Life can be hard, and daily excesses can quickly take its toll but a quick detox is a great way to reboot your body and reset your system. It can even help you find any underlying diet triggers for chronic health conditions (if you do a full-blown “elimination diet”). In fact, a food elimination diet may help to treat things like chronic fatigue syndrome, psoriasis, arthritis, asthma, eczema, IBS, chronic migraines, GERD, anxiety, constipation/diarrhea, sinus problems, and infertility.
As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” So let’s start there. Rather than a full-blown set of resolutions, we’re going to work on detoxing ourselves on whatever we are ready to remove. Even if you’re not ready to do a full elimination diet, you can easily promote your family’s health and wellness by taking simple steps to detox your diet. Here are 10 to get you started:
1. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This little gem of advice is probably one of the most popular to come from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules (which is an excellent book filled with 63 other helpful tips for detoxing your diet).
2. Eat whole foods. Processed, convenience foods (even those marketed as natural and organic) are stripped of essential nutrients and loaded with other questionable ingredients.
3. Eat organic. Conventionally grown and raised foods can be contaminated with all kinds of pesticide residues, synthetic hormones, and more. Reduce your consumption of these toxic offenders by opting for organic when you can (especially what you eat the most of).
4. Eat less meat and dairy (especially if you’re not eating organic). Residues of persistent chemicals (which means your body doesn’t metabolize or excrete them) such as DDT, PCBs, dioxin, and many pesticides concentrate in animal fat (and then, your fat).
5. Avoid added sugars. The average American consumes around 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar every day. According to guidelines from the American Heart Association, the recommended sugar intake is far lower – for adult women it’s 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar per day, for adult men, it’s 9 teaspoons (36 grams) daily, and for children, it’s 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day.
6. Ease up on sauces and condiments. They may be tasty, but these extra additions are also where a lot of the aforementioned sugars, as well as salt, fat, and artificial additives are hiding in your diet. Fresh herbs and spices or a little lemon juice are healthy alternatives for adding extra flavor to any dish (and many have detoxifying effects, too!)
7. Choose foods that help detox your system. There are quite a few foods that help your body to detox, naturally. Dr. John Dempster recommends things like flaxseed, lemon, garlic, artichokes, and apples.
8. Avoid acrylamide. Acrylamide is a toxic chemical that ends up in certain foods as a by-product of cooking. According to Dr. Alan Greene, “[c]ertain natural sugars and certain natural protein building blocks become fused together to form acrylamide when temperatures top 250°F (typical toasters top 300°F).” Here are the top foods to be aware of (and great ones to take on as part of your detox!): french fries and potato chips, crackers, toasted breakfast cereals, cookies, and bread. Dr. Greene says “[a]ll other things being equal, frying produces the most acrylamide. Roasting is better. Baking better still. And…steaming or boiling can produce none at all.
9. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Both are dehydrating and tend to be paired with other things such as dairy, sugar, or juices.
10. Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of clean, pure water. If your kids aren’t fans of a good old-fashioned glass of water, add a wedge of lemon or orange or even a muddled berry to give the drink a hint of flavor.