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. The constant presence of chemicals, pollutants, heavy metals and pathogens in our environment that can make us sick and unhealthy.
While our bodies can handle a certain amount of toxin exposure — for example, they often do a great job of preventing us from becoming ill by getting rid of microbes and waste we don’t need — high levels of exposure over time can lead to many side effects.
Fortunately, our bodies are 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.
If you’ve been feeling sluggish, moody, bloated, or more run down than usual lately, you can likely benefit from a detox. How to detox your body involves eating nutritious foods, avoiding irritants and pollutants, and supplementing to support your digestive, immune and nervous systems.
What Is a Detox?
The definition of a detox, or a “cleanse, is “a variety of ‘detoxification’ diets, regimens, and therapies — sometimes called ‘detoxes’ or ‘cleanses’ — have been suggested as ways to remove toxins from your body, lose weight or promote health.” Indeed, when trying to figure out how to lose weight fast, a detox can be a great first step.
A detox or cleanse can vary in time length, but it can range from a single day to several weeks. A longer detox than that time period is generally not recommended.
The goal of a detox is to remove unhealthy foreign substances, as well as harmful bacteria, yeasts and viruses, from your body to help you feel and operate better.
How do you know if you need a detox? Every person reacts differently to toxin exposure, plus there are various types of toxins, such as metals and mold, each having unique effects on the body. Some common signs that you may require detoxification can include:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Sluggishness, weakness, and lethargy
- Brain fog and trouble concentrating
- Mood swings, anxiety, or depression symptoms
- Bloating and indigestion
- Aches and pains, which may be caused by inflammation
- Getting sick more often
- Skin breakouts, redness and sensitivity
A “detox diet” may be considered an intense cleansing diet that consists of drinking specific concoctions for many days or weeks to clear out toxins and achieve weight loss. Be aware that the term “detox cleanse” can also be a marketing ploy used to shill expensive and overpriced products to health-conscious consumers.
Ideally, a detox is 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. (Learn about a kidney cleanse and a liver cleanse.)
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 drinks and foods can be an easy way to help your 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.
Detoxes help improve overall well-being, including physical and mental health. Below are some of the main benefits associated with detoxes:
1. Helps reduce toxicity in the body
The primary purpose of a detox is to remove toxins from the body that are doing harm, but the scientific literature does not show that most detox cleanses accomplish this. In part, this is because some are fad diets or detoxes that are overly restrictive, do not include enough variety of nutrient-dense foods and simply are a very low-calorie approach that only leads to short-term weight loss success but don’t do anything for the body toxin-wise.
Instead, your liver, kidneys, and immune system do the natural detoxing for you, so the goal in a detox should be to support these organs by providing them with plenty of nutrients.
2. Supports healthy inflammation levels
Your body increases inflammation when it perceives a threat, which can include foreign chemicals or some types of microbes and organisms. By helping to rid your body of toxins, your immune system better manages inflammation.
3. Supports healthy weight management
It can be hard to manage your appetite and weight if you’re constantly tired, bloated, and moody. By eating a nutrient-rich diet and avoiding junk, you’ll likely be better in touch with your hunger and satiety cues and have more energy for physical activity.
4. Can lead to better quality sleep
The body’s different systems are all connected — so inflammation and poor gut health can impact the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that make you calm and sleepy.
Sleeping soundly is difficult when you’re in pain, stiff or anxious. Therefore, improving your overall health should result in better sleep, too.
5. Helps boost energy
When you’re meeting your nutrient needs, such as for key vitamins and minerals, and avoiding inflammatory triggers, you should have more energy. In fact, ongoing fatigue is one of the first signs that you may be missing essential nutrients and/or dealing with a run-down immune system and poor gut function.
6. Supports cognitive health
A compromised immune system, high levels of inflammation, and lack of sleep can all interfere with cognitive functions and mental health. You can get your mood, motivation and ability to focus back on track by supporting your gut and obtaining plenty of detoxifying foods and supplements.
7. Helps improve breathing
Some people experience shortness of breath, wheezing and other respiratory problems when they’re dealing with toxin exposure, such as to mold or irritants. Removing these triggers from your life is a smart way to support lung health and respiratory function.
8. Improves skin and hair health
Does your skin break out when you’re eating poorly, stressed out or not sleeping enough? Does it seem like your hair’s thinning and that your overall “glow” is gone? These signs may indicate that you’re dealing with low nutrient levels and/or hormonal issues. Your appearance and youthfulness will likely improve by supporting your liver and gut.
How to Detox Your Body
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 eight basic steps to follow on a healthy detox diet:
1. Switch out sugar
Switch out sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and sports drinks for water, unsweetened tea or detox drinks, and be sure to stay well-hydrated.
Also nix added sugars from your diet from foods like candies, cakes, cookies and sweets, and aim for a sugar-free diet instead.
2. Eliminate processed foods
Cut out all heavily processed and refined foods, such as convenience meals, pre-packaged snacks and store-bought cakes and cookies.
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.
3. Consume whole foods
As part of a mostly clean eating regimen, up your intake of whole ingredients and raw foods, including fruits, veggies, healthy protein foods and whole grains.
4. Put detox foods and ingredients in your daily diet
Include more natural detox foods (see below) in your diet, such as grapefruit, bone broth, Brussels sprouts, berries, beets, chia seeds and nuts.
Starting using detoxifying ingredients like apple cider vinegar, ginger root and dandelion greens in your smoothies and dishes. Our most popular drink on our site is the secret detox drink loaded with detoxifiers.
Trade in your salt shaker for some healing herbs and spices instead. Seasonings like turmeric, cumin, basil, parsley and paprika can bump up the flavor of your foods while also providing a host of powerful health benefits.
5. Invest in some detox supplements
Consider certain supplements and superfoods with detoxing properties, such as super greens powders that feature spirulina, chlorella and grass juices for example.
Other supplements that support detoxification include:
- Milk thistle — acts as a powerful liver cleanser by rebuilding liver cells, reducing liver damage and removing toxins from the body that are processed through the liver.
- Burdock root — features active ingredients that have been found to detoxify heavy metals from the blood, improving organ health and the health of the whole body.
- Ginger root — supports digestive health and prevents problems like dyspepsia, characterized by pain, heartburn, fullness and discomfort.
- Bupleurum root — this herb is best known for its ability to detoxify the liver and improve overall liver health.
- Probiotics — can help reduce chronic inflammation, potentially impacting the development of a large number of conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, IBS and more.
- Psyllium husk — helps relieve both constipation and diarrhea.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) —can be an effective way to help treat emergency acetaminophen toxicity and acute liver failure.
6. Get enough sleep
Adjust your sleep schedule to ensure you’re squeezing in at least eight hours per night, which allows your body to heal and restore.
7. Exercise more often
Get in some daily exercise, and stay active with your favorite workouts, such as walking, jogging, biking or even pickleball. And when you exercise, rather than relying on sugary sports drinks, drink detoxifying coconut water.
Minimize your stress levels and incorporate some natural stress relievers into your routine, such as yoga, meditation, journaling and essential oils.
Detox Cleanse Protocol
Whether you decide to do a three-day detox diet, a five-day detox diet plan or a seven-day cleanse diet or longer, 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: Overnight oatmeal with berries, nuts and cinnamon
- Snack: Baked apple chips
- Lunch: Flank 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: Super greens drink
- Dinner: Cucumber detox soup with grilled fish on the side
- 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
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Related: Liquid Diet Types, Potential Benefits and Sample Meals
Risks and Side Effects
Keep in mind that not all detox diets and cleanses 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.