After a weekend full of less-than-stellar health choices (beach party!), come Monday you may turn to a juice cleanse or follow a detox diet to get back on track. But you could (and should) be detoxifying your body in some way every day, says Neka Pasquale.
The founder of California organic food and juice company Urban Remedy and author of Urban Remedy: The 4-Day Home Cleanse Retreat says there are plenty of naturally detoxifying foods you can easily add to your plate. “These should be staples of your diet, not foods you take time off from processed ones to eat,” she says. (Roger that.)
So what does a detoxifying food do? “On a really basic level, they support your liver, which reacts to fat-soluble toxins, and help excrete those toxins from the body,” Pasquale, also an acupuncturist, explains. Nutrients like vitamin C, beta carotene, and fiber are all essential for getting those processes to work right, so foods that are rich in them are key, she adds.
Whether you’re feeling sluggish and bloated or just want to stock your fridge with health-boosting essentials, Pasquale recommends tapping these 13 detoxifying foods for their super healthy track record. —Amy Marturana
“We all think of it as a weed,” Pasquale says, “but it helps you detox properly.” The greens and root of the bright yellow plant have been used for hundreds of years to improve liver function—and the Western world is just catching onto it, with dishes featuring the greens and dandelion coffee popping up on menus at restaurants and cafes galore.
This super-healing food is used often in Japanese medicine, Pasquale explains. “It’s a really strong blood purifier,” and works well eaten fresh, in juice, or even grated into salad. “It’s amazing for skin—anyone who has acne, breakouts, even eczema,” she adds. Burdock root is one of those healing foods with a perfect synergy of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, which is what Pasquale looks for.
The ultimate inflammation-fighter, turmeric, is also a great detoxifier. “If you’re eating an inflammatory diet, especially sugar and animal protein, adding some turmeric rapidly lowers inflammation,” she says. Pasquale even recommends taking turmeric supplements for aches and pains instead of popping an Advil. “It is so potent, it just really works. You’ll see a difference quickly.” Add it to your diet by mixing up turmeric lemonade, turmeric milk, or simply using it to spice up your dishes.
Beets break down toxins, help support the liver and gall bladder, and even relieve constipation, Pasquale says. Studies have even explored how drinking beet juice before a workout can improve endurance. “In Traditional Chinese Medicine, if you have anemia (low iron), it helps to build red blood cells and is really good for your heart and calming your spirit.”
Pasquale recommends starting your day with a warm cup of water with lemon juice. “It helps alkalize your body, helps to convert toxins into water soluble form, and helps to stimulate the liver. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the spleen helps the body transform food into energy,” she explains, and it really likes warmth. “So this will support that spleen function.”
Cucumber has soluble fiber, which helps your body absorb nutrients in the intestine. “It also has a lot of electrolytes in it, and silicon and sulfur, which are good for hair and skin,” Pasquale adds. Add cucumbers to your salad or toss them in your juicer on an extra-sweaty summer day for a hydrating and detoxifying drink.
Celery contains lots of water, making it a diuretic (AKA, increases urine and flushes your system). It also lowers acidity in the body and inflammation, Pasquale claims. And hey, the stalks are an incredible vehicle for delicious homemade hummus or your favorite healthy nut butter.
Kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard…any dark leafy green will get the job done. They’re full of detoxing chlorophyll, which binds to heavy metals, helping to extract them from the body, Pasquale says. “Dark leafy greens also help build blood cells, which helps increase energy levels to support a healthy detox.”
The reason this fruit gets so much praise? Apples have a lot of fiber, which not only helps to lower cholesterol, but also “helps the intestines scrub out the accumulated waste,” Pasquale says. They’re also low-glycemic, which means they don’t cause crazy sugar spikes like many other fruits do. Studies also show that pectin in apples can bind to heavy metals, helping your body expel them efficiently.
Thanks to beta carotene, carrots actually help to detox the liver (and are good for your eyesight!). But “if you really want to get a ton of beta carotene, you really have to juice them”—you couldn’t eat enough carrots, explains Pasquale. A good time to whip up an orange elixir: when you feel like you’re getting sick. Snack on them raw, too, but watch out for cooked—the starch content skyrockets.
“Garlic is high in sulfur and helps stimulate the liver,” Pasquale says. It is also antimicrobial, which basically acts as a natural antibiotic to support the immune system. She says to try to avoid overcooking it to avoid diminishing the sulfur content and, therefore, its detoxifying benefits.
Avocado’s amazing healthy monounsaturated fats help balance blood sugar levels and keep cholesterol low. “They’re also rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that’s essential to healthy liver function,” Pasquale says. Bonus: avocado’s delicious, essential fatty acids promote healthy skin and hair growth.
A natural diuretic, these green stalks are great when you’re feeling bloated, according to Pasquale. “It helps to really flush your body. When you’re flushing excess water, you’re flushing the toxins.” Excess inflammation or high estrogen levels can cause excess water retention, Pasquale explains, “so flushing it out is great. No one really likes to feel bloated.” We’ll second that.