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5 Ways to Reduce Toxins in Your Diet

It’s true, each day we’re exposed to dozens of potentially harmful food ingredients. From additives, preservatives and pesticides to caffeine, alcohol and carcinogens produced during cooking, our diets are full of toxins that many experts believe undermine our health and well-being. That’s the bad news.

And the good news? Luckily, our bodies are built to handle the occasional intake of toxic compounds, and we have innate natural processes to detoxify our cells and tissues. It’s only when we are consistently exposed to these chemicals through our food and our environment that the body can’t keep up. That’s when health problems can arise.

While the notion of totally detoxifying your diet can seem a daunting task, even a little effort can make a big difference in your overall toxic intake and can substantially reduce your body’s toxic burden over time. Here are a few habits to consider:

Avoid overcooked meats. During the backyard-grilling season, avoid blackening your steaks and hamburgers. That way, you’ll avoid the potentially cancer-causing chemicals created when meats are cooked at high temperatures.

Go easy on the fried foods. It’s a good idea to minimize your intake of starch-based foods cooked at high temperatures, such as french fries, because they tend to contain high levels of acrylamide, a compound that has been linked to cancer in laboratory animals.

Reduce caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine taxes the adrenal glands and raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while the liver breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, a carcinogen also found in cigarette smoke. Although individual biochemistry dictates how harmful these substances can be, most of us would do well to moderate our intake.

Choose foods that cleanse. For example, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, which help cleanse the liver. The fiber in beans and whole grains binds toxins in the digestive tract and then shuttles them out of the body.

Eat organic when possible. According to a 2018 study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, you can significantly lower your pesticide exposure by choosing organic versions of “The Dirty Dozen”—fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide residues. These include strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. On the flipside, “The Clean Fifteen” is a list of produce that’s likely safe to eat in conventional form. Check out the full study here.