Detox Diet: Fact or Fiction

by Okanagan Nutrition

The term “detox” remains one of the most controversial topics in nutrition.

Part of the reason is that the term has been so overused by the media and non-evidenced based practitioners.

When you hear the word detox, what do you think of?

The quick fix, over the counter, non-evidenced based, celebrity endorsed fad diet?

My point exactly.  

Our bodies are constantly taking care of us, sweeping up after our over-indulgences and dealing with the myriad of toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Thank goodness, because if it weren’t for your liver, lungs or kidneys working to detoxify your body 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you’d be in very, very big trouble.

So if our body is already working overtime to get rid of all of the waste, does it really need help to flush out toxins?

There is emerging evidence to support the notion that what we eat effects the efficiency of our body’s detoxification processes and as a functional nutrition practitioner, I too recognize that we can eat in a way that supports our bodies natural detoxification channels.

I’ll give you one guess as to what foods can help aid in optimizing these processes …  

If you guessed plants, you’re right!

Are we really that surprised?

So what can we eat more of to oil and fuel the well-designed detoxification machine known as our body?

1. Fibre

The more we learn about the gut, the more we are coming to understand just what a huge role it plays in our over health. Many of the byproducts of our body’s metabolic processes are eliminated via your gut (aka your poop) – so it’s important that we keep things moving along, if you know what I mean.

2. Fruits & Vegetables

Not only do fruits and vegetables have vitamins and minerals that are directly involved in detoxification pathways, they are also rich sources of antioxidants! Antioxidants are important in helping protect our cells from damage than can occur when exposed to toxins. Some of the most potent foods in this category include (but are not limited) to the following:  

  • Cruciferous Vegetables
    • Broccoli + broccoli sprouts
    • Cauliflower
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cabbage
    • Bok choy
    • Garden cress
  • Leafy Greens/Herbs
    • Arugula
    • Parsley
    • Spinach
    • Cilantro
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Beets (and beet greens)

3. Quality Protein

There are 2 phases of detoxification in the liver. Phase II takes Phase I products and transforms them into a form that can be excreted from the body and to do this, you need adequate protein! To read more about getting enough protein on a plant-based diet, click here.

4. Spices

Get more antioxidants in a pinch, literally! When we talk about eating more plants, we are also talking about spices. We need to eat antioxidant rich food daily to help protect our cells from both the toxins we are exposed to in our environment and those that we naturally produce through metabolism and our bodies own detoxification pathways.

5. Water

Your kidneys work hard to filter out waste your body wants to get rid of. Adequate hydration plays an important role in eliminating toxins from the body, through both urine and sweat – those frequent bathroom breaks can actually be a good thing, so drink up!

Can I just take an antioxidant supplement?

Generally, no. Antioxidants in whole foods don’t work alone.

Instead they hustle alongside literally THOUSANDS of other nutrients to work their magic. Some high dose antioxidants, like vitamin E for example, can even have negative health impacts.

The Bottom Line

I know it can sound enticing to start one of the many “feel better quick” detox schemes, they’re rampant in today’s day and age. But before you whip out your credit card, know that these diets will likely just end up taking your money while leaving you feeling deprived, hungry and with no long-term health benefits. 

Instead, focus on incorporating nutrient dense, whole foods into your diet while eliminating as many overly processed foods as you can. Adopting these healthier habits will leave you feeling healthier and happier, guaranteed. 

To learn more about how you can better support your bodies detoxification – consult your dietitian!

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