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The Detox Dozen

Superfoods to support detoxification.


One daily habit that can have an overwhelming impact on your detoxification (for better or worse!) is your diet. You can strain your detoxification by ingesting food additives, pesticides, and other chemicals. Or your diet can be a source of nutrients and phytochemicals that make your body a detoxification powerhouse! Below are a dozen scientifically proven detoxification superstars.


Red foods


These juicy fruits not only keep the doctor away but also contain compounds that protect our livers and are a rich source of pectin, a fibre that feeds intestinal bacteria and aids our body in eliminating lead and other compounds.


Bright red beets contain brilliant pigments with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beets are known to boost liver enzymes for optimal detoxification.


Orange foods


The most famous member of the Apiaceae family (which includes dill, parsley, and parsnips), carrots contain caffeic acid, which balances detoxification by reducing overactivity of some liver enzymes, while enhancing the action of others.


Yellow foods


Studies have found that compounds in citrus fruit optimize detoxification systems that may prevent breast and other cancers, as well as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.


With its powerful antioxidant effects, turmeric and its active compound, curcumin, are at the forefront of the medicinal food movement. Turmeric can have a positive impact on liver enzymes and improve production of glutathione, making it one of the most powerful detoxifying agents on this list.


Green foods


Broccoli and its fellow cruciferous vegetables may be the darlings of the detoxification world, and for good reason. These veggies support liver health by reducing inflammation and supporting phase I enzymes that help us detoxify chemicals and air pollutants. Bonus: cruciferous vegetables are also high in fibre.

Green tea

High in antioxidants, green tea also enhances the production of glutathione, one of our most powerful antioxidants and cancer-preventive agents.


Love it or hate it, you may want to consider the potential detoxification power of cilantro. Research is mixed, but when combined with vitamin C, cilantro may help eliminate lead and cadmium from the body. Cilantro also has recognized antioxidant benefits and potentially anticancer activity as well.


Remarkable bright green algae, chlorella reduces liver inflammation and enhances the detoxification and elimination of heavy metals. To get more chlorella in your diet, simply stir a teaspoon or two of chlorella powder into your morning smoothie.


Blue foods


Delicious little powerhouses, blueberries contain compounds that are anticancer, antiobesity, anti-inflammatory, liver protective, and help prevent heart disease. Blueberries and strawberries have also been found to balance detoxification by reducing overactivity of some phase I liver enzymes.


Purple foods

Purple sweet potatoes

Colourful and full of antioxidant-rich anthocyanins, purple sweet potatoes can support and protect the liver, while also providing fibre to support elimination.


White foods


A potent bulb with tons of flavour, garlic has been used medicinally for thousands of years. For detoxification, garlic can increase production of glutathione, protect the liver from free radicals, and support liver cell regeneration.


Supporting supplements

A myriad of supplements can be used to support detoxification. From B vitamins, vitamin C, and N-acetylcysteine to botanicals such as dandelion and milk thistle, the biggest benefit for most people will come from the daily impact of limiting their body burden of chemicals and supporting their body with a diverse, plant-filled, whole foods diet.


Organic essentials

The best detoxification strategy is to reduce your need to detox—the chemicals you don’t consume are chemicals you don’t need to detox. According to a 2019 study, organic produce contains less cadmium, pesticides, and other chemicals compared to conventionally raised produce.


Tip: Fibre 101

Increasing dietary fibre is one of the most effective ways to support detoxification. Fibre feeds healthy bacteria, encourages regular bowel movements, and is essential for eliminating compounds detoxified by your liver.

Remember, detox is a two-step process: conversion and elimination. If you can’t eliminate it, you haven’t fully detoxified it.

Excellent sources of fibre include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and nuts. Another great source of fibre is psyllium, a soluble fibre readily available as a powder. You can start by incorporating a teaspoon of psyllium into your morning smoothie and gradually increase up to 1 to 2 Tbsp (15 to 30 mL) per day.

For more information on the two forms of fibre and how they aid in detoxification, don't miss our article Fabulous Fibre.


This is an excerpt from an article originally published in the March 2020 issue of alive Canada magazine, under the title "The Full Spectrum of Detoxification."



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD