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10 Best Foods To Support a Healthy Detox, According to a Dietitian – Health.com

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Detoxification refers to eliminating harmful toxins from the body, essentially giving it a clean-up. Some individuals may consider exploring a detox or cleansing diet to remove toxins from their body and shed pounds or boost overall health. These regimens can take many forms, from consuming only liquids or certain foods to fasting and using supplements.

Research indicates, however, that many detox diets lack nutrients and may not be as effective as claimed. The National Institutes of Health highlights a lack of high-quality studies on detox diets. Concerningly, some products marketed for detoxification have been flagged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for containing harmful substances or making false promises.

Although your body is equipped with efficient detox systems, primarily the liver and kidneys, you can support your body’s natural detox processes and overall health by adding these foods to your diet.

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Human studies show that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower can trigger CYP1, enzymes that help break down procarcinogens (substances with carcinogen potential) and medications. These vegetables can also support the role of glutathione, a natural antioxidant in the body that regulates the immune system and improves detoxification. Notably, cruciferous vegetables are the primary dietary source of glucosinolates, a class of phytochemicals or health-promoting plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

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Berries demonstrate the potential to reduce the overactivity of the CYP1 enzyme. When CYP1 enzymes are overworked without sufficient support in the second phase of detoxification, it can worsen the effects of environmental procarcinogens. Berries are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals like flavonoids and exert protective effects against inflammatory conditions, heart disease, and various cancers. Specifically, in blueberries, these phytochemicals have been found in animal studies to control Nrf2, a crucial protein that oversees the body’s antioxidant and detox systems.

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Garlic contains components, namely sulfur-containing compounds, that have garnered much interest in research for their antioxidant activity and cancer-fighting effects. Along with onions and chives, garlic belongs to the allium vegetable group. These vegetables can also trigger enzymes that help with detoxification, along with the Nrf2 pathway.

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Research suggests that green tea can activate the Nrf2 pathway involved in clearing toxins. Caffeine and compounds in green tea called catechins are thought to be responsible for this. Additionally, the catechins found in green tea, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), have attracted significant attention in research due to their potential to combat inflammation and cancer.

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Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is commonly used in culinary dishes, particularly as a spice and ingredient in curry powder. In traditional medicine, turmeric is used to treat various conditions including joint and digestive disorders. Turmeric may enhance detoxification by supporting the role of glutathione and the Nrf2 pathway. Curcumin, a major component in turmeric, plays a role in this.

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Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and tangerines are good sources of vitamin C and folate, vitamins that support the immune system. Vitamin C and polyphenols (beneficial plant compounds) in citrus fruits can reduce inflammation.

In human research, citrus fruits appear to demonstrate the ability to prompt the enzymes UDP-Glucuronosyltransferases (UGT) enzymes, which are important for helping the body get rid of certain toxins through urine and feces. However, grapefruit seems to slow down enzymes that help with detoxification.

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Ginger has compounds like 6-shoagol that might help ease inflammation, based on research in animals and humans. It’s also being studied for its potential to relieve nausea and vomiting. In animal studies, 6-shogaol and ginger extract seem to help activate the Nrf2 pathway, which controls antioxidant and detox activities.

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Rosemary is an herb native to the Mediterranean region. It’s rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and may lower inflammation in the gut, according to animal studies. Animal research suggests rosemary demonstrates the ability to prompt the activity of enzymes involved in detoxification.

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Grapes, wine, soy, and peanuts all contain resveratrol, a type of polyphenol (beneficial plant compound). Resveratrol might have beneficial effects on the body such as expanding blood vessels, reducing blood clotting, and decreasing pain and swelling. According to human research, resveratrol can activate the CYP1 enzymes involved in detoxification. They can also prompt the activity of GST enzymes that attach glutathione to toxins and assist in their elimination. It may also prompt the Nrf2 pathway that controls the body’s defense and detox mechanisms.

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Lycopene, a compound that gives foods like tomatoes, guava, and watermelon their red color, may also trigger the Nrf2 pathway, according to human research. Lycopene has high antioxidant potential, among the highest in a group of plant pigments called carotenoids. According to research, lycopene may have protective effects against conditions such as cancer, particularly prostate cancer, and heart and liver diseases.

Toxins are made in the body during metabolism and come from outside sources like what you put in your body, breathe in, and absorb through the skin. The body naturally detoxifies itself through urine, feces, respiration, or sweat.

While detox diets are popular, they aren’t widely supported by research or health experts, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Many of these diets drastically restrict food choices, potentially depriving you of essential nutrients, or involve fasting, which could hinder your body’s natural detox processes. Some suggest cutting out processed foods or avoiding certain foods like dairy and gluten. However, many self-proclaimed detox experts lack proper credentials. If you suspect food sensitivities or issues with your body’s detox system, it’s best to consult a qualified healthcare provider.

Detoxing doesn’t have to involve extreme diet changes. You can start by incorporating more of the health-promoting foods, herbs, and spices mentioned above. However, understand that nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds support overall health including the body’s detox systems due to their fiber content. Fiber is essential for maintaining bowel regularity.

Optimal protein intake is also crucial for maintaining adequate glutathione levels, an important detox enzyme. Also consider including fermented foods like kefir and yogurt, which can support gut health. And remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

It’s important to recognize that our bodies are already equipped with natural detoxification systems, primarily through the liver, kidneys, and other organs. While the idea of a special detox diet may seem enticing, it often involves severe dietary restrictions that can be both unhealthy and unsustainable in the long term. Instead, focus on consuming a balanced diet rich in fiber, lean protein, and hydrating fluids to naturally support the body’s detox mechanisms. By embracing a holistic approach to detoxing, you can nourish your body and promote overall health without resorting to extreme measures.

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