Fall is a most treasured season for many of us, including myself. Long, balmy days fade into shorter, brisker ones. We exchange our shorts and tank tops for jeans and cozy cardigans. Instead of iced tea or lemonade, our go-to drinks become hot cider or chai lattes. The trees give us a final show of dazzling, brilliant colors in preparation for the self-preservation of winter. It seems as though the atmosphere around us is imbued with nostalgia and the wistfulness for comfort and warmth.
Taking advantage of the final harvests of the year, fall is a perfect time to detoxify! We can take this time to cleanse our bodies from the heat and all the sugary treats (ice cream, anyone?) we may have consumed during the season. It will also help us ensure our bodies are working smoothly and efficiently for the stressful holiday season coming up ahead.
This season I’ve created for you a really nutritionally packed salad that focuses on supporting your liver and detoxification. The best part? It’s also super delicious! First, I will explain the benefits of the ingredients I chose for detoxification and then I will share the recipe with you.
1. Organic, Pasture Raised Chicken Breast
This choice was more of a way to avoid burdening the liver rather than supporting detoxification. Toxins are stored in the fat of animals (us too), so quality is hugely important when it comes to meat! If you’re purchasing conventionally raised meats, you are likely getting a sizable dose of toxins along with it. You are what you eat ate, after all. So when you’re eating conventional meat, you’re also eating all the pesticides from the feed, antibiotics, and hormones these animals are forced to consume and endure.
I chose organic, pasture raised chicken because it should have less toxins than pork or beef which tend to be fattier. It is also extremely difficult to find high quality pork. I chose the breast specifically as it is a lean meat, so this avoids the potential toxins stored in the fat. You could opt for a 100% grass fed beef in this recipe, I just find the flavors lend themselves better to chicken. And of course, buy local whenever possible 🙂
Now, this isn’t to say the fat from a properly raised animal isn’t healthy! It absolutely, 100% is healthy. I eat fatty cuts of meat, lard, and tallow quite frequently. Just for the purposes of this recipe and the fact that we are focusing on detoxification, it is the best choice to choose a leaner meat and give our liver the easiest time as possible to detoxify.
I opted for a good protein source on this salad because protein is essential for the liver! There are two phases your liver goes through when processing toxins. Phase 1 actually oxidizes the toxins so they can bind to a nutrient that neutralizes it. Phase 2 takes these broken down metabolites and binds them to nutrients so that they are able to be eliminated. The nutrients necessary are sulfur, molybdenum, vitamin B12, and amino acids! (1). As I’m sure you well know, chicken is a great source of both B12 and amino acids from the protein!
The above is a reason why many detoxification protocols aren’t necessarily the best choice as they focus too much on Phase 1. Often they lack the necessary nutrients for the liver to actually bind to toxins and eliminate them, otherwise they will end up recirculating into the bloodstream.
Beets are probably one of the most well-known foods in terms of supporting detoxification. Just one look at them and you can tell – they’re healthy.
Beets are rich in phytonutrients called betalains. Betalains are what give beets their characteristic vivid maroon color. These nutrients act as antioxidants in the body which help reduce inflammation. In turn, these betalains aid in the ever-crucial phase two of the detoxification process. So the beautiful purple-red hue of beets assist in conjugation of toxins so they can be released from the body! Pretty cool for a humble root vegetable (2).
Walnuts aren’t only great for your brain and slimming your waistline, they’re also great for detoxification!
Walnuts are rich in the amino acid l-arginine, which stimulates glutathione production in the body. Glutathione is an extremely powerful antioxidant that our bodies produce. There is some that exists in food, however the digestive process destroys any glutathione that we would have absorbed. Therefore, it is essential to eat foods with nutrients that support glutathione production, like walnuts.
Now, why is glutathione important for detoxification?
Well, it’s actually necessary for detoxification. Glutathione is one of the metabolites that toxins are bound to so they can be excreted. The more glutathione you have, the more efficiently toxins can be shuttled out of your body.
“Glutathione may also be very important for helping your body get rid of toxins in your food and environment. For example, one study found that in people who eat a lot of fish, the total amount of mercury the people retained in their bodies was related to genes regulating glutathione synthesis. The more glutathione people made, the less mercury they retained” (3).
So, load up on the walnuts! They’re great for your brain and they keep your body clean.
NOTE: When I consume walnuts, I always make sure they are soaked prior to eating them. Unsoaked walnuts and others contain an antinutrient called phytic acid. Phytic acid can bind to minerals in the gut and prevent you from absorbing them; iron and zinc being two of the most prominent. For some people, it can also cause digestive upset. So for those with digestive issues, definitely soak them first. I am extremely sensitive to phytates, so I absolutely feel it when nuts aren’t soaked! In fact, unsoaked walnuts cause my lips to swell a bit and itch. When they’re soaked, no problems at all.
4. Granny Smith Apple
You may be surprised to see this one on the list! Perhaps there’s a wee bit of truth to that old saying. Maybe the reason apples keep doctors away is due to their ability to help with detoxification!
The primary compound in apples that aids detoxification is pectin. Pectin is a complex sugar found in many foods; most notably apples. It cannot be digested by the human body in its natural form, so in this way it acts like a form of fiber. Pectin is known for its ability to gel which is why it is such a key ingredient in jellies, jams, and other gelatinous foods.
Pectin is excellent at binding to those pesky toxins we seek to eliminate. Some of the most notable that pectin can bind to are lead, cadmium, manganese, and mercury (4).
I chose granny smith apples in particular not because I prefer them, (I really do!) but because they contain higher levels of pectin than their sweeter counterparts. The more tart the apple, the more pectin there is bound to be!
Broccoli Sprouts, Onion, and Garlic
These three superfoods are grouped together because they each have a similar effect on detoxification. There’s one element in particular these three delicious veggies contain that are an absolute powerhouse for detoxification; that element is sulfur.
Sulfur is essential to the body for many reasons, a few of them being: “energy production, insulin function, regulation of B Vitamins and glutathione synthesis. Sulfur also has anti-inflammatory benefits and can potentially help sore, inflamed joints” (5).
As far as detoxification goes, sulfur has the powerful ability to bind to toxins. Some of the most notable toxins sulfur is adept at dealing with are “mercury, barium, and aluminum” (5).
Sulfur is actually a key component of one of the liver’s detoxification pathways. These pathways are regulated by an enzyme called cytochrome P450. The one solely dedicated to sulfur is called sulfation. Sulfur is so crucial to detoxification, there is even a specific pathway for it in the liver!
Interestingly, sulfur is a key component of what forms glutathione in our bodies. As you’ll remember earlier, glutathione is a powerful antioxidant our bodies produce that is essential for detoxification. So not only does sulfur itself support detoxification, it aids in the production of a second compound that also assists in removing toxins.
Aside from tasting delicious, this is why I chose to include broccoli sprouts, onion, and garlic in the salad. You get a triple dose of sulfur, which has proven to be an extremely powerful aid to detoxifying.
In fact, there’s a clinical study (6) on broccoli sprouts that reveals just how beneficial it can be for detoxification.
“Men and women in a polluted region of China who drank a half-cup of juice containing broccoli-sprout powder daily for 12 weeks excreted 61 percent more benzene, a carcinogen, and 23 percent more acrolein, a lung irritant, in their urine, according to a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health” (7).
That’s a lot of toxins the body was able to get rid of! All from the help of the humble broccoli sprout.
In this study, the benefits are attributed to a compound called glucoraphanin, which is found in raw broccoli. This compound is lost when broccoli is cooked. The author of the study states that glucoraphanin elevates enzyme levels in the liver, which speeds up the rate of detoxification. The faster toxins are excreted, the less likely they are to do harm (7).
This one seems obvious, and perhaps it is. Most leafy greens (the darker the better) are chock full of antioxidants and beneficial compounds that reduce inflammation and support the liver.
Greens are rich in fiber which is one of nature’s sponges for soaking up toxins and eliminating them. Additionally, the chlorophyll in greens help neutralize toxins during digestion. If you didn’t already know, chlorophyll is what gives leafy greens their color. The darker the leaf, the more chlorophyll is present.
The darker the leaf, the more bitter in taste as well. The compounds in bitters stimulate the digestive system and rouse the liver into action. When you’re biting into a piece of kale and get that signature bitter taste in your mouth, think about how it’s helping you detox!
Alright, without further ado it’s finally time for me to quit blabbering on and give you the recipe! Well, here it is my friends.
Serves two people.
- 8 oz Pastured, Organic Chicken Breast
- 4 oz Organic Goat Cheese
- 2 oz Soaked and dehydrated Organic Walnuts
- 6 oz Organic Beets
- 4 oz Organic Granny Smith Apple
- 4 oz Organic Broccoli Sprouts
- 2 oz Red Onion
- 10 oz Mixed Organic Greens (Arugula, Spinach, Baby Kale, are all nice)
- ¼ Cup Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tb Organic Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 tb Organic Lemon Juice
- 1-2 Cloves Organic Garlic
- 1 tsp Organic Dijon Mustard
- Dry herb seasonings of choice, for chicken. (I used onion powder, garlic powder, and italian herbs).
- 2 tb Cooking Oil of Choice, for chicken & beets. (I used organic avocado oil).
- Heat up 1 tb oil in two separate pans.
- Dice up chicken into 1 inch cubes.
- Dice up beets into 1 inch cubes.
- Add chicken and beets to their own pans and cook, sprinkling a little sea salt and dried herbs of choice on them.
- While the chicken and beets are cooking, prepare the veggies.
- Roughly chop greens and add to the serving bowl.
- Separate broccoli sprouts with fingers and add to the bowl.
- Roughly chop walnuts and add to the bowl.
- Thinly slice the apple and add to the bowl.
- Thinly slice the onion and add to the bowl.
- Crumble goat cheese between fingers and add to the bowl.
- To make the dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and dijon mustard.
- Mince garlic and add to dressing.
- Whisk until fully mixed together.
- When the chicken and beets are cooked, distribute on top of the salads.
- Drizzle dressing on top, and serve!