A detox is typically characterized as a respite from your favourite foods, but it can also be a time to discover new foods and ways of enjoying them. Check out this list of detox-friendly foods and whether you’re detoxing or not, try adding a few of them to your diet today.
A detox favorite, garlic contains sulfur-containing compounds that may fight harmful bacteria and yeast in the intestines and boost the body’s ability to detox by increasing production of glutathione, which is needed for the elimination of certain toxins. The sulfur compounds, called allicin, are broken down in the body to allyl sulfides, which may guard against heart disease, certain types of cancer, arthritis and diabetes.
Garlic must be crushed or chopped in order to release the beneficial sulfur compounds. Try adding it to salad dressing or make a white bean or chickpea dip with white beans (or chickpeas), olive oil and lemon juice.
A dietary staple in many Asian countries, seaweeds-such as dulse, kelp, nori, wakame, agar, and kombu-are becoming popular here in North America. They are packed with minerals such as iodine, which aids in the production of thyroid hormone and regulates our metabolism, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The high mineral content can help to flush toxins from the body. Certain seaweeds, such as arame and hiziki have plenty of soluble fiber, which also promotes detoxification.
Kelp noodles have become popular, because they are gluten-free with almost no calories. Chopped dulse is good in salads and can also be added to sandwiches or rice or quinoa bowls. Nori can be cut into thin strips or crumbled on salads, rice, or soups. Try adding wakame, the seaweed used in miso soup, to soups.
Another way to enjoy seaweed: arame, mild-tasting seaweed, can be soaked, rinsed, drained and used raw. Try adding it to salads. Also look for seasonings made with dried, flaked seaweed such as kelp to use as a substitute for table salt or flavor enhancer.
One of the most potent detox foods around, lemons are packed with vitamin C and help restore the alkaline-acid balance of the body, enabling us to more effectively remove dietary and environmental toxins.
Add the juice of a quarter of a lemon to a glass of water and drink it first thing in the morning to alkalize the body and aid digestion. Also try using lemon juice instead of vinegar in a salad dressing. Keep some lemon wedges handy to squeeze into water or on top of steamed vegetables or meals to up flavor.
One of the more affordable detox foods, cabbage has cleansing properties due to their high content of glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that are converted into active forms isothiocyanates and indoles. Isothiocyanates may prevent cancer by promoting the elimination of potential carcinogens from the body. It is also high in vitamin K and C and ½ cup has only 11 calories.
The enzyme that converts glucosinolates into its active compounds is destroyed by heat, so try having cabbage raw in juices, smoothies or salads or eat it lightly cooked. Two fermented foods that are made with cabbage (which have the added benefit of probiotic bacteria) are sauerkraut and kim chi.
During the low-fat diet craze of the 1980s and 90s, avocados became an off-limits food because of their fat content. While they do contain a fair amount of fat, they are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which won’t interfere with the balance of omega-3 to -6 fatty acids in the diet.
Fat is essential during a detox diet, because it promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder, allowing for the elimination of toxins from the body and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Besides providing a desirable fat, avocados also contain vitamin E, folate, pantothenic acid and potassium. One half-cup of avocado has a whopping 8 grams of dietary fiber.
Another reason avocado is prized as a detox food is because it can be used as a substitute for many foods that are off limits during a detox, particularly milk and cream. Its natural rich and buttery texture adds creaminess to smoothies. Avocado can also be added to salads or made into a dip.
A true detox superfood, blueberries are packed with fiber and vitamin C, are low in calories (1/2 cup has 44 calories), and are one consistently ranked at the top when it comes to antioxidant capacity.
Blueberries get their blue color from antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins, which help protect cells from free radical damage, enhance glutathione production, and guard against heart disease, cataracts, glaucoma, peptic ulcers, Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, diabetes and certain cancers. Anthocyanins may also slow aging by reducing the breakdown of collagen and strengthening blood vessels and capillaries.
Try adding a handful to your cereal, salad or smoothie. In green smoothies, the dark blue pigment is great at masking the color of green vegetables.
A natural anti-inflammatory food, ginger helps to ease nausea, improve digestion, and promote detoxification by speeding the movement of food through the intestines, thanks to compounds called gingerols and shogaols. But wait, there’s more. Check out some fun facts about ginger.
Try making a pureed carrot ginger soup, adding freshly grated ginger to salad dressing, or juicing fresh ginger root along with vegetables.
Known primarily as a culinary herb, parsley contains vitamin C, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, vitamin K and folate, which are all needed by the body for detox. Parsley also raises glutathione levels and may guard against liver dysfunction due to insulin resistance.
Try chopping parsley and adding it to a salad or using it alongside or instead of basil in pesto. Parsley can also be added to juices or smoothies.
Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid that appears to improve how the body uses insulin, the hormone that helps remove sugar from our bloodstream. They also have soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps our body’s detoxification by promoting bowel regularity and helping the body to eliminate excess toxins, cholesterol and waste. Flaxseeds are also an excellent source of manganese.
You can buy ground flaxseeds in many grocery stores and health food stores, but for maximum freshness you can also grind them yourself in a coffee grinder. It’s ideal to grind the seeds as you need them, as grinding them shortens their shelf life. Sprinkle them on cereal, salads, yogurt and other dishes or add them whole to the blender when making smoothies.
Flaxseeds can also be used in baked goods. The seeds form a gel when combined with water, so they can be used to thicken soups or can be used as an egg replacement in some baked goods.
Fennel, a root vegetable with a licorice flavor, is low in calories and is a good source of folate, potassium and antioxidants such as anethole, a phytochemical which has been found to reduce inflammation. It is also mildly diuretic, which may help with the removal of toxic substances from the body Half a cup of raw fennel has only 14 calories.
Fennel bulb can be sliced thinly and added to salads or it can be juiced, along with apples, celery, carrots and pears. Fennel seeds have long been used as a remedy for bloating, flatulence, constipation and bad breath. Try fennel seed tea, or chew on some fennel seeds for fresh breath or to ease digestion