If you read about ancient torture methods, you’ll find some pretty gnarly stuff like something called “infusion,” in which a victim is bound and then force fed a list of repulsive substances like salt water, honey, vinegar and hot peppers. But wait! Isn’t that the Master Cleanse?
Truth is, you don’t need to kill yourself with a “detox” regime in order to lose weight and cleanse your body of the damage you did last weekend. Or last night…if you’re nursing an extra strong cup of coffee at your cubicle right now, we won’t tell. Good news is your liver and kidneys do a mighty fine job at the cleanse thing without juices, fasts, or strange concoctions. It gets better. There are a handful of foods—delicious ones—with impressive detoxifying and slimming properties. So hold the vinegar and cayenne and give yourself a lift or cleanse away the pounds, torture free.
THE LIVER FIXER: ALMONDS
Downing those winter cocktails make you more than fat and hungover; the fatty deposits that build up around your liver after weeks of overeating and drinking put you at increased risk for liver cancer. But just a couple small handfuls a day of vitamin-packed almonds could help cleanse the deposits out, according to a recent study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers found a clear inverse response between vitamin E intake and liver cancer risk; those that consumed the most—about 16 mg, or about 15 almonds—showed a 40 percent lower risk of liver cancer than those who consumed less.
THE BELLY FAT BLOCKER: WHITE TEA
Any tea will help soothe your nerves, but white tea packs a particular one-two punch that can actually attack belly fat. A study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism showed that white tea can simultaneously boost lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and block adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells). The tea’s combination of caffeine and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) seems to set fat cells up for defeat.
THE STOMACH SETTLER: GUACAMOLE
Think of guacamole as a designated driver for your digestive system. A study in The Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry analyzed the effects of feeding 22 different fruits to a group of rats with liver damage caused by galactosamine, a liver toxin. The fruit that proved most beneficial? You guessed it: the avocado. Cilantro, the savory herb that gives guac its distinctive flavor, contains a unique blend of oils that send a “simmer down!” message to an upset stomach. In fact, these two oils (specifically, linalool and geranyl acetate) are so powerful they’ve been shown to have a positive impact on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a study published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Science.
THE PAIN KILLER: TURMERIC
You can put an ice pack on your throbbing head, but to get the same anti-inflammatory effect throughout the rest of your body, order the curry. Curcumin, a compound derived from the bright-orange spice turmeric, works as a powerful anti-inflammatory in the liver, research shows. A study in the journal Gut found supplementing with curcumin could significantly reduce bile duct blockage and curbed scarring (fibrosis) by interfering with chemical reactions involved in the inflammatory process.
THE HANGOVER CURE: ASPARAGUS
When you’re huddled over a plate of greasy diner food, begging the Hangover Gods for forgiveness, ask the waiter for a side of steamed asparagus. According to a study in the Journal of Food Science, the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus may alleviate hangover symptoms and protect liver cells against toxins. The veggie spears are also a natural diuretic, which will help flush the excess toxins from your system.
THE CHOLESTEROL BUSTER: COLLARD GREENS
A staple vegetable of Southern cuisine, collard greens have an incredible ability to cleanse your system of excess cholesterol, especially when steamed. A recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research compared the bile acid binding capacity of steamed collard greens to Cholestyramine, a cholesterol-lowering drug. Incredibly, the collards improved the body’s cholesterol-blocking process by 13 percent more than the drug! Just hold the artery-clogging fried chicken. (“But what about kale?” you might be asking. The robust salad staple is a wonderful food to have on hand, but we found 10 Greens Healthier Than Kale, so you shouldn’t feel limited to this one leafy green.)
THE DETOXIFIER: LEMON WATER
Start each day by making a large pitcher of “spa” water filled with sliced whole lemons, and make a point of sipping your way through at least 8 glasses before bedtime. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant de-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick, according to the World Health Organization.
THE ARTERY PLUMBER: WILD SALMON
If quitting smoking is a New Year’s resolution, add a side of salmon. Researchers say a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids may then help to reverse arterial stiffness—a common side effect of smoking, which, like a kinked hose, inhibits the flow of cleansing blood through the arteries and to vital organs. A three-week study in the International Journal of Cardiology found smokers who supplemented with just 2 grams of omega-3s a day—what you’ll find in a 4-ounce portion of salmon—saw marked improvement in the elasticity of the arteries, allowing for healthy blood flow.