exists in your digestive system can take over. An overgrowth of bad bacteria both impairs your body’s ability to detoxify and (in some cases) can produce their own toxins in your gut.
Probiotics have also been shown to eliminate and bind to heavy metals that we absorb from our environment, such as lead and cadmium.
Eating as little as ¼ cup of sauerkraut each day can help increase the amount of friendly bacteria in your gut and promote natural detoxification. If you’re not a fan of cabbage, other paleo-friendly fermented foods that contain probiotics include unsweetened coconut milk, unsweetened almond yogurt, coconut milk kefir, kimchi, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, and beet kvass.
Most of these fermented foods can be found at your local health food store, and sauerkraut is available at most grocery stores. It can easily be made at home with cabbage, salt, water, and a touch of patience (during the fermentation process). If you purchase sauerkraut, just be sure that you choose a variety that is unpasteurized. Otherwise, it won’t contain the beneficial bacteria.
Since your liver, kidneys, and gallbladder are three of the main organs involved in detoxification, it’s important to regularly eat foods that can help improve their natural functions. Dandelion greens and dandelion root are widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine—for promoting liver and gallbladder function, stimulating digestion, and relieving constipation. As a natural diuretic, dandelion also helps promote toxin elimination by increasing urine production.
Although further research is required to understand exactly how dandelion promotes detoxification, it’s a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C, which can help disarm the cell- damaging activity of free radicals.
Dandelion greens can be found at your local health food store, while dandelion root can be purchased as a tea, herbal tincture, or herbal supplement. It should be noted that while dandelion may have beneficial detoxification properties, it can negatively interact with prescription medications, and worsen existing kidney or gallbladder conditions. For this reason, it’s always best to check in with your healthcare practitioner before adding dandelion to your daily detox routine.
Eggs contain a nutrient called sulfur, which is a mineral found most abundantly in protein-rich foods. Sulfur is a key detoxification nutrient because it’s a component of glutathione, which helps support healthy liver function and detoxification.
When it comes to eggs, it’s always best to choose organic as often as possible. Factory-farmed animal products can often contain growth hormones and antibiotics, which only add to our existing toxic load.
4. Cruciferous Vegetables
It wouldn’t be fair to feature just one vegetable from the brassica family; they all have remarkable detoxification properties. The brassica family includes cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage.
Cruciferous vegetables are such powerful natural detoxifiers because they contain several compounds (including small amounts of sulfur), which assist the liver with both of the liver detoxification pathways (i.e., phase 1 and phase 2). Phase 1 of liver detox primarily detoxifies harmful substances found in food (such as caffeine, alcohol, certain saturated fats, and pesticides). Phase 2 of liver detox is primarily used to detoxify harsher chemicals, drugs, and pharmaceuticals.
Since cruciferous vegetables are extremely fibrous, the best way to absorb their detoxifying nutrients is by lightly steaming them. Then they’re easier to digest. The next time you make an egg recipe, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some broccoli and kale for an extra detoxifying boost.
Regardless of your stance on vampires, you won’t want to leave garlic out of your diet.
Garlic contains several detoxifying compounds, such as sulfur and a nutrient called allicin. Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic, which gives it all of its world-renowned health benefits, such as being a natural antimicrobial. This nutrient has also been shown to significantly enhance the antioxidant and detoxification activity of the liver in studies done on rats.
Chlorella is a single-celled green algae that’s been studied for its ability to act as a natural chelator. Chelation is a natural process that allows a food or substance to bind to toxins and safely remove them from the body, such as heavy metals. (It’s very similar to the way probiotics remove heavy metals from the digestive system.)
Chlorella can be taken as a capsule, tablet, or powder, and it makes an ideal superfood addition to any green smoothie. As with any other nutritional supplement, always check in with your healthcare practitioner before making any changes to your diet.
In the natural health world, drinking hot lemon water the first thing in the morning is one of the most common nutrition tips you’ll hear. But the detoxifying benefits of lemon aren’t just a myth.
The citric acid in lemon is said to help stimulate stomach-acid production, which improves digestive function and the proper elimination of toxins. In addition, the vitamin C found in lemon acts is a natural antioxidant, especially because it activates ascorbate peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme.
The beauty of lemons is that they’re incredibly versatile in recipes, which makes it easy to add them to your daily diet. From homemade salad dressings to smoothies, curries, and Paleo baking recipes, lemons are more than just a tangy way to jazz up your water (although that works too).
In recent years, turmeric has become well-known as a superfood. But it’s a spice that has actually been used in Ayurveda (a traditional Indian medicine) for thousands of years—for its ability to help reduce the inflammation that can be caused by toxins (such as heavy metals). It also assists with liver detoxification. The reason why turmeric is said to be so beneficial for health is the active antioxidant ingredient it contains: curcumin.
Turmeric isn’t just limited to curry recipes, though. It blends well in smoothies and makes for delicious turmeric drinks when paired with ingredients such as pineapple, carrots, and lemon. And it is also a star ingredient in a popular, homemade, anti-inflammatory health bevy called Golden Milk—which combines freshly grated turmeric with warm coconut milk, a pinch of black pepper, and fresh-grated ginger.
You can add turmeric to your diet in powdered form, or in its whole form as a root—which looks very similar to ginger.
9. Nuts and Seeds
Just like the cruciferous vegetables in the brassica family, it’s not fair to pick favorites when it comes to nuts and seeds. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax, walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, and pine nuts all contain nutrients (such as omega 3 essential fatty acids, which promote liver health and help the body maintain healthy cells). All nuts also contain vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin that helps protect the body against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
As a quick side note, peanuts didn’t receive an honorable mention in this list of detoxifying nuts because they’re actually considered a legume (not a nut). And as you may already know, legumes aren’t recommended on Paleo diets due to their high levels of phytic acid, which can make them difficult to digest.
10. Wild Salmon
As mentioned above, omega 3 essential fatty acids are an important nutrient for liver health— because they can help reduce inflammation of the liver, which is caused by toxins (such as alcohol). Wild-caught salmon is richer in omega 3 essential fatty acids than most nuts and seeds, which makes it an ideal food to include in your regular diet to promote detoxification.
Whenever possible, it’s always recommended that you choose wild salmon over farmed salmon. The latter is genetically modified, which may have toxic effects on the body—in addition to the possibility of containing high levels of toxins, hormones, and antibiotics.
As you can see, detoxification doesn’t have to be an unpleasant process that leaves you feeling tired, nauseous, and grumpy at the end of the day. By regularly incorporating detoxifying foods into your diet through delicious recipes, you’ll help further support your body’s natural ability to eliminate toxins. And no pain or deprivation is required.