What do we know?
We are all familiar with the variety of “detox” diets available on the market. They vary from drinking healthy fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices and herbal teas. Usually some variation of eating selected fruits and vegetables. Although most of us find the first few days difficult, the lightness and improved energy levels that follow gives us a feeling of encouragement. The problem arises a week or two later, when we find ourselves slowly returning to the old eating habits. This is usually because these detox regimes are not substantial to support a healthy lifestyle in the long term.
What does medical science say about detoxification?
How does it work?
Detoxification is a continuous process that the body performs naturally. 75% of the deactivation of toxins takes place in the liver and the remainder in the intestine. When potentially harmful substances enter the body, the body’s detoxification systems (which consist of a series of metabolic reactions) start performing.
Toxins may include the following:
- Processed foods (sugar and white flour products)
- Environmental toxins (heavy metals and pesticides)
- Body origin (end-products of metabolism), hormones, (stress) or bacterial byproducts.
Detoxification takes place in 3 phases:
- Identification – (modification) certain enzymes support the reactions that identify harmful substances through oxidative processes and create unstable toxic substances.
- Neutralization – (conversion) these substances need to be bound by conjugators to make them harmless and soluble for excretion.
- Elimination– (elimination) the end products are excreted by our skin, lungs, kidneys and the digestive tract.
What types of foods should we consume?
We need a large variety of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (carotenoids, flavonoids, terpenes, indoles, Isothiocynates) that support the enzymes and metabolic processes involved in phase 1 to 3 to function optimally. We find them in the following foods:
- Allium family – onions, garlic, chives, leeks.
- Brassica: broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens,radishes, horseradish, turnips, watercress
- Other: Beets, celery, cucumber, spinach.
Fruit: Avocado, cranberries, blueberries, apples, pears, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, citrus peel.
Legumes: Beans, dry peas, chickpeas.
Fats: Olive oil, canola oil, almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios.
Herbs and spices: Rosemary, cumin, turmeric, caraway and dill seeds
Seafood: Wild caught salmon, sardines
Animal protein: Organic chicken, turkey, wild game
Key points to remember
It seems in order to support the continuous detoxification processes in the liver, we should avoid sipping juices for a few days and rather adopt a healthy eating pattern for life. This includes the following:
- Consume a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruit daily.
- Select foods which are whole and unprocessed. For example: snack on a fresh fruit instead of a protein bar. Enjoy a freshly made vegetable soup instead of an instant cup of soup.
- Consume a minimum of six glasses of water per day.
- Ensure optimal gut function by consuming high fibre foods, such as wholegrains (barley, quinoa, corn, rolled oats and wild/brown rice)
- Move on a regular basis – adequately – to build up a sweat!!
A vegetable juice should can be enjoyed as part of a healthy eating plan and is ideal to help boost your daily intake of 5 fresh vegetables and fruit per day. To adopt a healthy eating plan it is advisable to consult a registered dietician. They can provide you with an individualised eating plan, menu (that includes all the above foods) and delicious recipes to meet your lifestyle requirements and preferences. They can also provide you with practical advice to implement the plan successfully. For a dietician in you area please contact www.adsa.org.za