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Toxins from environmental pollutants, including heavy metals such as lead, can accumulate in the body. These pollutants are linked to the development of chronic illnesses including obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, and respiratory diseases. (1)
Recently, “detox diets” have become all the rage and are being promoted for their ability to eliminate toxins from the body and aid in weight loss. Though there is a lack of evidence supporting the claims of these diets, certain foods have been known to influence the removal of these toxins. (1)
The process of this removal of toxins is called “detoxification.” While the liver and kidney function as the main sites for detoxification in the body, some foods and nutrients can also help. (2)
Top Foods That Aid Detoxification
Some foods that help in the removal of toxins are:
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is certainly true. Packed with nutrients, this humble fruit can also aid in the detoxification of the body through its quercetin content. (2)
Quercetin can enhance the activity of detoxification enzymes and bring about cell death of unhealthy or cancerous cells. (3)
A recent study that evaluated the efficacy of certain foods and their detoxification abilities found that consumption of apple juice provided 97 mg of quercetin, which reduced the oxidative damage to DNA that is brought about by toxins in the body. (4)
Consuming one apple each day as part of a healthy diet can help the body detoxify itself.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain many bioactive compounds, one of them being sulforaphanes. Studies have found sulforaphanes to have anticarcinogenic effects in the body. (2)
In test-tube and animal studies, sulforaphanes have been found to have a protective role against cancer-causing substances, free radicals, and toxins. (5)
Although specific human trials on this topic are lacking, including cruciferous vegetables in a healthy diet can be beneficial.
Grapes are tiny but pack a nutritional punch.
Consumption of grapes has been linked to a lowered risk of heart diseases and certain types of cancer. Rich in anthocyanins, flavonoids, flavanols, and resveratrol, they can reduce inflammation. Grape juice also protects the body against damage caused by copper, which is a heavy metal. (6)
In addition, animal studies have reported that the proanthocyanidins extracted from grape seeds can aid the liver in detoxification and prevention of oxidative damage due to dietary fat. (7)
Grapefruit contains several bioactive compounds including flavonoids, alkaloids, limonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids that are important to human health and play antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer roles. (8)
However, grapefruit juice can inhibit the activity of an enzyme responsible for the clearance and removal of medicinal drugs from the body. (2) Therefore, it is better to avoid consuming grapefruit or its juice when taking medications for acute illnesses.
Phenolic compounds present in berries can detoxify free radicals and nitrogen species that can cause damage to DNA and can also lead to cancer. (9)
Beetroot is a particularly abundant source of nitrate, which is beneficial in lowering high blood pressure. The bioactive compounds present in beetroot also play anti-inflammatory roles. (10)
In animal studies, rats fed with beetroot juice had improved functioning of detoxifying enzymes. (10)
7. Green tea
Green tea is a popular health beverage consumed worldwide. It contains polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epicatechin gallate (ECG), epicatechin (EC), and epigallocatechin (EGC). (11)
All these bioactive compounds increase the amount of antioxidants in the blood, remove free radicals from the body, and help in reducing the cancer-causing effects of toxins. Their activities offer protection against the side effects and toxicity associated with toxicants including pesticides, smoke, and arsenic. (11)
Curcumin can particularly aid in detoxifying enzymes in the liver and protects the organ against damage. (12)
Studies have reported that curcumin protects the liver against aflatoxins, mercury, and other heavy metals including copper, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and chromium. (12)
Allicin plays a protective role in the liver and increases the organ’s antioxidant and detoxifying capacity by improving the activity of enzymes involved in detoxification. (13)
It also interacts with cells in the body to stop the formation of cancer cells or cause their death. (13)
10. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is used by many due to its various health benefits. Packed with lauric acid, coconut oil can reduce inflammation in the brain and nerves. (14)
Inflammation of the nerves due to foreign substances or toxins can lead to degeneration and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. (14) Therefore, including coconut oil as part of a healthy well-balanced diet can aid in removing toxins that cause inflammation and damage.
Tips to Aid Detoxification
Being mindful of your diet is important when it comes to clearing the body of toxic substances, but there are also other things you can do to steer clear of foreign substances that can damage the body. (15)
- Limit consumption of processed foods. Instead, choose whole grains and natural foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Go organic. Organic agriculture uses natural methods to fertilize the soil and control pests. Organically grown foods are the best choice, especially for produce with thin peels, such as apples, berries, and pears.
- Where possible, make use of glass containers for storage and microwaving. Foods, especially fatty foods, can easily absorb chemicals that may leach from plastics and can then enter your body. Make sure you store your food containers away from chemical products such as surface or household cleaners.
Precautions to Consider
The body has several pathways by which it eliminates toxins and protects the body. Foods like those mentioned in this article can assist in some of these pathways by improving the activity of detoxifying enzymes.
However, certain precautions need to be practiced:
- Some foods can interact with enzymes that promote the removal of medicinal drugs and should not be overconsumed.
- Food and medication can have interactions; it is important to speak to your doctor before consuming any foods to manage illnesses.
- Natural foods when consumed in their recommended amounts are often safe, except in the case of allergies, and can be included in a well-balanced diet to manage health.
Most-Asked Questions About Foods That Aid Detoxification
Can I consume fruit juices for detoxification?
Juices can be effective in promoting the activity of detoxifying enzymes. However, caution must be practiced not to overconsume these juices.
Can essential oils help in detoxification?
Lemon, lavender, grapefruit, peppermint, orange, and a few other essential oils are promoted for their detoxification abilities. These oils do contain some active compounds and can be safely used in aromatherapy. (16)
Does coriander help in detoxification?
Studies have found lead, a heavy metal, to cause considerable changes in the brain. Coriander has the ability to bind this heavy metal and correct the damage done to the brain. (17)
It can also aid in detoxifying the body of insecticides and pesticides that may be present on the skin of fruits or vegetables.
Toxins such as heavy metals, pollutants, chemicals, and pesticides can cause damage to the body. This damage can result in illnesses including cancer.
The liver and kidneys are primarily responsible for protecting the body against these toxins, but some foods and nutrients can also assist these organs and the body’s mechanism to remove these toxins and improve overall health.
It is important to exercise caution when consuming such foods, as some of their components can also interact with and inhibit some enzymes.