Okay, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we live in a toxic world. Our food, water and air introduce us to a myriad of harmful chemicals on a daily basis; some of which can lead to hormonal imbalances, extreme fatigue, brain fog and various other symptoms, like headaches, varicose veins, and dry itchy skin. The good news is that we can limit our exposure and optimize our detoxification pathways to help remove these harmful toxins through certain lifestyle choices and making educated decisions about the type and quality of foods we eat.
Food is one of my favorite prescriptions, because food is medicine, and this medicine is information for our body, our minds, and even our DNA. That’s right! Your food choices can actually help turn up the “good” genes and turn down the “not-so-good” genes – almost like the knob on your stereo. It’s a phenomenon called epigenetics, and it’s one of the most empowering aspects of natural medicine. That being said, I’ve compiled a short list of foods that will help instruct your cells to gently open those detox pathways, clear the clutter and start re-balancing your body.
1.) Camelina Seeds + Oil
Roaming a local farmers’ market this past summer, my partner and I were introduced to Camelina sativa, and I instantly fell in love. All nuts and seeds, including their respective butters or pastes, are therapeutically detoxifying. They provide anti-inflammatory oils, quality protein, and phytonutrient compounds like lignans. There are a couple special things about camelina, though. First, it’s extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, which, along with being a powerful brain food, omega-3s help decrease inflammation in our heart and joints. One tablespoon of camelina oil contains about 4,000 mg of omega-3, which is a great therapeutic dose!
Secondly, and most surprising for me to learn, is that camelina oil has a very high smoke point at 475°F, which means it is safe to use for stir-frying, deep-frying and sautéing. Basically, it’s my favorite oil – hands down.
2. Eggs (or Tempeh, for you veggies out there!)
Protein, in general, is an essential nutrient and a foundational aspect of detox. You simply can’t effectively detoxify without it. The amino acids, which make up protein, bind toxins in the liver, so they can be carried out of the body safely. Additionally, regular protein helps normalize blood sugar, which minimizes hunger and cravings (not to mention mood stabilization!).
Whenever possible, it’s ideal to include some protein in every meal for ongoing gentle detox support. Proteins that contain high amounts of methionine, such as eggs (particularly egg whites), halibut, elk, turkey, and cod, provide this important amino acid used in the methylation process – an essential step in the elimination of some toxins.
You may be familiar with fennel seeds, but you can also cook with the bulb, which can be used just like an onion. It adds a delicate flavor, but it packs some serious medicinal power. When used as an herbal medicine, fennel is commonly used for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation, facilitating birth, and increasing libido, but it’s effects reach further than that. It has hepatoprotective effects, which means that it protects the liver from damage and localized toxins. It can even help the liver regenerate new cells! Fennel seeds are also relaxing to the gastrointestinal tract, relieving cramping and gas, which isn’t uncommon while cleansing.
4. Black Soybeans
As I mentioned previously, protein is an essential nutrient for detox, and legumes are a perfect way to get quality dietary protein while getting a nice dose of fiber, so you can effectively eliminate the toxins you’re processing. Legumes are the perfect complement to brown rice or quinoa, or to a non-starchy vegetable. Try black soybeans in soup, add garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) or kidney beans to a salad, or make a salad of 2–3 different beans with chopped onion and pepper.
I find there’s a lot of concern with soy, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation circulating through the Internet. The thing with soy is that it needs to be organic and non-GMO, and if you know you have a sensitivity, please avoid it!
Overall, it has a high methionine content, making it super helpful for methylation – an important biochemical detox pathway. Isoflavones, another constituent found in soy, benefit both Phase I and Phase II liver detox pathways.
Soybeans are also phytoestrogens, so they help decrease estrogen, when there is too much, and help boost estrogen, when there is too little. Additionally, they help to modify estrogen metabolism toward the more protective estrogen and away from the reactive, carcinogenic forms of estrogen. So, give soy a chance!
This frequently utilized, but perhaps underappreciated, herb has an impressive list of beneficial uses. Among them include antibacterial and antiparasitic properties that actually kill pathogenic bugs while feeding our beneficial ones. Garlic also helps to lower cholesterol.
Thiols are one of the main compounds found in the allium, or onion, family, which includes garlic. These compounds are also hepatoprotective, so they help make our body more resilient to stressors and oxidative damage from free radicals.
6. Mandarin (aka Tangerine)
Did you know that tangerines and clementines are sub-types of mandarin oranges? It’s true! These citrus fruits are a great accompaniment to any gentle detox, because they’re super high in antioxidants, which help protect our cells from the harmful free radicals circulating through our body.
The main antioxidant of importance here is called beta-cryptoxanthin, which is broadly in the carotenoid, or Vitamin A family. This special antioxidant is being studied, quite extensively, right now for its potential treatment in several diseases, including cancer and osteoporosis.
So, I hope you have your list prepped and planned for your next grocery store run – your body will thank you.
To your current and future vibrant self!
– Dr. Michelle
Dr. Michelle is a Pacific Northwest-based functional medicine practitioner and naturopathic physician, specializing in a root-cause resolution approach to holistic hormone balance and autoimmunity. In addition to her private practice in downtown Vancouver, she offers virtual consultations to provide access to a broader population. Check out what she offers.
Camelina oil and its unusual cholesterol content V. K. S. Shukla, P. C. Dutta, W. E. Artz. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society
Hikita M, Motojima K, Kamata S, Yoshida T, Tanaka-Nakadate S, Nakadate K. Protective Efficacy of the Ingestion of Mandarin Orange Containing β-Cryptoxanthin on Lipopolysaccharide-induced Acute Nephritis. Yakugaku Zasshi. 2016;136(7):1031-40. doi: 10.1248/yakushi.15-00284. PubMed PMID: 27374966.
Nedrow, Bonnie, and Jeff Hauptman. The Cleanse Companion Cookbook: The Definitive Guide to the Naturopathic Detoxification Diet with 70 Hypoallergenic Recipes. Ashland, Or.: White Cloud, 2012. Print.
Physico-Chemical Properties, Composition and Oxidative Stability of Camelina sativa Oil. Helena Abramovi and Veronika Abram
Some compositional properties of camelina (camelina sativa L. Crantz) seeds and oils. John T. Budin, William M. Breene, Daniel H. Putnam