Oh my liver, are you there? So many folks online are marketing detox diets to me I fear they know something I don’t. That you might have abandoned me. But I feel good and I’m not a lighter shade of green so I know you are there working for me. So what is the truth about “detox diets”?
We are all exposed, probably on a daily basis, to low-level environmental toxins. Luckily, our liver is ready for this and in two phases makes a toxic substance less harmful, which it converts to a water-soluble form for excretion. Alcohol, medications and insecticides keep the liver busy.
Detox is the liver’s job. Our role is to provide the liver, through foods, the support it needs to keep filtering out potential toxins. Going on a restrictive “detox diet” could be the opposite of what the liver needs if nutrients are eliminated in favor of a “magic drink.”
The best liver support comes from the sulphoraphane found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Sulphoraphane triggers the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes that block free-radical attack on DNA. Once started, the process continues to protect for up to four days after the sulphoraphane-containing food was initially eaten. Additional sulphoraphane-containing vegetables are bok choy, kale, radishes and turnips.
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Other delicious detoxers are the anthocyanidins in berries, grapes and beets, polyphenols in green tea and resveratrol in red wine. Eating at least five cups a day of richly colored fruits and vegetables will cover your detox needs.
Broccoli sprouts are an easy and tasty way to pack a diet with sulphoraphane. Available at the supermarket, sprouts have 10 to 100 times more sulphoraphane than broccoli. Broccoli sprouts can be added to a salad, sandwich, burger or omelet and slipped into a taco.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.