Editor’s note: Wellness Brief is a monthly column that will look at all aspects of health and living well, and offer tips on how to bring well-being into your daily life.
Universally, we are exposed to a variety of “toxic” substances. These can range from manufactured goods, pollution, or food. Luckily, unless the exposure is overwhelming, we are often (even unknowingly) protected by way of the other foods we eat. Regardless of where the toxins originated, judicious dietary choices can counteract noxious agents.
Diet is a major factor in determining who does and does not show toxic symptoms following exposure. Some foods protect against metal toxicity and other work as antioxidants. Foods rich in magnesium such as broccoli, spinach, swiss chard, and pumpkin seeds, and foods that increase your level of glutathione (GSH) such as asparagus, broccoli, and spinach, assist in reducing metal toxicity and work as an important antioxidant in the body. Likewise, a high-fiber diet can prevent heavy metals from being absorbed.
The foods you eat work to protect you from the damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Antioxidants are the best protectors of the damage caused by ROS. The most effective antioxidants are found in carotenoids—highly colored fruits and vegetables—such as beets, carrots, tomatoes, and berries and legumes. Flavonoids (polyphenols), such as apples, blueberries, pears, black beans, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes, are another class of effective antioxidants that negate ROS.
Plants also have been found to be a potent inhibitor of chemically induced cancer.(1-4) The energy required for the detoxifying processes is most effectively provided by clean-burning carbohydrates found in plants. Malnutrition from under- and over-nutrition almost invariably leads to a reduced capacity to deactivate these pollutants and therefore increases their toxicity.
To limit your exposure to toxins and cleanse your body, try to minimize foods high on the food chain (don’t overindulge in meats and dairy products) and increase your intake of foods lower on the food chain (starches, vegetables, and fruits). Losing weight on any “diet” releases stored pollutants as the body fat is dissolved, (5-7) especially when the diet you are using to cause the weight loss is low in pollutants and full of detoxifying substances. Consuming a healthy diet will cleanse your body of damaging chemicals. Begin restoring your health by eating an organic, whole-food, plant-strong diet. Create juices in the morning and drink one for breakfast and then throughout the day to aid this process.
1 Hanausek M, Walaszek Z, Slaga TJ, “Detoxifying cancer causing agents to prevent cancer.” Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 June 2(2):139-44. 2 Smith TJ, Yang CS, “Effect of organosulfur compounds from garlic and cruciferous vegetables on drug metabolism enzymes.” Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2000 17(1-4):23-49. 3 Smith TJ, “Mechanisms of carcinogenesis inhibition by isothiocyanates.” Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2001 Dec 10(12):2167-74. 4 Furst A. “Can nutrition affect chemical toxicity?” Int J Toxicol. 2002 Sep-Oct 21(5):419-24. 5 Pelletier C, Imbeault P, Tremblay A, “Energy balance and pollution by organochlorines and polychlorinated biphenyls.” Obes Rev. 2003 Feb 4(1):17-24. 6 Imbeault P, Chevrier J, Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Despres JP, Mauriege P, Tremblay A. “Increase in plasma pollutant levels in response to weight loss is associated with the reduction of fasting insulin levels in men but not in women.” Metabolism. 2002 Apr 51(4):482-6. 7 Hue O, Marcotte J, Berrigan F, Simoneau M, Doré J, Marceau P, Marceau S, Tremblay A, Teasdale N. “Increased plasma levels of toxic pollutants accompanying weight loss induced by hypocaloric diet or by bariatric surgery.” Obes Surg. 2006 Sep 16(9):1145-54.
Common Food Myths — Busted!
Myth: We are often bombarded with claims attempting to sell us necessary products that aid the detoxification process.
Why It Is Busted: The human body has detoxification systems that have evolved more than 300 million years. Natural detoxifying compounds are found in plants such as organic vegetables, fruits and grains. These foods fuel our own innate detoxifying process. An organic, whole food, plant-strong diet—with the aid of our kidneys and liver —will work to keep our bodies toxin-free.
Whole Food, Plant-Strong Recipe of the Month: Raw Energy Balls
Offered by Heather Clark, Director of Communications and Marketing, February’s Whole Food, Plant-Strong Recipe recipe winner!
This is a great snack to take with you on a hike or a long day at work.
• 1 C raw almonds or walnuts
• 1 C medjool dates, pitted
• ¼ C raisins
• ¼ t cinnamon
• ¼ t ground cardamom
• ¼ C raw almond butter
• A pinch of salt (optional)
• Shredded unsweetened coconut, to taste
In a food processor fitted with the “s” blade, grind the almonds. Add the dates, raisins, and spices. Grind to a fine meal. Add the almond butter, process again until thoroughly mixed. Form into balls and roll in shredded coconut. Store in a sealed container on the counter for up to three days or refrigerate for up to a week.