Our bodies are exposed to toxins every day. Heavy metals, pesticides, plastics, industrial chemicals, microfibers, and bacterial endotoxins are all in the water coming from our taps, in the clothes we wear and in the air we breath. Unavoidable…
Fortunately, your body is well-equipped to eliminate toxins and doesn’t require special diets or expensive supplements to do so. That said, you can enhance your body’s natural detoxification system because, in some cases, toxins are not eliminated efficiently and can accumulate in tissues and organs.
If your detoxification pathways are not as strong as they should be, you can become toxic from food, drink, body care products, and environmental allergens. This accumulation of toxins disrupts healthy cell function and increases the risk for disease.
When toxins enter our cells, the body has three steps or “phases” of detoxification. These steps need to work simultaneously in order for the detoxification to work effectively. Proper nutrition helps ensure that each step is supported. You not only need to eat whole foods, but you need to take into consideration your individual needs.
The phases of metabolic detoxification are performed by three sets of enzymes or proteins: Phase I (functionalization, or activation) enzymes, Phase II (conjugation or neutralization) enzymes, and the Phase III (elimination) proteins.
Phase l – Activation
During this part, special enzymes form a reactive site to a toxin so that the body can better eliminate it. Special nutrients in the cell walls of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage release an enzyme called myrosinase that prepares the toxin for the next step. Myrosinase is released by chewing cruciferous vegetables. The myrosinase metabolizes the relatively inactive glucosinolates into isothiocyanates and other products that get these enzymes ready to detoxify. It happens that Phase l turns the toxin into something temporarily even more toxic so that it can be used in the next phase.
Phase II – Neutralization
Our detox system helps us feel better and function better. It transforms toxins to be removed from our body which protects us from cancer. It is very important the Phase ll be ready and well-supported. Certain medicines and foods tend to up-regulate Phase l without supporting Phase ll and can make some people experience side effects from alcohol, chemicals, caffeine, sleeping pills, pesticides, prescription medicine, etc. even more strongly.
During Phase ll, a protective compound is attached to the toxin so that it becomes less toxic and water-soluble in order to be eliminated. Amino acids like glycine, antioxidants like glutathione, and substances that provide energy like creatine help to neutralize the toxin for the next phase, elimination. Sulfur-rich foods like onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables are important for this phase to work properly.
Phase ll tends to be sluggish for some people. Stressors can deplete a person of the nutrients needed to support Phase ll. Because Phase l metabolites can be dangerous, it is important to support this phase of detoxification. For example, you might activate Phase l with your morning coffee and your evening wine. If you have a sluggish Phase ll, you’ll have symptoms of toxicity later such as brain fog, insomnia, or hot flashes.
Phase lll – Elimination
This is the final step in detoxification. This is where toxins are moved out of the body primarily though urine, feces or sweat. Having plenty of fats, fiber and alkaline-forming foods in the diet helps ensure a healthy Phase lll. Being well hydrated is also important, as is a good supply of magnesium.
Your body has a sophisticated way of eliminating toxins that involves the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, and lungs. Only when these organs are healthy, can they effectively eliminate unwanted substances. When you are feeling sluggish, there are some ways you can boost your detox system.
- Limit Alcohol – More than 90% of alcohol is metabolized in your liver. Liver enzymes metabolize alcohol to acetaldehyde, a known cancer-causing chemical. Recognizing acetaldehyde as a toxin, your liver converts it to a harmless substance called acetate, which is later eliminated from your body. Excessive drinking can severely damage your liver function by causing fat buildup, inflammation, and scarring. When this happens, your liver cannot function adequately and perform its necessary tasks, including filtering waste and other toxins from your body. Limiting or abstaining entirely from alcohol is one of the best ways to keep your body’s detoxification system running strong. Health authorities recommend limiting alcohol intake to one drink per day for women and two for men. If you currently don’t drink, you shouldn’t start for the potential heart benefits associated with light-to-moderate drinking.
- Focus on Sleep – Ensuring adequate and quality sleep each night is a must to support your body’s natural detoxification system. Sleeping allows your brain to reorganize and recharge itself, as well as remove toxic waste byproducts that have accumulated throughout the day. One of those waste products is a protein called beta-amyloid, which contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. With sleep deprivation, your body does not have time to perform those functions, so toxins can build up.
- Drink More Water – Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates joints, aids digestion and nutrient absorption, and detoxifies your body by removing waste products. Your body’s cells must continuously be repaired to function optimally and break down nutrients for your body to use as energy. However, these processes release wastes in the form of urea and carbon dioxide which cause harm if allowed to build up in your blood. Water transports these waste products, efficiently removing them through urination, breathing, or sweating. So staying properly hydrated is important for detoxification.The adequate daily intake for water is 125 ounces for men and 91 ounces for women. You may need more or less depending on your diet, where you live, and your activity level.
- Eat Food High in Prebiotics – Gut health is important for keeping your detoxification system healthy. Your intestinal cells have a detoxification and excretion system that protects your gut and body from harmful toxins, such as chemicals. Good gut health starts with prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut called probiotics. With prebiotics, your good bacteria are able to produce nutrients called short-chain fatty acids that are beneficial for health. The good bacteria in your gut can become unbalanced with bad bacteria from use of antibiotics, poor dental hygiene, and a poor diet. Consequently, this unhealthy shift in bacteria can weaken your immune and detoxification systems and increase your risk of disease and inflammation. Eating foods rich in prebiotics can keep your immune and detoxification systems healthy. Good food sources of prebiotics include tomatoes, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, and oats.
- Watch Your Salt Intake – When you consume too much salt and not enough water, your body releases an antidiuretic hormone that prevents you from urinating and therefore detoxifying.
- Reduce Your Intake of Sugar and Processed Foods – By consuming less junk food, you can keep your body’s detoxification system healthy.
- Get Active – Exercise can help your body’s systems, including its detoxification system, function properly and protect against disease.
- Eat sulfur-containing foods. Foods high in sulfur, such as onions, broccoli, and garlic, enhance excretion of heavy metals like cadmium.
- Chlorella is a type of algae that has many nutritional benefits and may enhance the elimination of toxins like heavy metals.
- Cilantro enhances excretion of certain toxins, such as heavy metals like lead, and chemicals, including phthalates and insecticides.
- Switch to natural cleaning products. Choosing natural cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda over commercial cleaning agents can reduce your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.
- Choose natural body care. Using natural deodorants, makeups, moisturizers, shampoos, and other personal care products can also reduce your exposure to chemicals.
The essential minerals in salt act as important electrolytes in the body. They help with fluid balance, nerve transmission and muscle function. Some amount of salt is naturally found in most foods but, unfortunately, most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods.
Salt promotes healthy hydration levels and electrolyte balance, which is necessary for organs to function properly. Your cells, muscles, and tissues need water, and salt helps these parts of your body maintain the right amount of fluid. Inadequate hydration can cause dehydration, making you more susceptible to muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue.
An inadequate amount of sodium in your diet can also lead to low blood pressure. Signs of low blood pressure include dizziness, nausea, fainting, and blurry vision.
If you consume too much salt, your kidneys may not be able to filter excess sodium from your bloodstream. Sodium builds up in your system, and your body holds onto extra water in an attempt to dilute the sodium. This can cause water retention and bloating.
Excess water in your body can put added pressure on your heart and blood vessels, triggering high blood pressure. This is a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. The risk for heart disease is higher when a high-sodium diet is accompanied by a low-potassium diet. Potassium helps excrete sodium from your body and helps to relax blood vessels.
Salt is now available in a variety of colors and textures said to improve your cooking experience. There are also claims suggesting that some salts are healthier than others. The growing popularity of differing salts, like Pink Himalayan, has inflated the costs because these claims are believed.
Salt is a mineral made from the combined elements of sodium and chlorine. Together, they form sodium chloride, a crystallized substance used in cooking, health maintenance, and even de-icing roads. It’s commonly known as table salt and considered rock salt in a more natural state.
Salt is abundant in seawater and is the main mineral that causes ocean water’s approximately 3.5 percent salinity level. The majority of salt produced comes from evaporated seawater and salt mines.
According to Rahaf AlBochi, RD, LD, Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, salt is salt, meaning that by the weight they contain the same amount of sodium. One teaspoon of salt contains around 2400 mg of sodium.
The American Heart Association (AHA) conducted a survey and 61 percent of participants incorrectly said that sea salt had lower sodium content than table salt. Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., RD, American Heart Association spokeswoman and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont, indicated sea salt often has as much sodium as table salt.
The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend a maximum intake of 2,300 mg of sodium per day (5.8 g of salt), while the average consumer intake is 9 g of salt (3,600 mg Na) per day. Incorrect assumptions about differing salts may be contributing to higher levels of salt consumption.
Table salt is the most commonly used salt in cooking and is generally iodized, meaning that iodine has been added. It may also be called iodized salt. Iodine is added to help people get enough iodine in their diet, which is important to prevent goiters, a thyroid gland condition. Table salt is a fine, granulated salt and is often used in cooking. Table salt is heavily processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping.
Kosher Salt is a coarse grain salt. When used in cooking, it can add a crunchy texture to some dishes and drinks. Per teaspoon, kosher salt can have somewhat less sodium than one teaspoon of table salt. That is simply because kosher salt has a coarser grain, so less fits in the spoon. However, per weight, kosher salt and table salt have the same amount of sodium.
Sea salt can be either fine grain or large crystals. It is produced by the evaporation of seawater. Examples include Black Sea, Celtic, French (fleur de sel) or Hawaiian sea salt. Sea salt can have trace amounts of minerals which may offer a different flavor in cooking. Sea salt is still salt and has the same amount of sodium per weight as any other salt. Sea salt is not heavily processed.
Pink Himalayan salt is known as a finishing salt because it is generally used at the end of cooking to add flavor and a crunchy texture to the meal. It contains trace minerals. It does provide the same amount of sodium per weight as any other salt.
Salt substitutes are salts that substitute some or all of the sodium with potassium, magnesium, or another mineral. Lite salt is salt that is half sodium chloride and half potassium chloride. Salt substitutes may be used by people on a sodium-restricted diet, however always check with your doctor before using these products, especially if you have kidney problems. Most salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Brands include Morton Salt Substitute, Nu-Salt, and NoSalt. Potassium chloride tastes somewhat like sodium chloride (salt), though some people complain of a metallic taste.
But be cautious about salt substitutes with potassium chloride.
Salt substitutes can be dangerous if you have certain conditions, particularly diminished kidney function, which is fairly common among older people in the U.S., or if you take certain hypertension medications, including ACE inhibitors and potassium-sparing diuretics. Unfortunately, the very same people who might be looking for salt substitutes – those with hypertension (high blood pressure) – are the ones who probably ought not to be using salt substitutes with potassium chloride.
Seasoned salt is salt with herbs and flavorings such as celery salt, garlic salt, or onion salt. To reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, it is best to use herbs on their own instead of the seasoned salt, such as celery seed, garlic powder or onion flakes, which don’t contain any sodium.
Choosing the best salt for you really comes down to taste and preference. Experts say that salt is salt, and usually contains the same amount of sodium, but I prefer sea salt and Pink Himalayan with a trace of minerals and much less processing.
Photo: Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman
How to Buy
You can buy salt prepackaged or in bulk at your local co-op.
How to Store
Pure salt without additives will never go bad. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is a stable compound and will not lose potency or flavor over time. Salt is a natural preservative and if stored appropriately for long term storage in a cool, dry location you can expect an indefinite shelf life. Pure forms of salt such as sea salt, Pink Himalayan salt, and canning salt will last virtually forever if stored correctly. Some salts such as iodized salt have a short shelf life due to additives.
Salt is hygroscopic which means it attracts water from the environment and stores it. Salt will turn clumpy when stored in the kitchen due to the steam and will absorb odors which may affect the taste. Protect salt by storing in an airtight glass container.
How to Cook
Adding salt at the beginning of cooking gives it time to migrate into the pieces of food, seasoning them throughout. Meanwhile, if you add salt only at the end, it provides a more concentrated, superficial coating that immediately hits your tongue.
Zucchini Salty Cake
- 1/4 cup millet or quinoa flour
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup of chickpea flour
- 1/4 cup of oat or rice milk
- 1 large or 2 medium zucchini
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar (Substitute: For every 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar in the recipe, use 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar.)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons of thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 ºF .
- Wash the zucchini and grate it finely. Put the grated zucchini in a strainer and sprinkle a pinch of salt. Let it rest for half an hour and then squeeze it as much as possible. You can press it between your hands.
- In a large bowl, mix the flours, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and thyme.
- Add the drained zucchini to the flours and mix until it is as uniform as possible.
- Add oat or rice milk and mix well.
- Cut the tomatoes into slices.
- Pour the dough into an 8-inch silicone mold and decorate it with the slices of fresh tomatoes. Sprinkle a little thyme on top.
- Bake the cake for 50 or 60 minutes, until it is golden brown and cooked. Prick the cake with a toothpick to make sure it is perfectly cooked.