Whether or not you realize it, your body is naturally detoxing all the time, without any nudging—and not just when it’s sweating out the remnants of Tequila Tuesday during a brutal Wednesday-morning workout.
You have many detoxification systems that recruit various organs, including your skin, lymph nodes, brain, kidneys, and liver. (For a primer on the two-step detox process, read this.)
When Your Detox System Needs A Jumpstart
Even though detoxing happens naturally, there are times when you can benefit from helping it along, such as after the aforementioned night of boozing or when you need a reset after indulging in too many sugary or processed foods. It’s also a good idea to encourage your body to remove the environmental toxins (pesticides, household chemicals) we touch, inhale and ingest on a daily basis and that accumulate in our tissues and cells.
Alarmingly, as one study indicated, many of these toxins have demonstrated harmful effects, including cancer, reproductive, metabolic, and mental health effects.
Signs your detox system may need a helping hand: You’re experiencing digestive issues, headaches, skin problems, mood swings, brain fog, nausea, and fatigue. Whatever you do, don’t resort to these detoxing methods.
Instead, try the following foods to help support your inborn clean-up crews:
Leading medical herbalist Daniela Turley, founder of Urban Healing, notes that artichokes “stimulate the function of the liver so they are hepatoprotective and enhance the production of bile.” These actions have been widely studied, and “artichoke leaf extract is a registered medicine in Europe,” says Turley, who recommends artichoke leaf tea as a convenient way to incorporate the benefits into your diet.
Find more detoxifying teas here.
In Ayurveda, sipping warm lemon water in the morning helps jump-start your “agni,” or your digestive fire—and that “heat” is thought to be purifying. Lemons are also a good source of vitamin C, which can help the body protect itself from damaging free radicals.
For 20 amazing ways to use lemons (beyond just upgrading your water), read this.
Ginger is an age-old treatment for digestive health. “The most pharmacologically active compound in ginger is called gingerol, which favorably impacts the gastrointestinal tract,” Ali Webster, Ph.D., RD, a registered dietitian, once told Eat This, Not That!. Ginger’s high level of antioxidants also help kidney function, aiding in the detox process.
Cucumbers are not only packed with a plethora of vitamins and nutrients, but they’re made up of about 96% water, making them a great way to hydrate while snacking. Because dehydration can cause constipation, cucumbers help support regularity with their high water content and levels of pectin (a soluble fiber).
While you may consider dandelions a pesky weed (you’re not wrong), they’re also incredibly nutritious, with a long history in traditional herbal medicine. Besides being packed with vitamins and inflammation-fighting antioxidants, dandelion greens may help protect the liver from toxic substances and stress. Plus, they’re a natural diuretic so they’ll help flush out excess fluids.
Though they are among the most underrated salad greens, you can find them in Mediterranean restaurants, and you can find them as detoxifying teas, too.
Coffee-lovers rejoice! This beloved beverage is one of the best drinks for liver health. Numerous studies have shown that coffee can lower the risk of cirrhosis and of developing liver cancer. This may be in part because coffee helps prevent fat from building up around the liver.
If you’re looking for a stellar cup of Joe, we’ve tracked down the best in every state.
Cordyceps, a genus of parasitic fungi, has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat health ailments. “Cordyceps has been shown in clinical trials to improve kidney function, even in kidney disease,” says Turley, who educates about the medicinal properties of plants on her Instagram feed.
Why not combine the benefits of coffee and cordyceps with this mushroom coffee from Four Sigmatic?
These earthy root vegetables (also known as beetroot) are packed with nutrients and fiber—one cup of raw beets has 3.8 grams of fiber! “They are well-known to be vasodilators, helping to increase blood flow, which helps blood pressure, brain function, and athletic performance,” Chloe Paddison, the registered dietitian behind Cureative Nutrition, told Eat This, Not That!.
Never screw up roasting beets again by following these instructions.
Prickly pear, a type of edible cactus, is often used for its fruit juices—and may just be your next hangover cure! This study found that those who consumed prickly pear extract before drinking alcohol had less severe hangover symptoms. This could be because it helps maintain antioxidant and inflammation levels.
Learn how to find and prepare this exotic fruit here.
Cruciferous veggies—like broccoli and Brussels sprouts—are two more detox-friendly foods to add to your plate. Both have been shown to increase the liver’s detoxification enzymes, aiding in the detox process while also protecting the liver from damage.
Here are 5 best Brussels sprouts recipes that you’re sure to love.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to help liver function by flushing out toxins and providing a boost in antioxidants that help repair cellular damage done by free radicals. Translation? It’s great for digestion (and your overall health). For more health benefits of turmeric read this.
Learn more about what happens when you eat turmeric here.