To help your body run better, all it takes is six meals and eight snacks made from some deliciously purifying ingredients.
On talk shows and in magazines, I often hear celebrities championing cleanses. But when they say "cleanse" and I say "cleanse," we're usually talking about two very different things. Celebrities use the word to refer to so-called detox diets that promise to help you shed 20 pounds in two weeks. These rapid weight loss regimens can deprive you of crucial nutrients and calories, forcing your body into starvation mode. You do lose weight, but as your metabolism slows, the pounds eventually creep back.
When I say "cleanse," I mean it in the sense of true cleaning—a strategy that helps your body rid itself of toxins. We're exposed to harmful substances all the time; they're in our diet (pesticides, microbes, and mercury, to name a few) and the very air we breathe (think disinfectants, deodorizers, and the gasses released by fresh paint). Fortunately, we have an excellent system in place to handle those toxins: Enzymes throughout the body are continuously breaking them down and helping to flush them out. My 48-hour detox works by optimizing that system. It involves eating whole foods that are packed with nutrients believed to boost the activity of the enzymes and nourish the body's most important detoxifying organs—the liver, the lungs, the kidneys, and the colon—so they can do their jobs better and more efficiently.
The first time I did this cleanse, I noticed that its effects aren't just physical. I believe there is a spiritual aspect as well. Afterward I felt a sense of peace that I didn't have before. If you'd like to see for yourself, eat according to my meal plan for two days. (If you're on regular medication, check with your doctor first.) I recommend repeating the cleanse three or four times a year, or whenever you're feeling bloated or sluggish. I promise it will rejuvenate you—from the inside out.
Start the day with a bowl of this healthy whole grain. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. (Not many cleanses incorporate protein, which can be problematic; if you're not consuming enough amino acids, your body will begin mining them from your muscle tissue. Muscle loss is, unfortunately, one way that detox dieters lose weight.) Quinoa also provides fiber to bulk up stool, and phosphorus to help stimulate bowel movements. The prunes deliver even more fiber, plus sorbitol, a sugar alcohol with a laxative effect.
Here's proof that a cleanse can taste fantastic. Blueberries provide antioxidants to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals and contain quercetin, a pigment that may increase the number of enzymes in the liver. The banana's vitamin B6 helps recharge detoxifying enzymes throughout the body, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds supply additional fiber for healthy elimination (as well as brain-nourishing omega-3s).
This soup is full of good stuff: Fennel may help stimulate the secretion of bile (a fluid that carries waste out of the liver); parsley is believed to act as a diuretic; compounds in garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and cabbage have been found to support liver function; and cayenne pepper may aid lung enzymes. Finish your meal with fermented sauerkraut, which has probiotics that can help break down toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, and apple slices for one last dose of fiber.
Enjoy this beverage as often as you like. (I typically recommend two glasses between meals.) Pineapple contains digestive enzymes. Kale is rich in compounds that support enzymes in the liver. And artichoke can improve bile flow.
A Few Pointers
Use these tips to make the most of your two-day cleanse.
1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Aim to get eight hours of sleep a night.
3. Don't eat after 7 P.M.
4. In the evening, take a warm bath with two cups of Epsom salt dissolved in the water. The salt's key component, magnesium, supports hundreds of enzymes in the body.
5. Before bed, sip a cup of dandelion tea. It's been shown to have diuretic properties, which will help flush away toxins in your urine before you sleep.
6. Know that you'll likely have to use the bathroom quite a bit in the next 48 hours, though your stool should be well-formed, not loose. And since the meal plan doesn't severely limit your caloric intake, you shouldn't feel tired or weak.
Here's a brief look at how the body's own extraordinary detoxification system works.
The liver: This hardworking organ allows nutrients from your food to enter your bloodstream while catching toxins like pesticides and mercury. The liver then excretes those toxins in bile, which eventually flows into the intestines to be eliminated.
The lungs: They're living air purifiers, filtering out damaging particulates and vapors. Tiny hairlike filaments called cilia line airways and help prevent pollutants from passing into your blood.
The kidneys: Every 35 to 45 minutes, the kidneys filter all the blood in your body and dispose of toxins in urine.
The colon: Like the lungs, your colon is lined with guard cells that help block harmful substances from moving into your bloodstream. Regular bowel movements eliminate those toxins before they can harm you.
Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings).