In today’s world we are exposed to more toxins than ever.  There is an onslaught of harmful offenders in what we breathe, what we eat, and what we use. Yes, the human body has its own built in system to detoxify and eliminate waste but –with the extra burden that comes with modern life– it isn’t always enough to stay clean in this toxic environment. But all is not lost! A healthy lifestyle can be attainable with proper nutrition and careful precautions. By starting with ourselves, we can support optimal detoxification and elimination.  Below are some tips on how to detox safely and effectively:

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Photo taken by Lynn D. Rosentrater/Flickr

Detox vs. Cleanse.  When faced with all the latest hype about cleansing, some of us might be entertaining the idea of starting a cleanse or detox regimen –but what does that really mean and are they the same thing?  Cleansing and detoxing are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be.  Cleansing is simply the process of eliminating waste from the body.  A detox is the actual biotransformation of waste into a water soluble form that can be excreted from the body via sweat, urine, or stool.  Most of this occurs in the liver and GI tract.  Many of the “cleanses” and fasts that are marketed today typically don’t have adequate calories, B vitamins, antioxidants, protein, and other nutrients that are essential to complete all phases of the detoxification process.  These can actually impair your body’s ability to detox when used long term and make you feel even worse.

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Photo taken by Parkhotel Igls/Flickr

Eat more plants.  A nutrition plan to support detoxification can be as simple as choosing high quality nutrient-dense whole foods over processed convenience foods.  Eat a variety of brightly colored produce.  Complement this with only small amounts of animal protein and stay away from refined carbohydrates and sugar.  Healthy sources of animal protein for a detox diet include eggs from pastured hens and wild-caught fish.  For plant-based sources of protein try beans, nuts, seeds, or tempeh.  Antioxidants are also vital to a good detox and green tea has loads of them.  Be sure to include herbs such as rosemary, parsley, or cilantro.  Spices also have valuable phytonutrients that contribute to the detox process especially ginger, cayenne pepper, and turmeric.  The wider the variety of plant foods you consume, the greater the benefits you will reap.  Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale help support the activation of important enzymes involved in detoxification.  Onions and garlic support these pathways as well.  Increase your intake of fluids and fiber to support healthy elimination.  Plant foods are also higher in fiber and will bind to toxins in the gut and help aid in regular elimination.  Speaking of the gut, ensuring you have beneficial bacteria for a healthy gut will also help your GI tract to better excrete toxic substances.  For more information on maintaining gut health, see http://fitnessluxe.com/gut-feeling-take-probiotics/.

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Photo taken by Amy Ross/Flickr

Reduce your exposure.  Minimize your intake of pesticides and chemicals by choosing organic foods.  If buying organic food is out of your reach, then you can refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list here http://static.foodnews.org/pdf/EWG-shoppers-guide.pdf.  Certain plants have larger amounts of pesticide residue than others.  This list will help you prioritize which organic produce is worth spending the extra money on.

Take stock of your cooking methods.  Grilling, frying, and cooking foods at high temps can generate toxic substances we would rather avoid.

  • Try enjoying foods in their most natural state in a salad drizzled with heart healthy olive oil.
  • Roast your vegetables in the oven with olive oil, herbs, and sea salt (especially root veggies).
  • Experiment with your juicers and blenders.
  • Make your own soup with onions, garlic, and other vegetables.
  • Use fats that are more stable for sautéing such as coconut, avocado oil or ghee.

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Photo taken by Benjamin Balázs/Flickr

Consider your lifestyle habits.  Diet isn’t the only way to support healthy detox. Get enough sleep and manage your stress.   Try yoga, deep breathing and meditation to stay centered and relaxed.  And don’t be afraid to sweat!  Sweating is another way we release toxins.  Exercise out in the sunshine, indulge in a sauna session or hot yoga to get a lit-from-within healthy glow.

Optimal detox is dependent on a healthy diet and other lifestyle factors.  Even though we cannot completely control our surrounding environment, we can take small steps to minimize our exposure.  When we are mindful of what we put into our bodies and make simple changes to our surroundings, regular detox can be an important part of your health regimen to defend yourself from disease, stay healthy, and feel energized.

For more guidance on eating clean, check out the Environmental Working Group website at www.ewg.org.  They also offer a free app (http://www.ewg.org/foodscores ) which has ratings on more than 80,000 food products.  Aside from analyzing the nutritional value of food, they also take into account how foods are processed and their origin.  For information on cosmetics and personal care items, check out http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/.

 

Featured Photo taken by Matt Gibson/Flickr

About The Author

Jennifer Musser
Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist

Jennifer Musser was born and raised in Seattle but loves living in Denver and enjoys most everything that the city and mountains have to offer. After receiving her B.S. in Human Nutrition and Food Science from Colorado State University, she became a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in 2004. As a Certified LEAP** Therapist, Jennifer has specialized training in food sensitivities and related inflammatory conditions. An experienced healthcare practitioner, she understands the importance of being mindful of what we eat and that both traditional and alternative nutrition therapies have a place in helping us look and feel our best. At Fitness Luxe, she will dole out sound and delicious advice on what you should be eating to make the best out of your diet for a healthy, fit and happy life. **Lifestyle Eating and Performance