Have you ever thought about a detox? Maybe you’ve even tried a cleanse? While you feel great afterward, you may have noticed that the lost weight returns and that the light, healthy feeling diminishes quickly. While a good old gut cleansing detox can be a great way to reset your body, why not integrate detox foods into your daily diet to keep that wonderful feeling going?

Plant-based foods are naturally nutritious, low in calories, cholesterol, and carbs, and are generally chock-full of antioxidants and detoxifying agents. By integrating carefully curated detoxifying plant-based foods into your diet, you can keep your body maintained like a well-oiled machine, while also introducing new and diverse foods to your daily regimen!

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What does detox mean?  

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There are many names for this type of health hack. Detox and cleanse are the most popular in the western world, yet many cultures have used natural materials to clear the body for religious experiences such as cannabis — primarily used in ancient times on the Indian subcontinent, — ayahuasca — an entheogenic drink used as a “traditional spiritual medicine” among the “indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin,” — or the act of ritual purification — in which bodily fluids were drained as they were seen as “unclean”.

Detox and cleanse both refer to a broad range of methods that achieve one goal: to rid your body of unwanted toxins. Oftentimes, these practices aim at cleansing the entire body, yet there are specific detoxes that focus on specific organs such as the liver, colon, or gut. The human body is exposed to harmful toxins on a daily basis. They live within the air you breathe and the water you drink. Some of the most common devious agents include “pollutants, synthetic chemicals,” and heavy metals.

While there are many ways to detox, one of the most popular is through diet. Detox diets generally “involve a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices and water.” Most also include a mixture of special colon or digestive system clearing herbs and teas or supplements.

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Along with helping to reset your body to launch into a healthier diet or lifestyle shift, detox diets also claim to aid those with health issues including inflammation, allergies, bloating and digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, and even chronic fatigue. Detox diets have also been used to help drop a few pounds quickly in order to begin a weight management diet, especially useful for those suffering from obesity.

Inside Your Body’s Natural Detox Process

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Not all detoxes are created equal. Doctors and nutritionists recommend a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and grains. The key word here is balanced and this is exactly the opposite of most cleanses. In order to integrate detoxifying foods into your diet, it’s important to understand the science behind detox foods, as well as know why modern day commercial cleanses simply aren’t necessary and generally don’t work.

Through the metabolic process — referring to chemical reactions within cells that “provide energy for vital processes” — the human body naturally works to detox nasty toxins and chemicals on a daily basis. There are actually six organs that naturally detox your body: colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph, and skin. While the media refers to waste as “toxins” most of this is actually made up of metabolites, also referred to as xenobiotics. This waste is rid from your body in various ways: sweating through your skin, via the metabolic process of your kidneys, liver, and colon, and through breath, to name just a few.

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The Commercial Detox Myth

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From the soup cleanse to the juice cleanse to the herb cleanse, there are a plethora of commercially designed toxin-ridding detox methods to choose from! Yet, if plants are naturally detoxifying, then do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars employing these carefully designed programs?

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When seasoned science writer and educator Beth Skwarecki was interviewed by Life Hacker regarding the necessity of detoxes, she explained that “our bodies remove toxins on a daily basis thanks to the kidneys, lungs, and liver. The whole point of going to the bathroom is to flush out toxins!” On top of that, in 2009, Sense about Science dug deep into commercial detoxes and “found that none could name toxins, agree on a definition of detox, or supply any evidence for their claims.”

Yet, if you decide to take part in these popular detoxes, such as the juice cleanse, be prepared for varying results. You’ll most definitely lose weight, “but it’s because you’re not eating, not because your body is ‘detoxing’.” A large part of the weight loss is simply water weight and it will return forthright. Plus, these detoxes are void of all those wonderful macronutrients — protein, fat, and carbs — that aid in permanent weight loss, keep your digestive system running smooth, and provide much-needed energy to get through the day.

With all that said, the human body wasn’t designed to deal with the level of unprocessed foods and unnatural toxins that society has equipped our natural environment with. Therefore, while commercial detoxes and cleanses may not be necessary, giving your body an extra hand by integrating detox-friendly foods is a great idea!

5 Detoxifying Plant-Based Foods

Cleansing Detox Soup/One Green Planet

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Now that we know how the body naturally detoxifies and to avoid some of the commercial hoaxes, how do we go about giving our body a hand with the process? Look to integrate natural plant-based detoxifiers by targeting particular minerals, aiding your detox organs, and boosting the balance of your diet!

Sulfur-Rich Veggies

Nourishing Cauliflower Salad with Nuts and Seeds/One Green Planet

Instead of fixing the problem after it has occurred, why not try and prevent the issue from taking place? This is where sulfur-rich plant-based foods come in handy. Sulfur is an essential bodily mineral that protects the body against toxins, fights bacteria, is integral in developing connective tissue, and helps uphold the “structural integrity” of skin. Plant-based foods that are rich in sulfur include cruciferous veggies — broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, and bok choy — allium veggies — garlic, leeks, onions, and chives — and protein-dense foods — nuts and legumes. Try out a few sulfur-rich recipes such as this Nourishing Cauliflower Salad With Nuts and Seeds, this Roast Root Vegetable Stack With Dukkah, or this Lentil Cauliflower Sloppy Joe, which offers both cruciferous veggies and protein-rich legumes.

Color-Combination Recipes

Rainbow Salad/One Green Planet

Just because a recipe says detox doesn’t mean it actually does the trick. An easy way to know whether a recipe is truthful or not is by coloring. Plant-based detoxifying ingredients are generally vibrant in colors and, for the best system flush, you’ll want a varying amount. Integrating one or two of these colorful detox-friendly recipes into your week will give your body a helping hand when it comes to dumping toxins. This Rainbow Salad is sulfur-rich, plus it is filled with colorful nutrients such as avocado and carrots, or, during those cold winter months, you could try out this Cleansing Detox Soup, which is packed full of colorful spices (turmeric, cayenne, and cinnamon), as well as sulfur-rich veggies such as broccoli, carrots, and cabbage. 

Bitter and Sour

Iced Dandelion Latte/One Green Planet

When it comes to detoxification, focus on the organs that carry most of the load! The liver is one of the hardest working organs in the human body. Specifically, the liver is a champion at detoxifying the blood. In order to bolster the health of your liver to encourage healthy detoxification, try bitter herbs, such as dandelion — Iced Dandelion Latte — or yellow dock. Also, look to incorporate bitter or sour foods that “facilitate the body’s production of internal antioxidants,” such as green apples — Apple and Beet Salad with Candied Walnuts and Cashew Cheese — and lemon juice — Turmeric Glow Lemonade. 

Diuretics

Nettle Gnocchi with Dried Tomatoes and Spring Onions/One Green Planet

Second on the list of toxin fighters are your kidneys. Their role in the detox process is “to flush waste and toxins from your blood by turning it into urine after it’s cleaned by the liver.” Therefore, it’s important to drink an appropriate amount of water every day; if you’re detoxing, try to get at least two quarts, otherwise, it’s recommended to drink at least two liters which equal about eight glasses a day. If you’re looking for a little flavor you can also drink cranberry juice or juniper berry juice. Also, try to incorporate diuretic plant-based foods such as parsley — Parsley and Pepita Falafel Salad — cilantro — Cheesy Spinach and Cilantro Rice, nettle — Nettle Gnocchi With Dried Tomatoes and Spring Onions — and green tea — Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes.

Adaptogenic Herbs

Edamame Seaweed Salad/One Green Planet

Up next in the detox system are your lymph nodes, which play an integral role in keeping the human body free of toxins and chemicals. They are the security guards of the blood system by paralleling the red blood circulation and removing “products of infection, bacteria, virus, and other pathogens from the circulation.” When lymph nodes have dealt with an infection, they can oftentimes become swollen and require movement. Adaptogenic herbs promote this movement, keeping your security guards healthy and watchful. A few great adaptogenic herbs include Goldenseal, Echinacea, and Astragalus. You can also boost lymph health with detox herbs such as turmeric — Turmeric Polenta with Roasted Beets and Greens — seaweed — Edamame Seaweed Salad — and ginger — Carrot Ginger Soup with Curried Raisin Relish.

Looking to detox every day! We highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!