“I need to detox.”

That phrase this time of year, is as commonplace as “Good morning”.

You hear 'Detox' it in many different contexts, from products, supplements, eating plans and promotions so what exactly does it mean and why do so many people feel the need to do it?

Detox - what is it really?

The word ‘detoxification’ or ‘detox’ generally refers to the removal of a toxin and is specifically used in discussing cases of drug or overdose. A quick Google search for ‘detox’ yields 67,500,000 results. A cursory glance over the links confirms that most are sites clearly selling a product intended to help detox or a survey intended to help decide if a detox would be beneficial. Touted as the way to target belly fat, a quick way to lose weight or to jump-start a healthy lifestyle, the term detoxing agrees with our psyche.

We all want to take the guilt and pain away quickly. That's why we go for the 3 day detox diets and products. Physiologically it's a clever form of manipulating us into taking action. Hey buy this and you can regain control of your situation - we all like that feeling.

The lemon juicing and formulations are a quick way to cut your energy intake while distracting with pseudo science and the feelgood buzzwords of "removing toxins and poisons from your body.” Unfortunately there is no evidence to suggest the juicing will get you any closer to being healthy or less toxic.

Any weight loss is temporary through glycogen depletion and associated water weight loss. The regain is frustrating and demoralizing.

Other products lure us in with a broad spectrum of questions, do you often feel tired? Do you have bad breath? Do you catch colds easily? (1)

  A Natural Detox doesn't have to be bland, boring or expensive - Beet-Berry Pitaya Bowls

Interesting but most can have several different causes and a simple “yes” answer does not indicate that a build up of toxins or poisons are present thus warranting a ‘detox’.

Any truth to the thought that we should detox?

It's tough to find any evidence or science to back claims made by companies regarding supplements and diet plans, so most "scientific' claims are from social media 'experts'.

It is a fact that we are exposed to insults in our daily life, some of us more than others. These insults are not from poor intentioned friends or coworkers they are from xenobiotics - self inflicted toxins. Coming from the Greek word xenos (foreign, stranger) and bios (life) xenobiotic refers to any substance present in the body that under normal circumstances would not normally be produced by, or found in, a living organism. It may also refer to a substance that is found in a higher than normal concentration in any living organism. For this reason many xenobiotics are referred to as toxins or poisons and yes, removing them would be a great idea.

The Real Science

Removal of most xenobiotics requires xenobiotic metabolism or breakdown. This is a complex process that often involves the breakdown and coupling with another molecule, glucuronic acid, sulphuric acid, or glutathione. These substances are then excreted via the liver, urine, feces, breath and/or sweat. The liver enzyme P-450 is an integral part of this metabolic process. P-450 is part of a family of enzymes responsible for the breakdown of certain hormones, vitamins, drugs, and other substances that fall under the xenobiotic umbrella. If we are in search of a way to help detoxify ourselves, boosting glutathione levels and P-450 enzyme activity may be the place to start.

Glutathione (a tripeptide) is the centre piece of our cellular antioxidant system that is responsible for protecting our cells from damage caused by everything from toxins and pollutants to UV exposure. This powerful anti-cancer, anti ageing compound governs our health and risk of disease. Direct ingestion of glutathione does not increase cell levels (5,6) We can maintain glutathione levels easily and safely by regular intake of high quality whey protein supplements. Yep, your protein supplement is also a powerful detoxifier.

Interesting to note: low activity of P-450 enzymes is seen in those with low protein diets and may be responsible for their increased susceptibility to harm from some xenobiotics (4).

Also, transient drops in carbohydrate intake may also result in the temporary inhibition of P-450 functioning, so if you do want to detox don't cut your carbs!

It is also important to note that chronic consumption of carbohydrate and concomitant presence of high blood sugar levels impairs P-450 without question (3). So over indulgences of carb-rich and sugar-rich foods including alcohol) really make you feel the need for a detox!

The Best Dextoxing Foods

So if you are looking to boost those natural detoxing enzymes that remove xenobiotics and detox the body, let's look at the foods that will do it.

Study after study supports diets rich in vegetables. One study at The University of Johns Hopkins Medical School investigated which vegetables had the greatest ability to aid in the breakdown and removal of xenobiotics, otherwise known as toxins (4).

In a direct contrast to this, the recommended minimum intake is just 5-6 servings of veg a day. One serving is half a cup.

Yet according to the most recent survey 96% of Australian Adults fail to meet this rather measly requirement. Maybe that's why most people feel like they need a detox!.

Green onions and the cruciferous family, broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and bok choi not as well as kohlrabi earned high 'detox' marks.

Yellow, green, red and especially cruciferous vegetables don’t just help remove toxins, they also have a remarkable chemo protective effect- meaning they can help protect us from cancer.

Reading between the lines of some of the so-called detox diet plans we see a steer towards healthy eating. Most detox diets Advocate the removal of gluten, sugar, fried and processed foods while increasing the intake of vegetables. So while most of know what we should do, often we don't do it until we feel terrible enough to really take action.

Detoxing the right way….

Remember, during this time of year it can be very easy to eat lots of calories/kilojoules that don't contain a lot of nutrients. So a key part of a healthy detox is to make sure every calorie consumed is as nutrition-packed as possible. Simply increasing the nutrient content of your meals and reducing the unwanted calories/kilojoules from your plan will be the most effective detox you’ll experience – heck, if you listen carefully, you might even hear your liver applauding!

Next, while any internet guru will tell you what to eliminate, most won't give you the skills and tools to replace what's eliminated. Lucky enough, this is what we specialize in. So while the following is a short list of the best detox foods, the key is to focus more on how you are going to get more of them into your plan, simply and deliciously.

Cruciferous vegetables

The cruciferous vegetables providing a wealth of bioavailable vitamins and minerals natural fibre and a spectrum of phytochemicals improve insulin sensitivity, promote efficient heart function under stress and provide a spectrum of antioxidants that help protect our cells against excessive free radical damage.

Detoxing doesn't mean avoiding meat. Colour means powerful detoxifying potential. My Chicken Pumpkin Loaf

Green plant foods
Here is one fact that never ceases to amaze me. Green plant foods are always conspicuously absent from the diets of people that constantly battle weight problems and lack energy. Green plant foods contain nutrients that optimize our biochemistry in so many ways, they are too numerous to mention in detail. They unlock energy, restore acid-base balance within our blood and tissues, sensitize our muscles to insulin, gently cleanse the gastrointestinal system and support efficient oxygen delivery to cells as well as promote fat loss

Red plant foods
Tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, cherries, red cabbage, plums, red grapes, red apples, pink grapefruit and watermelon contain the phytonutrient –lycopene which helps to prevent disease in heart and lung tissue.

Orange/Yellow plant foods
This group includes vegetables like carrots, corn, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and yams. Plus, fruits such as apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, pineapple, mandarin, oranges, nectarines, papaya, tangerines, peaches and tangelos. These foods provide alpha and beta carotene and beta cryptothanxin, which optimizes cardiovascular health.

Why endue a 3-day starvation detox when you can eat this!  Apple Strudel Crepes - only 125 calories with 9 grams of protein 

If you want to live a long, disease-free life, berries should be a staple food in your diet. The potency of the phytochemicals contained within berries is higher than most other plant foods. In particular, research-proven effects on brain function and protection against cognitive deterioration cannot be denied. The fact is, all types are berry-good, and blueberries are probably the best.

High Quality Whey Protein
Whey is a dairy protein, separated from milk as part of the cheese making process. Modern extraction methods have made whey one of nature’s true super foods. A high quality whey protein supplement (80%+ protein concentrates and isolates) is research-proven detoxifier (7,8) as well as performance-enhancer (9,10). The unique ability of this protein to boost glutatione (antioxodant) defences is quite clear even in direct comparison to other sources (7,8,9)

Of course there are many other foods with excellent detoxifying properties. Instead of eliminating you really need to be replacing and nourishing. One easy way to do this is simply selecting recipes from Shar's amazing NEW Multi-media Transformation Cookbook. It's delicious detoxing made easy!

1. http://altmedicine.about.com/library/weekly/bl_quiz_detox_test.htm
2. Bryant S. Kolodchak J. Serotonin syndrome resulting from an herbal detox cocktail. Am J Emerg Med. Nov 2004; 22(7): 625-6.
3. FP Guengerich. Influence of Nutrients and Other Dietary Material on cytochrome P-450. Am J Clin Nutr. March 1995; 61:651s-658s.
4. Prochaska H. Sanatmaria A. Tallay P. Rapid Detection of Inducers of Enzymes That Protect against Carcinogens. PNAS, Mar 1992; 89: 2394 - 2398.
5. Bounous G, Molson J. 1999 Competition for glutathione precursors between the immune system and the skeletal muscle: pathogenesis of chronic fatuge syndrome. Med Hypothesis 53;(4): 347-349.
6. Sen CK. 1999 Glutathione homeostasis in response to exercise training and nutritional supplements. Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry. 196:31-42.
7. Kent KD, Harper WJ, Bomser JA. Effect of whey protein isolate on intracellular glutathione and oxidant-induced cell death in human prostate epithelial cells. Toxicol In Vitro. 2003 Feb;17(1):27-33.
8. Mariotti F, Simbelie KL, Makarios-Lahham L, Huneau JF, Laplaize B, Tomé D, Even PC. Acute ingestion of dietary proteins improves post-exercise liver glutathione in rats in a dose-dependent relationship with their cysteine content. J Nutr. 2004 Jan;134(1):128-31.
9. Lands LC, Grey VL, Smountas AA. Effect of supplementation with a cysteine donor on muscular performance. J Appl Physiol. 1999 Oct;87(4):1381-5.
10. Hayes A, Cribb PJ. Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jan;11(1):40-4. Invited Review.

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