19 Essential Cleansing Foods to Try

Our bodies neutralize and eliminate dietary and environmental toxins every day. Certain foods can support, or even speed the process, by providing vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, essential fatty acids, fiber, and other needed nutrients.

If you're interested in improving your diet, give these superfoods a try.

1

Pomegranate

Pomegranate

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Give yourself a serious antioxidant boost! Pomegranates are loaded with anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that gives the seeds their deep, red color.

It’s possible that anthocyanins may protect against DNA damage and inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease, allergies, cancer, and diabetes.

Preliminary research indicates that they may also help to slow skin aging by reducing the weakening of skin’s collagen and elastin fibers and preventing dark spots.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

The jewel-toned, sweet-tart seeds can be added to a salad or sprinkled on top of breakfast cereal. You can also have them as a snack. If you can’t get a hold of the seeds, try adding a splash of unsweetened pomegranate juice to water to liven up the taste and help you increase your fluid intake. Just be sure not to overdo it — large amounts of pomegranate juice have the potential to interact with many medications.

2

Arugula

Arugula in a bowl

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A culinary staple in Mediterranean cooking, arugula is a type of cruciferous vegetable (like broccoli, kale, and watercress) that contain a number of compounds that aid in detoxification, such as sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol.

Arugula is also packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium and folate and the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, which may protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Use arugula in a salad. Another way to use arugula is in pesto as a substitute for basil. If it's peppery flavor is too strong, try baby arugula, which has a milder taste.

3

Garlic

Garlic

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A detox favorite, garlic contains sulfur-containing compounds that may fight harmful bacteria and yeast in the intestines.

Garlic boosts the body’s ability to detox by increasing production of ​glutathione, needed for the elimination of certain toxins.

The sulfur compounds, called allicin, are broken down in the body to allyl sulfides, which may guard against heart disease, certain types of cancer, arthritis, and diabetes.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Garlic must be crushed or chopped in order to release the beneficial sulfur compounds. Try adding it to salad dressing or make a white bean or chickpea dip with white beans (or chickpeas), olive oil and lemon juice.

4

Seaweed

Seaweed

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A dietary staple in many Asian countries, seaweeds-such as dulse, kelp, nori, wakame, and agar — are becoming popular for a good reason. They are packed with minerals such as iodine, which aids in the production of thyroid hormone and regulates our metabolism, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

The high mineral content in seaweed can help to flush toxins from the body.

Certain seaweeds, such as arame and hijiki have plenty of soluble fiber, which also promotes detoxification.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Kelp noodles have become popular because they are gluten-free with almost no calories. Chopped dulse is good in salads and can also be added to sandwiches or rice or quinoa bowls. Nori can be cut into thin strips or crumbled on salads, rice, or soups. Try adding wakame, the seaweed used in miso soup, to soups.

Another way to enjoy seaweed: arame, a mild-tasting seaweed, can be soaked, rinsed, drained and used raw. Try adding it to salads. Also look for seasonings made with dried, flaked seaweed such as kelp to use as a substitute for table salt or flavor enhancer.

5

Lemons

Lemons

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One of the most popular detox foods around, lemons are packed with vitamin C.

Lemons are thought to help restore the alkaline-acid balance of the body, enabling us to more effectively remove dietary and environmental toxins.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Add the juice of a quarter of a lemon to a glass of water and drink it first thing in the morning to alkalize the body and aid digestion. Also, try using lemon juice instead of vinegar in a salad dressing. Keep some lemon wedges handy to squeeze into water or on top of steamed vegetables or meals to up flavor.

6

Apples

apple

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Apples are high in insoluble fiber and the soluble fiber pectin, which soaks up toxins and waste and sweeps them through the intestines. They are low-glycemic, which means that they are absorbed slowly with a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin.

Apples contain glucaric acid, which helps the body get rid of estrogen-like chemicals and heavy metals.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Besides eating a whole apple, make a snack of apple slices with almond butter or have unsweetened applesauce instead of dessert. Make muesli with oats, apples, berries, almonds, and flaxseeds and soak overnight or add apples and cinnamon to oatmeal. Add sliced apples to a salad.

7

Cabbage

Cabbage

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One of the more affordable detox foods, cabbage has cleansing properties due to their high content of glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that are converted into active forms isothiocyanates and indoles.

Isothiocyanates, a molecule found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, may prevent cancer by promoting the elimination of potential carcinogens from the body.

It is also high in vitamin K and vitamin C and ½ cup have only 11 calories.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

The enzyme that converts glucosinolates into its active compounds is destroyed by heat, so try having cabbage raw in juices, smoothies or salads or eat it lightly cooked. Two fermented foods that are made with cabbage (which have the added benefit of probiotic bacteria) are sauerkraut and kim chi.

8

Quinoa

Quinoa

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Quinoa has been cultivated in South America for over 5000 years.

Wheat-free and gluten-free, quinoa is a popular detox food and technically the seed of a plant (related to beets and spinach) rather than a whole grain.

A protein powerhouse, one-half cup of cooked quinoa has 3 grams of protein. Quinoa has 50 percent more protein than grains and contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein similar to meat and other animal foods and a great food for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Quinoa is also low on the glycemic index, meaning that it causes a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin, and it is high in the amino acid lysine, which is involved in tissue repair.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Try steamed quinoa instead of wheat or gluten-containing starchy foods, make a warm breakfast cereal with quinoa and almond milk, add quinoa to a salad, or use quinoa as an alternative to couscous in recipes.

9

Wheatgrass

wheatgrass juice
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A popular ingredient at juice bars, wheatgrass is thought to have potent detoxifying abilities.

Chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes contribute to the detox properties of wheatgrass.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Wheatgrass is usually juiced, because of the tough cell walls that make the nutrients difficult to extract. You can find wheatgrass shots at many juice bars. You can also grow and juice wheatgrass at home, depending on the type of juicer you have.

10

Almonds

Almonds

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Almonds are actually a fruit because they're the seeds of a fruit that is a close relative to the plum and peach.

They're a detox essential because most detox diets don't include cow's milk, and almond milk is one of the best-tasting, most readily available plant-based alternatives.

Almond milk can be made at home, or you can find it at many grocery stores and health food stores.

Almonds are also fantastic because they have a high vitamin E content (one ounce has 35% of the daily recommended intake), fiber (one ounce has 3 grams), vegetable protein (one ounce has 6 grams), and monounsaturated fats (almonds are 51% monounsaturated fat). They're also rich in magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, folate, and phytochemicals, all of which may help prevent chronic diseases.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Some suggested ways to eat more raw almonds: try adding them to a smoothie, sprinkling chopped almonds onto cereal, adding chopped almonds on top of salads or vegetable dishes, using them in pesto instead of pine nuts, or substituting almond butter for peanut butter. A handful of almonds also makes a great snack with a piece of fruit or in homemade trail mix.

11

Avocados

Avocado

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During the low-fat diet craze of the 1980s and 90s, avocados became an off-limits food because of their fat content.

While avocados do contain a fair amount of fat, they are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which won’t interfere with the balance of omega-3 to -6 fatty acids in the diet.

Fat is essential during a detox diet, because it promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder, allowing for the elimination of toxins from the body and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E​, and vitamin K. Besides providing a desirable fat, avocados also contain vitamin E, folate, vitamin B5, and potassium. One half-cup of avocado has a whopping 8 grams of dietary fiber.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Another reason avocado is prized as a detox food is that it can be used as a substitute for many foods that are off-limits during a detox, particularly milk and cream. It’s natural rich and buttery texture adds creaminess to smoothies. Avocado can also be added to salads or made into a dip.

12

Blueberries

Blueberries

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A true detox superfood, blueberries are packed with fiber and vitamin C, are low in calories (1/2 cup has 44 calories) and are one consistently ranked at the top when it comes to antioxidant capacity.

Blueberries get their blue color from antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins, which help protect cells from free radical damage, enhance glutathione production, and guard against heart disease, cataracts, glaucoma, peptic ulcers, Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Anthocyanins may also slow aging by reducing the breakdown of collagen and strengthening blood vessels and capillaries.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Blueberries are tasty, so it is easy to up your intake. Try adding a handful to your cereal, salad or smoothie. In green smoothies, the dark blue pigment is very good at masking the color of green vegetables. Or simply have them alone as a delicious way to end your dinner.

13

Ginger

Ginger

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No list of detox foods would be complete without ginger.

A natural anti-inflammatory food, ginger also helps to ease nausea, improve digestion, and promote detoxification by speeding the movement of food through the intestines, thanks to compounds called gingerols and shogaols.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Try making a pureed carrot ginger soup, adding freshly grated ginger to salad dressing, or juicing fresh ginger root along with vegetables.

14

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

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Don’t let its lack of color fool you.

Cauliflower makes our list of top detox foods because it is a cruciferous vegetable (a family that includes broccoli, cabbage, and bok choy) that is high in phytochemicals called glucosinolates.

These chemicals are broken down in the intestines to isothiocynates and indole-3-carbinol, compounds which regulate the body’s detoxification enzymes and protect against cancer.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Unlike other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower can stand in for starchy foods. Chopped finely in a food processor then steamed, cauliflower can mimic the texture of rice. It can also be mashed as an alternative to mashed potatoes. While it lacks color, cauliflower is actually a good source of vitamin C, as well as fiber.

15

Parsley

Parsley salad.
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Known primarily as a culinary herb, parsley contains vitamin C, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, vitamin K, and folate, which are all needed by the body for detox.

Parsley also raises glutathione levels and may guard against liver dysfunction due to insulin resistance.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Try chopping parsley and adding it to a salad or using it alongside or instead of basil in pesto. Parsley can also be added to juices or smoothies.

16

Beets

Beets

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Packed with potassium, folate, fiber, and antioxidants, beets are a star detox food.

Beets also contain betaine, a compound that has been found to lower the levels of several inflammatory markers, protect against liver damage, and help the liver process fats.

It also contains the beautiful reddish-purple antioxidant pigment betacyanin, which is responsible for a host of health benefits and may provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and detoxification support (notably supporting glutathione-dependent phase 2 detoxification). Beets are low in calories — 1/2 cup of beets contains 40 calories.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Try adding raw grated beets to a salad or try thinly sliced raw beets in a sandwich. Beets can also be juiced or added to smoothies. Beet juice pairs well with juiced apples and ginger. Beet greens are rich in vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, iron, and the antioxidant lutein.

Although beets can be messy, using gloves can protect against red-stained hands and used waxed paper over permeable countertops or cutting boards. Beets are also fantastic in borscht soup. Be aware that beets may turn temporarily result in red-tinged stools or urine.

17

Green Tea

Green tea

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If you are trying to cut back on your coffee intake, green tea is a good substitute. It has some caffeine (about 15 to 40 mg per cup) but also contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

A potent antioxidant, the EGCG in green tea may protect the liver against damage from toxins, prevent the oxidation of ​LDL cholesterol, and may help prevent heart disease and certain cancers.

18

Fennel

Fennel

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Fennel, a root vegetable with a licorice flavor, is low in calories and is a good source of folate, potassium, and antioxidants such as anethole, a phytochemical which has been found to reduce inflammation.

Fennel is mildly diuretic, which may help with the removal of toxic substances from the body Half a cup of raw fennel has only 14 calories.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

Fennel bulb can be sliced thinly and added to salads or it can be juiced, along with apples, celery, carrots, and pears.

Fennel seeds have long been used as a remedy for bloating, flatulence, constipation,​ and bad breath. Try fennel seed tea, or chew on some fennel seeds for fresh breath or to ease digestion.

19

Flaxseeds

Flaxseed

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Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid that appears to improve how the body uses insulin, the hormone that clears sugar from the bloodstream.

Flaxseeds have soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps the body’s detoxification by promoting bowel regularity and helping the body to eliminate excess toxins, cholesterol, and waste.

Flaxseeds are also an excellent source of manganese.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

You can buy ground flaxseeds in many grocery stores and health food stores, but for maximum freshness, you can also grind them yourself in a coffee grinder. It’s ideal to grind the seeds as you need them, as grinding them shortens their shelf life.

Sprinkle them on cereal, salads, yogurt, and other dishes or add them whole to the blender when making smoothies. Flaxseeds can also be used in baked goods. The seeds form a gel when combined with water, so they can be used to thicken soups or can be used as an egg replacement in some baked goods.

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