Detox Delicacies

Keep your mind and body healthy by cleansing yourself with these garden-variety foods

Rosemary Pollution, noise, tainted food, plastics, celebrity boxing--we live in an alarmingly toxic environment. But to avoid its dangers, you don't have to end up like Howard Hughes, squirreled away from the world, grotesquely long fingernails wrapped around a can of antibacterial spray. An array of potent body cleansers are as close as your refrigerator. And the experts say you should take advantage of them.

"If not dealt with, accumulated toxins can contribute to a wide range of conditions, including cancer, immune-system disorders, mental problems, fatigue, headaches and skin problems," says Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., author of Dare to Lose: 4 Simple Steps to a Better Body. Toxins also interfere with digestion, slow bowel function and even alter metabolism, leading to weight gain. "If our bodies are preoccupied with detoxifying chemicals, they can't focus on burning food," Lieberman warns. "Our metabolic pathways can become overloaded and clogged, just like a sewer system."

Fortunately, we can expel these evildoers before danger strikes. "Thousands of phytonutrients in fresh produce detoxify and neutralize chemicals, toxins, pollutants and carcinogens from our air, water and food" says Lieberman. Below we reveal the superpowers found in some familiar edibles.


Lemons, limes and oranges contain limonene, a substance that breaks down precursors to skin and breast cancers while stimulating the production of cancer-killing immune cells. Citrus fruits also contain glucarase, a compound that inactivates those same carcinogens and hurries them out of the body. In a study performed at Michigan State University, mice were fed orange juice and then exposed to azoxymethane, an initiator of colon cancer. The juiced-up mice developed 22 percent fewer colon tumors than a control group of rodents.


It's irritating to have to spend your Saturday morning ridding the lawn of it, but dandelion does have its benefits. By excreting salt and water from the kidneys, it acts as a natural diuretic. Dandelion's primary advantage over chemical diuretics is that it's filled with potassium, a nutrient often excreted with other diuretics. Plus, dandelion leaves contain the largest vitamin A content of all greens, and they're loaded with vitamin C. Also, the plant's bitter compounds stimulate digestion while increasing bile production in the gallbladder and bile flow from the liver, transporting toxins from the body. Eat the leaves in salads or sandwiches or try herbal preparations (capsules and teas).


Garlic not only adds flavor, its native organosulfurs boost levels of enzymes in the body that detoxify potential carcinogens. Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City found that substances in garlic significantly slacken the development of prostate-cancer cells. In studies on mice, garlic slowed the growth of breast, skin and colon cancers. The herb also contains allyl sulfides, which increase levels of glutathione S-transferase, helping to excrete carcinogens. The power of garlic even extends to foods eaten with it--good news for those who like their steaks blackened (charred meat has been linked to an increased cancer risk). Also, Lieberman says that garlic can be an effective blood purifier, as well as a capable liver and gastrointestinal detoxifier.


"Ginger is a great detoxifier and also aids in digestion," says Lieberman. Compounds in ginger behave like omega-3 fatty acids, preventing and reducing joint damage by blocking inflammatory prostaglandins. Moreover, ginger helps build a powerful antioxidant-based resistance in the blood and liver. By protecting the body from free-radical damage, ginger strengthens your defenses against harmful carcinogens as well as subsequent tissue degeneration.


Leafy greens are loaded with beta-carotene, a compound that protects plants from the ravages of sunlight and environmental threats. So whither the nutrient's signature orange hue? It's masked by the green pigment in chlorophyll--which contributes more than mere coloring; it may be a powerful weapon against cancer. In one study, researchers fed mice chlorophyll, and then exposed them to a potent skin-cancer-causing substance. The mice developed far fewer tumors than a control group, and when exposed to additional carcinogens demonstrated a significantly lower risk of developing cancers of the stomach, colon and liver.


The same sulfur compounds that bring you to tears while you slice onions can help reduce optic swelling, redness and allergy symptoms. In a German study, subjects who drank onion juice before being exposed to irritants reduced their incidence of bronchial attacks by half. Yellow and red onions also contain quercetin, an anti-inflammatory that helps hay fever sufferers. If you're worried about onion breath, nibble on an apple or fresh parsley, as both foods combat the sulfur compounds that linger in the mouth.


Parsley is crammed with nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, sodium, magnesium and iron. It provides a detoxifying one-two punch as both a source of chlorophyll and as a mild diuretic, helping to rid the body of impurities and prevent a host of kidney and bladder problems (just remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day). If you have garlic breath, which many consider a social toxin, just munch on a sprig of parsley--it relieves poor digestion, often the culprit of bad breath.


A pungent herb best known for its happy pairing with red potatoes and roasted chicken, rosemary is also a tonic, a digestive aid and an expectorant. This Mediterranean native can even make you more alert and attentive. In one study done at the University of Miami School of Medicine, subjects were given a simple math computation before and after undergoing aromatherapy treatment. After sniffing rosemary, they showed increased alertness and less anxiety as well as improved relaxation response.


Edible seaweed (found in health food stores, not on the beach) is loaded with vitamins A, C, E and B, as well as calcium, potassium and iron. Some varieties (wakame, hiziki, kombu, kelp) prevent the absorption of dibenzo-p-dioxintype carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract. In one study, conducted at the Fukuoka Institute of Health and Environmental Sciences in Japan, rats were fed toxins and then given a seaweed chaser. Results showed that the seaweed accelerated toxin excretion, which cuts into the amount of damage toxins can do. Kelp is also a great source of iodine, says Lieberman: "Iodine is an essential mineral for the thyroid gland, which controls our metabolism."


Green tea contains abundant polyphenols, plant chemicals that are powerful antioxidants. Polyphenols work by halting free-radical damage to cells and neutralizing enzymes that generate tumor growth. New research indicates that all teas--black, red or green--are good for you, since they're all made with leaves from the Camellia sinenis plant. The only difference is in the processing: Green tea is produced by steaming, rolling and drying the leaves, while the leaves of red and black teas are partially dried and fermented, which gives them their dark color. (For more information about tea's fat-burning potential, check out "Fat Loss in a Tiny Bag," page 158.)

COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace the opinion of a qualified health care professional
and is not intended as medical advice.
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