My birthday falls on December 31, so often I throw lavish parties on New Year’s Eve. I book a banquet room in an upscale hotel; order a rich, multicourse menu for about 100 people; and end the night with a spectacular dessert buffet. I don’t drink alcohol, but I make sure that the Champagne is free-flowing for my guests. So we tend to overdo it. And the next day I always think about detoxification. Sometimes I’ll even book some time at a health spa to recover from all the indulging I’ve done over the holidays.
Why is detoxifying important? Alcohol must be broken down by the liver, which eliminates poisons from our system. Mercury, found in large ocean fish, can build up in our fat and muscle tissues and over time can cause problems in our kidneys, liver, lungs, brain, and nervous system. Aluminum leached from aluminum foil needs to be pulled out of our bodies by our kidneys. Chlorine, placed in our water supply and in pools and hot tubs to kill harmful bacteria, is an oxidizing agent. Too much of it can age us prematurely. Excess amounts of salt, sugar, or foods we’re intolerant of (like wheat or dairy) can stress our systems and throw us out of whack. Even if we haven’t overdone it on the food front, unwanted chemicals and toxic metals can still build up in our bodies throughout the year. Environmental pollutants like chromium, lead, arsenic, plutonium, and cadmium can enter our bodies through polluted water, soil, or air.
Normally, our systems can handle a small amount of detoxification through the normal functioning of our liver, spleen, and kidneys. But mercury and other toxins can be very hard to get rid of. Fortunately for us, some foods are expert detoxifiers.
Water is essential to detoxification. It helps our kidneys and spleen function optimally and keeps our blood cells and tissues properly hydrated. To boost any detoxification efforts, be sure to drink 8–10 glasses of water per day. That water can be in the form of coffee or tea, but be sure to have a glass of something pure by you all day long. Filtered water is even better than tap water. Mavea pitcher filters (mavea.com) from Germany will ensure that your water is clear of excess chlorine, benzene, mercury, copper, and the pesticide atrazine. Sweating ensures that water is moving through your system and pulling out metals like copper, chromium, nickel, and lead. Sweat also releases sodium, so if you’ve overindulged in salty foods, get moving or get into a sauna.
Chlorophyll is an excellent, natural detoxifying agent. Chlorophyll can be found in large concentrations in green plants like parsley, watercress, cilantro, and wheatgrass. Heat destroys chlorophyll, so eat these plants raw. I developed an Olive & Watercress Tapenade recipe just for its detoxifying powers. My Detox Dip with Cashews and Cilantro recipes contains raw cilantro. If you’re one of the many people who purchased a NutriBullet (nutribullet.com) recently, then you have a convenient way to blend and eat raw, chlorophyll-rich ingredients like kale, Swiss chard, and spinach.
Spirulina and chlorella, blue-green algae that grow in fresh water, have high concentrations of chlorophyll and other detoxifyng agents. They have been shown to pull mercury out of the blood, brain, and organs of mice (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19723054). Gooseberries, aka amla fruit, have been shown to prevent or ease the effects of toxins like heavy metals, ethanol, iron overload, and certain pharmaceutical drugs. For more info, see this abstract of a medical study on the subject: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23978895?report=abstract.
If you smoke, you should eat plenty of tannins (or proanthocyanidins) found in dark chocolate, berries, red wine, and apples. The tannins in these foods help cells excrete toxins and carcinogenic chemicals like those in cigarettes. Mushrooms, too, are little detoxifying powerhouses. They contain the antioxidant selenium and some compounds called beta glucans. All mushrooms will purify your blood and cleanse your organs.
If your New Year’s resolution is to detoxify your body, remember to drink plenty of water, get some sweat-inducing exercise, and eat all of these cleansing foods.