Detoxification programs are as widely varied in their rules as they are in their benefits. Detox plans may be recommended by health care practitioners to reduce a particular toxin or drug buildup in your body, to strengthen your natural systems or processes, or to kick-start a weight loss program. Since programs are designed with specific results in mind, the foods you eat during this time vary accordingly to help support the detox process.
How to Prepare
Read through and understand your detox program completely. Ask questions in advance. With a shopping list, visit your local farmer’s market, co-op, health food store or grocery store to stock up on foods you’ll need. Choose organic, local and seasonal foods that are available fresh in your area.
Foods to Eat
Most detox plans eliminate sugar, wheat, alcohol, caffeine and most animal products including milk. Instead, you’ll eat lots of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive and other nut and seed oils and basic spices.
Focus on leafy green vegetables and lettuces like romaine, spinach, chard, arugula and endive. Buy prewashed organic salad ingredients and make your own simple vinaigrette as an accompaniment. Add seasonal root vegetables such as squash, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams. Use onions, garlic and leeks as fresh seasonings and soup bases. Broccoli, red and green cabbage and cauliflower are examples of healthy cruciferous vegetables to try. Include other vegetables such as artichokes, peas, string beans, red and green peppers, eggplant and sea vegetables like kelp and seaweed. Consider flash-frozen fruit and veggies as alternatives if fresh choices are limited.
If allowed, choose organic, free-range poultry options. In the grocery section, look for cereals and condiments such as ketchup that are unsweetened or are sweetened with honey or fruit juice. Add oat, rice or other whole-grain cereals and all-fruit smoothie ingredients to your shopping list.
Try almond milk, soy milk (if allowed) or rice milk variations in place of dairy milk. You also will drink herbal teas and lots of filtered water to support your detox diet, so stock up on a variety of teas and natural water enhancers like lemon, mint and cucumber.
Types of Detox Diets
Some detox programs allow corn, oats, eggs, lean turkey and chicken, legumes, celery, oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits. Programs identifying food allergies or focusing on liver detox may restrict these foods entirely. In a food allergy detox, potentially allergenic foods will be reintroduced slowly to determine which, if any, cause problems.
Anti-inflammatory detox programs will restrict foods high in sugar or with a high glycemic index, such as dried fruit, honey, mango, molasses, peas, potatoes and most types of rice. Typically, all beans and legumes, celery, turkey, oatmeal and eggs are allowed in anti-inflammatory programs.
Another raw food-focused detox diet allows wine, dark chocolate, organic butter, goat cheese and eggs but eliminates most whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and soy.
In general, many detox foods are highly perishable, so make time to shop once or twice a week while you’re detoxing. When eating out, ask questions about preparation to ensure menu items meet detox standards. Try salads or vegetable side dishes (such as sautéed spinach with garlic) as your main course, or ask if a vegan option is available; many restaurants will create something for you. Sushi is another fine option for detoxers; ask for tamari instead of soy sauces containing wheat.
Detox programs are not for everyone, nor are all detox programs safe or beneficial. Consult a health care practitioner before starting a detox program.