Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Naturally Detoxifying Foods

Photo credit:  A Askew (Flickr)

If you haven't been on one yourself, then you've probably had a family member or friend on one.  Otherwise, maybe you've at least seen ads for products, programs, or books for them.  They're detox diets.  They're hot. They're happening.  They're one of those things that I think will never die.  While I understand that the body is regularly exposed to a laundry list of toxins from the environment, food, and typical metabolic processes and it's important to protect the body against them, I'm not one to promote detox diets or cleanses.  They're not for everyone anyway.  However,  I find nothing wrong with including detoxifying foods in your regular diet to take advantage of their health-promoting benefits.  If you want a daily detox, include at least some of these detoxifying foods in your diet everyday.

Citrus fruits:  Grapefruits, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and other citrus fruits are nutritious powerhouses!  Most of us know that they're chock full of vitamin C, which is known to fend off free radicals that can damage healthy body tissues and contribute to chronic diseases.  However, they are also packed with other vital nutrients and over 170 phytochemicals!  One of those phytochemicals includes limonin, which has been shown to participate in detoxification systems in the body.  Researchers are also investigating the role of such compounds in protecting the body against certain types of cancer.  Apparently, our bodies can access limonin as soon as we sip OJ or take a bite of a citrus fruit.  Amazingly, limonin also appears to stay in the bloodstream of some people for up to 24 hours during which time it can continue its possible cancer-fighting efforts.

Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, and more.  I'd almost consider these the jackpot of detoxifying foods since most are loaded with several detoxifying substances.  Not only are these high in vitamin C, but they are also rich in homocysteine-lowering folate.  Homocysteine is a naturally-occurring amino acid produced in the body and elevated levels have been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease.  Cruciferous veggies are also loaded with glucosinolates.  When broken down, glucosinolates produce other biologically active compounds that may play various roles in detoxification in the body.  In fact, because this is such a promising cancer-fighting compound, researchers are investigating glucosinolates more closely.

Dark leafy green vegetables:  Dark leafy green vegetables, like spinach, kale, turnip greens, and Romaine lettuce, offer another mother lode of detoxifying compounds.  Dark leafy green vegetables are another super source of folate and glucosinolates.  They also offer an excellent source of carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin.  These two carotenoid pigments accumulate in the retina of the eye and absorb blue light. This protects our eyes from damage over time, preventing eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.

Green tea:  Green tea is brimming with polyphenols.  One of its polyphenols, EGCG, has shown excellent promise as a potent antioxidant that may also reduce the risk for certain types of cancer.  Recommendations usually suggest consuming 3 cups daily.  No worries if you're trying to limit your caffeine intake as decaffeination of this tea only reduces the polyphenol content slightly.

Berries:  Several berries, including blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are commonly referred to as super foods due to their high-ranking antioxidant capacity.  These super fruits serve up a good helping of vitamin C and colon-cleansing fiber.  They also contain generous amounts of flavanoids, especially anthocyanidins and quercetin, that act as powerful antioxidants scavenging the body for those abusive free radicals.  As if this isn't enough, berries are also high in ellagic acid, another known antioxidant.

Which of these your favorites?  Which would you like to add to your diet?


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