Pricey juice cleanses that promise to help you detox are all the rage right now—but the idea that a liquid diet can help you eliminate harmful substances doesn’t really make sense, say nutritionists. Organs like your liver, kidneys, and intestines already get rid of harmful toxins in your body. What you can do? Promote the health of your detoxifying organs to naturally improve your body’s ability rid itself of toxins and waste. Here, Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., a senior dietician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, shares which foods to nosh on for best results.
Foods high in the prebiotic inulin, like artichokes and asparagus, help promote the formation of probiotics in the gut (a.k.a., the good bacteria). “Some research has indicated that inulin and other prebiotic-containing foods may play a role in improving overall gut health, which can decrease the burden on the liver’s detoxifying role,” says London. “Inulin essentially promotes immunity before our nutrients are metabolized by the liver.”
Nosh on cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, which are all high in fiber. “These promote gut health, kidney health, and liver health by helping with excretion through your bowel movements,” says London. “You’re promoting regularity and allowing for regular removal of toxins and waste.” Also important, says London, is that these foods contain the phytochemical sulforaphane, which studies suggest may keep pre-carcinogenic cells from negatively impacting other cells in the body—thus supporting the health of all your organs.
Loading up on foods high in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, can help improve liver function by aiding in the production of glutathione, a compound that is essential for detoxification in the liver.
You’ve probably heard that eggs are the go-to “hangover helper,” right? It’s because they’re high cysteine, an amino acid that plays an important role in the breakdown of acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism. “By converting acetaldehyde into water and carbon dioxide, cysteine serves as our body’s own eliminator of this toxic compound,” says London.
B-vitamins (which are found in high concentrations in sweet potatoes) are key in helping your body with its breakdown processes. Vitamins B6, B12, and the B vitamin folate all help promote normal digestion, cell function, and metabolism health.
Lentils and beans are great sources of the immune system-boosting zinc, which the body needs for normal metabolic processes in all your organs. “Zinc is also important for many biochemical processes that aid in digestion and liver metabolism,” says London.
This breakfast staple is rich in soluble fiber, so oats will slow the rate of absorption for your food. “This also serves to promote healthy gut functioning and bacteria and stimulates the excretion of the bile made by the liver,” says London. “By decreasing the amount of bile that is re-absorbed in the intestines, your body can eliminate the harmful toxic waste and improve the development of short-chain fatty acids.” These fatty acids also improve gut health by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria, which should help even more with digestion and elimination.
The probiotics in yogurt will help promote the health of beneficial gut bacteria so your body can more easily process and pass waste. “Also, a key point is that Greek yogurt can be blood sugar stabilizing since it’s both high in protein and provides carbs,” says London. “This is important for those who might be concerned with proper functioning of the liver after drinking too much; stable blood sugar means a lighter hangover.”