Looking for a way to get back to a healthier state, I have been researching different cleanses and detox programs. It turns out that the benefits of these programs are largely unsupported by science (1). While many people report feeling better after these programs—pointing to emotional and spiritual benefits—the data isn’t compelling enough for physical health improvements. However, through the process, I learned about the importance of supporting the body’s natural detoxification system rather than following a fad diet. Detoxification is an essential process for overall health that supports digestive health, weight loss, and cleanses harmful substances from the body. A daily green smoothie is an easy and tasty way to aid the body’s natural filtering system and achieve a nutrient-rich diet that meets the body’s daily needs.
What Is Detoxification?
Detoxification eliminates the by-products of the regular digestive process and the toxins we absorb—via food, air, or the skin. It is a joint effort by the liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin, blood, and lymphatic circulatory system to release, neutralize, and eliminate waste (1,2).
Toxins enter the body from the air we breathe, the water we shower with, trace metals and chemicals from our food packaging, metals in our deodorant, chemicals in our laundry detergent, and many other realms of life. These harmful substances irritate tissues and interfere with cell division, cell reproduction, and hormone levels. Also, they can trigger responses like allergic reactions. If toxins circulate enough in the body without being neutralized, they will target fatty tissue, making the brain a top destination (2).
When we eat every few hours, the body uses most of its energy and resources on digestion and slows the body’s ability to start detoxification. Once digestion is complete, the liver has more energy to release accumulated toxins. This released waste enters the circulatory system and is caught by cells whose job is to neutralize it. Once neutralized, they are no longer harmful and can be safely excreted as bile from the liver into the intestines, sweat, exhalation (carbon dioxide), urine, or stool (2).
Supporting Natural Detoxification
Because most Americans eat every few hours, the digestive system is constantly at work breaking down food. There are two common ways to give your digestive system a rest and support natural detoxification in the body: intermittent fasting and following a liquid diet from raw produce (such as juice, smoothies, and vegetable soup).
Liquid from raw vegetables and fruits is much easier for your body to digest, reducing the strain on your organs. Liquids are essentially ready for absorption; they do not require much energy or resources to break down. Liquids from raw fruits and vegetables are even better because they have all the enzymes required for their own digestion built in (2).
Intermittent fasting is when you wait 12 to 16 hours between meals; typically, between your dinner and breakfast the next day. Your body takes about eight hours to process the food from your last meal (2). This period without eating gives your body enough time to finish digesting your dinner and then focus on its other natural job—detoxification.
The Green Smoothie
Rather than following a special cleanse diet with commercialized powders and products, having a green smoothie, greens, or fruit juices after fasting overnight can ease the work of digestion and support your natural detoxification system. A green smoothie after a 12-hour fast from your dinner has many health benefits such as nourishment from vital nutrients and vitamins, improved digestion, and healthier eating habits for the rest of the day. The 12-hour fast is simple: if you ate dinner at 7pm, have your green smoothie at 7am or later.
I love this idea because it is a simple thing you can do daily, without committing to a multi-day cleanse and hunger pangs. Every day, you get important nutrients and vitamins from the fresh ingredients, including vitamin B9, vitamin A, and vitamin C (3). It is commonly known that diets do not work because they are inconsistently followed. If you can stick to this daily habit, it could prove to be better for you in the long-term than an annual cleanse.
A green smoothie can be made with infinite variations and twists, but the essential ingredients are:
- Leafy greens (spinach, bok choy, kale, spring mix, carrot tops, or collard greens)
- Liquid (water, coconut water, almond milk, or whole milk – best for migraineurs)
- Healthy Fat (coconut oil, nut butter, or avocado)
- Something sweet (bananas, frozen berries, honey, cacao powder, or stevia)
- Your favorite protein powder
Magnesium-rich foods speed up the detoxification process by enhancing the digestion and absorption of nutrients (2). Increased magnesium intake is shown to support immunity, treat constipation, neutralize stomach acid, and bind with harmful toxins to remove them (4). Green smoothies contain lots of ingredients rich in magnesium: leafy greens, bananas, nuts, and avocados (5). Later in the day, you can complement your green smoothie with a magnesium supplement. The Health By Principle magnesium supplement contains a special blend of four essential magnesium types to help you feel healthier and less stressed.
Green smoothies also contain fiber from the fruits and vegetables, which carries water into your digestive system and allows food to move freely and avoid getting backed up. Fiber allows toxin-containing stool to move easily through the gastrointestinal tract and out the body. This is an essential step because you do not want toxins released into your circulatory system without them being eliminated. The digestive tract also utilizes probiotics from fiber to supply your intestines with good bacteria, supporting immunity (6).
The water from a green smoothie also combats the dehydration you experience when you first wake up. Many people don’t like drinking a lot of water early in the morning, and this is a great workaround!
Packed With Nutrients
Getting your daily dose of green veggies before your day begins is a huge victory. Maybe you don’t have plans to eat vegetables with your lunch or dinner—the smoothie has you covered. The reason for the old adage, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is because the food you choose in the morning sets the tone for your appetite and food choices for the rest of the day. Research shows that our food choices get worse as the day goes on. By starting with something healthy and full of vitamins and nutrients, you will naturally be interested in healthier food for your remaining meals (7).
Smoothies are quick to make and easy to bring on the go. To make it even quicker, you can meal prep your smoothies by packing a zip lock in your freezer with individual servings of the raw ingredients.
Here are a few green smoothie recipes to get you started:
Remember to get creative–just be sure to have each of the essential ingredient categories. And rather than adding spinach and blueberries every day, don’t forget to rotate your ingredients in order to have balanced nutrients.
- Davis, J. Detox Diets - WebMD: Cleansing the Body. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/detox-diets-cleansing-body#3
- Junger, A., Greeven, A., & Witkowska, M. (2011). Clean (p. 220-250). Warszawa: MT Biznes.
- Nutrineat (2007, September 5). List of Vegetables and Their Vitamin Content. Retrieved January 29, 2021, from nutrineat.com/vegetables-list
- Izzo AA, Gaginella TS, Capasso F. The osmotic and intrinsic mechanisms of the pharmacological laxative action of oral high doses of magnesium sulphate. Importance of the release of digestive polypeptides and nitric oxide. Magnesium Research. 1996 Jun;9(2):133-138.
- Spritzler, F. (2018, August 22). 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods That Are Super Healthy. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium#TOC_TITLE_HDR_11
- Cleveland Clinic (2020, October 15). Are You Planning a Cleanse or Detox? Read This First. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-you-planning-a-cleanse-or-detox-read-this-first/
- Rush University System for Health (2014, July 1). Why You Should Eat Breakfast. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.rush.edu/news/why-you-should-eat-breakfast
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