by Rachael Link, MS, RD
Turn on the television, flip through a magazine or open your internet browser and you’re bound to hear about a new detox diet or juice cleanse being peddled, likely accompanied by an outrageous price tag and even more outlandish health claims.
It’s true that most of us are exposed to a plethora of toxins, heavy metals and chemicals on a daily basis, found in everything from the air we breathe to the food on our plates. However, your body is equipped with a natural detox system that can help remove these dangerous compounds, and switching up your diet and lifestyle is the best way to maximize your body’s toxin-removing potential. Fortunately, you don’t need to shell out wads of cash or start munching on lettuce for weeks on end to see results.
Curious how to cleanse your body and optimize your health without having to drain your savings account or empty out your fridge? Here’s why you may want to consider a natural detox diet, plus how you can get started.
What Is a Detox? Why Is It Needed?
Depending on who you ask, the detox diet meaning can vary pretty widely. For some, it may be considered an intense cleansing diet that consists of drinking strange concoctions for weeks on end to clear out toxins and achieve weight loss. For others, the term “detox cleanse” is little more than a marketing ploy used to shill expensive and overpriced products to health-conscious consumers.
In reality, a detox diet can be a healthy way to get back on track and help your body do exactly what it’s designed to do: clear out toxins and keep you in tip-top shape.
See, your body has a complex detox system built right in, and all of your organs work together to keep you feeling healthy. Your skin pushes out bacteria through the sweat, your kidneys filter through liters of blood and produce urine, your lungs expel carbon dioxide, your intestines extract nutrients from food to excrete waste products, and your liver clears out toxins from the body.
Factors like chronic stress, unhealthy habits, physical inactivity and a diet high in ultra-processed foods can totally tank your body’s natural detox system, making it even harder to remove toxins from the bloodstream efficiently.
A body cleanse or detox diet that involves cutting out junk foods and increasing your intake of nutritious whole foods along with a few powerful detox foods can be an easy way to help your body detox and hit the reset button. Best of all, unlike on other detox diets, this kind of natural cleanse won’t drain your energy levels or leave you feeling worn down. Instead, it can boost energy, restore motivation and help you feel your best.
Detox Diet Plan: How to Detox
There are lots of different definitions of what defines the best detox diet or the best cleanse for weight loss. However, a good detox diet should supply all of the important nutrients that your body needs while also cutting out the chemicals, junk and added ingredients that it doesn’t.
Following a few easy guidelines and incorporating some detox foods into your diet is the best way to optimize your built-in detox system and supply your liver with the tools it needs to clear out toxins efficiently.
Wondering how to detox your body without spending a fortune on expensive programs and products? Luckily, following a detox diet for weight loss and better health can be as simple as making a few simple swaps in your diet. Here are some of the basic rules to follow on a healthy detox diet:
- Switch out sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and sports drinks for water, unsweetened tea or detox drinks, and be sure to stay well-hydrated.
- Nix added sugars from your diet from foods like candies, cakes, cookies and sweets, and aim for a sugar-free diet instead.
- Cut out all heavily processed and refined foods, such as convenience meals, pre-packaged snacks, and store-bought cakes and cookies.
- Up your intake of whole ingredients and raw foods, including fruits, veggies, healthy protein foods and whole grains.
- Swap processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and sausages for better options, such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon and organic chicken. If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are also plenty of plant-based protein foods available, including nuts, seeds and legumes.
- Include more natural detox foods in your diet, such as grapefruit, bone broth, Brussels sprouts, berries, beets, chia seeds and nuts.
- Trade in your salt shaker for some healing herbs and spices instead. Seasonings like cumin, basil, parsley and paprika can bump up the flavor of your foods while also providing a host of powerful health benefits.
- Adjust your sleep schedule to ensure you’re squeezing in at least eight hours per night, which allows your body to heal and restore.
- Get in some daily exercise, and stay active with your favorite workouts, such as walking, jogging or biking.
- Minimize your stress levels and incorporate some natural stress relievers into your routine, such as yoga, meditation, journaling and essential oils.
Seven-Day Cleanse Protocol
Whether you decide to do a three-day detox diet, a five-day detox diet plan or a full seven-day cleanse diet, you have plenty of options for delicious and healthy foods to enjoy. Use the meal pattern below to get some ideas, and feel free to follow the plan as long as you’d like to jump-start your detox.
- Breakfast: Egg white omelette with tomatoes, garlic, onions and peppers + 1 banana
- Snack: Omega blueberry smoothie
- Lunch: Baked chicken with broccoli and brown rice
- Snack: Walnuts and dried fruit
- Dinner: Chickpea and veggie stew + roasted Brussels sprouts
- Breakfast: Raw yogurt with chia seeds and fresh fruit + grainless granola
- Snack: Carrots with hummus
- Lunch: Roasted salmon with zucchini and baked sweet potato
- Snack: Cottage cheese with celery and tomatoes
- Dinner: Portobello mushroom pizza with arugula salad
- Breakfast: 2 hard-boiled eggs + whole wheat toast with avocado
- Snack: Apple slices topped with cinnamon and raw honey
- Lunch: Quinoa and veggie stuffed bell peppers
- Snack: Almond butter banana protein bar
- Dinner: Grilled chicken, avocado and grapefruit salad
- Breakfast: Overnight oatmeal with berries, nuts and cinnamon
- Snack: Baked apple chips
- Lunch: Steak and Brussels sprouts stir-fry
- Snack: Energy balls
- Dinner: Marinated tempeh with herbed garlic lentils
- Breakfast: Broiled grapefruit with raw honey and bananas + kale and feta egg bake
- Snack: Gut-healing smoothie
- Lunch: Greek meatballs with orzo pilaf
- Snack: Garlic roasted chickpeas
- Dinner: Pulled beef sliders with carrot chips
- Breakfast: Sweet potato toast topped with avocado and fried egg
- Snack: Air-popped popcorn
- Lunch: Mediterranean grilled lamb chops with cauliflower tabbouleh
- Snack: Almonds with blueberries
- Dinner: Lemon chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts
Best Detox Foods
- Brussels Sprouts
- Chia Seeds
- Bone Broth
This tasty citrus fruit is well-known for its multitude of health-promoting properties, especially when it comes to detoxification. According to a 2005 animal model out of Israel, grapefruit juice was found to be incredibly effective in bumping up the levels of liver enzymes involved in detoxification. (1) Including a serving or two of grapefruit or grapefruit juice in your diet each day can be a simple way to keep your liver healthy and support its natural detox abilities.
2. Brussels Sprouts
Hearty, flavorful and full of fiber, Brussels sprouts make an awesome addition to a healthy detox diet. Not only can they promote regularity to get things moving, but Brussels sprouts have also been shown to boost liver health and enhance detoxification. In fact, one study published in Carcinogenesis showed that eating just 300 grams of Brussels sprouts daily was able to amp up the levels of detox enzymes by a whopping 30 percent. (2)
Besides being delicious and incredibly versatile, berries are a great source of both fiber and antioxidants, two important components of a well-balanced detox diet. Fiber moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract and helps bulk up the stool to support regularity and excrete waste more efficiently. (3) Antioxidants, on the other hand, have been shown in animal models to protect the liver against oxidative stress while simultaneously preserving immune cell function. (4) Berries like blueberries and strawberries also have a high water content and can promote hydration as well as proper elimination.
There are plenty of reasons to consider adding beets to your diet. Not only are they vibrant and full of color, but they’re also high in an array of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that can boost detoxification. One animal study found that drinking beetroot juice regularly helped increase the levels of several key enzymes involved in detoxification. (5) Similarly, another animal study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that beetroot juice decreased lipid peroxidation, a marker used to measure cell damage, in the liver by 38 percent. (6)
5. Chia Seeds
Frequently touted as a superfood, chia seed benefits range from enhanced digestion to better blood sugar control. Not surprisingly, chia seeds may also aid in detoxification as well. They pack in tons of fiber, which can help keep things moving through the digestive system, allowing waste products to be excreted efficiently. Plus, they’re high in antioxidants to fight off free radicals and protect your liver against damage and disease. (7)
It’s no secret that nuts are great for your health. They’re high in fiber, antioxidants, protein, heart-healthy fats as well as an assortment of the key vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. In addition to keeping you regular due to their high fiber content, including healthy nuts in your diet can also help optimize liver function as well. Studies show that eating more nuts is linked to a lower risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well as enhanced liver enzyme levels to maximize your body’s detoxifying potential. (8, 9)
7. Bone Broth
Bone broth, a liquid made from the water left over after simmering bones for up to a day at a time, has been associated with a number of incredible benefits. Perhaps most impressive, however, is its potent effects on detoxification. Studies suggest that bone broth may help improve immune health by reducing inflammation, allowing your body to work more effectively at removing harmful toxins, bacteria and pathogens from the body. (10) Because it’s rich in collagen and an assortment of amino acids, it’s also believed to help seal the gut and protect against leaky gut syndrome, a condition that allows toxins and particles to seep from the gut into the bloodstream.
Detox Diet Recipes
In addition to the recipes listed above, here are a few more healthy snacks and meals that you can add to your cleanse diet menu to get you started:
Keep in mind that not all detox diets are created equally. While some can help promote better health by making a few nutritious swaps in your diet, others can actually deprive your body of the important nutrients you need, zapping your energy levels and plummeting motivation.
Steer clear of products or unhealthy regimens promoted for detoxification, which are often little more than marketing ploys by companies that prioritize profit over health. Following a nutrient-rich diet and cutting out unhealthy foods can help maximize the health of your body’s natural detox system and keep you feeling your best.
Additionally, the basic principles of a detox diet can be applied long term to help you sustain a healthy diet beyond a few days or a week. Stick to these basic rules of thumb, and include a few detox-boosting foods in your diet regularly to stay on track with your health goals.
- Following a detox diet can help provide your body with the nutrients that it needs to be able to clear out toxins effectively.
- Although there are plenty of regimens and detox programs out there, the best detox cleanse is one that gives your body what it needs rather than depriving it of valuable vitamins and minerals.
- Several foods have also been shown to help detox your body and enhance the function of your built-in detox system to keep you healthy.
- Cutting out junk, upping your intake of whole foods and following a healthy lifestyle can help your body detoxify more efficiently.