“Detox” is a term that wellness influencers and food manufacturers love to throw around.
Detox salads? Check. Detox juices? Check. Detox meal delivery programs that cost more than your car payment? CHECK. Here’s the lowdown on whether you should throw down the $$$ for detoxing foods.
Detoxing foods 101
Can you use foods for detoxifying?
You don’t need to take special supplements or eat specific foods to detox your body. You have organs (like your liver) that are specifically designed to remove toxins.
But some foods are important components of a balanced diet that will help keep your detoxification system healthy.
What are the best detoxing foods?
There aren’t specific “detoxing foods,” but food is important to your natural detoxification systems.
Some foods, such as these, contain enzymes involved in detoxification:
How can you detox your body?
In addition to eating a balanced diet, you can support your body’s natural detoxification systems by:
Take a minute to appreciate just how amazing your bod actually is. You prob get exposed to toxic stuff a lot: air pollution, medication, mimosas. Your body works hard to get rid of all these toxins. It detoxes you. (If only it worked on exes.)
Your body’s detoxification system involves multiple organs, including your liver, kidneys, lungs, and intestines. Enzymes found in these areas break down and neutralize toxins. Then, they help you excrete those toxins through your pee, poop, and sweat.
“Detoxing foods” can’t replace your natural systems
Unless you have a medical condition that affects this detoxification system, your body most likely has you covered (even if you’re not living your healthiest life).
And if your body does have issues detoxing itself, that’s not something a kale salad can fix.
For example, most of your body’s detoxification processes take place in the cells of your liver. Folks with liver disease could experience the buildup of circulating toxins such as ammonia. Sometimes doctors will recommend strategies like avoiding alcohol or losing weight, but serious cases can require medication and surgery.
Building healthy habits can support these systems
Habits like smoking, misusing drugs and alcohol, and eating lots of ultra-processed foods can overwhelm your body to some extent, which is why these habits have been linked to an increased risk of some health conditions or even death.
The bottom line? It’s your diet and lifestyle as a whole, not individual foods, that can make a big difference in your detoxification system.
OK, now that you understand food isn’t a cure-all for detoxing your bod, here’s how to choose foods that can support your natural systems.
Eat foods that promote detox-friendly enzymes
Detoxification involves certain types of enzymes. Some research suggests that foods and other compounds may help support these enzymes.
Cruciferous veggies (like broccoli and cauliflower), citrus fruits, and resveratrol (a compound found in red grapes and berries) have been shown to induce UGT enzymes. These play an important role in eliminating toxins from your body through your pee and poop.
Do what’s right for *your* body
A bunch of nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, can help keep your body (including the many parts and pathways involved in detoxification) working at its best.
But lots of factors, including your age and sex, affect how your body responds to various foods and nutrients. Whatworks for other people might not work the same way for you.
There’s no evidence that any one food or group of foods can magically eliminate all toxins from your bod. (That’s impossible, BTW.) Research does suggest that a healthy diet can keep your natural detoxification system in great shape, though.
And there are plenty of other #evidence-based tips on how to support your overall health and your body’s natural detoxification pathways:
- Load up on fruits and veggies. Not only is a diet rich in fruits and veggies associated with benefits like reduced disease risk and a healthy body weight, but fruits and veggies also contain nutrients and compounds that help support detoxification pathways.
- Eat enough protein. Interestingly, some eating plans advertised as supporting detoxification are lacking in protein, a nutrient necessary for the enzymatic reactions crucial to detoxification. Just say no to juice cleanses.
- Limit or avoid smoking, drinking, and drugs. Avoiding tobacco products, excessive drinking, and other drug use when possible can help you stay healthy and support the organs involved in detoxification.
- Move your body. Exercise = sweat, and sweating is important for detoxification. Some research suggests that exercise can help cells detoxify harmful compounds more effectively.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Some toxins, including persistent organic pollutants, accumulate in fat tissue. Losing excess body fat may help with detoxification and reduce oxidative stress.
- Work on your gut health. Detoxification enzymes reside in your intestines. Eating plenty of fiber, limiting ultra-processed foods, and managing stress can help you maintain a healthy gut.
- Sweat it out. There’s some promising research on saunas and detoxification. Studies suggest that regular sauna use may enhance the excretion of toxicants through sweat.
- Stay hydrated. In case you needed another reason to drink that water: Staying hydrated is super important for the detoxification process, including digestion and the functioning of enzymes involved in detoxification.
- Try out fasting. Fasting triggers the production of detoxification enzymes and helps cells clean out old material, which helps them stay healthy and function at their best. But it’s def not necessary to fast to support detoxification. If you want to try it out, start with a mellow type of IF like the 16:8 method.
Even though it may be super tempting to try out a powder, supplement, or cleanse that comes with claims of “detoxing” your bod, there’s no evidence that any diet or specific supplement is more effective than a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet and an overall healthy lifestyle.
Why it might seem like a detox diet is “working”
If your typical diet consists of ultra-processed foods, sugary sodas, and lots of cocktails, doing a 10-day “detox” diet that’s rich in fruits and veggies will prob have you feeling like a new person.
But consistency is really what your bod craves. A 10-day “detox” isn’t doing much for your overall health if you go right back to your old ways on day 11.
Nourishing your body with healthy foods and exercising on the reg are the best ways to support your detoxification system. (But limiting your exposure to toxins like tobacco products and alcohol is also helpful.)
Unless you have a medical condition that affects your natural detoxification system, your body already has you covered. And even if you do live with one of those condition (such as liver disease), it’s best to work with a doctor for treatment.
Don’t get caught up in the “detox” hype.
Do this: Follow a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of nutrient-dense foods and limit your exposure to toxicants (like cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs). This can absolutely involve eating certain foods that may help support detoxification enzymes, such as cruciferous veggies, citrus fruits, fish, and garlic.
Not this: Buy a $400 weeklong detox meal delivery service.