Whether you've read about Gwyneth Paltrow’s love for charcoal-infused lemonade or you heard about the curious concoction from your health junkie girlfriend, you’ve probably been more than a little curious about activated charcoal. And maybe you’re looking to detox your system because you’re feeling overwhelmed by acne, bloating, and mood swings.
Celebrities and wellness leaders have declared activated charcoal the best way to rid your body of toxins, and tons of fancy juice bars claim it has liver-detoxifying properties (at $10-plus a pop, of course).
Does that all sound miraculous? Sure! But is it too good to be true? Let’s find out.
The Truth Behind Activated Charcoal
First and foremost, it’s important to know that your body’s main ally in detoxification is the liver. This vital organ works hard to keep your hormones balanced and to keep PMS, cramps, endometriosis, PCOS, and other troublesome conditions at bay.
Activated charcoal works by attaching to chemicals it encounters in the body and preventing absorption. This is great if you’ve overdosed or somehow been poisoned by a harmful substance; that’s why it’s often used in hospital emergency rooms.
But this isn’t so great—or practical—for everyday use. Because it latches on to every chemical it encounters, activated charcoal can actually keep you from absorbing medications you’re taking and truly need. And it can even make your healthy diet less nutritious, preventing your body from absorbing vital vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. Activated charcoal doesn’t know what your body wants and needs, and it can’t discriminate between good and bad.
What I Recommend Eating Instead
Because of its indiscriminate nature, I’m not a proponent of the activated charcoal fad. Instead, I’m a huge fan of using the right foods to support the body’s natural detoxification system, which includes the liver, large intestine, and lymphatic system.
When you eat the right nutrients to support these organs, your body will clear out excess estrogen, which is a central cause of many hormonal-imbalance-related health issues. A buildup of toxins like excess hormones can lead to all sorts of menstrual, fertility, and libido issues, so keeping the natural detoxification system running efficiently is essential to good health.
I recommend skipping the extreme solutions and instead incorporating these four(-plus) foods into your regular diet to support your body’s natural detoxification process:
It's essential for your liver that you eat an adequate amount of protein. Eggs provide the most easily assimilated bioavailable protein source out there. Plus, the author of Blue Zones tells us that the populations around the world that have the longest, healthiest lives tend to eat eggs a few times a week.
2. Avocados, carrots, broccoli, spinach, apples, asparagus, and melon
OK, so we’re really talking about more than just four foods in this list. But what do these seemingly different edible delights all have in common? They’re all rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, super-charges the immune system, and detoxifies the liver. This is one of the best ways to remove chemicals circulating in your body from environmental and food-based toxins.
3. Brazil nuts
Selenium is an antioxidant that, like glutathione, can help boost immunity. It also protects the tissue of the liver from the effects of processing all those waste products. Brazil nuts are chock-full of selenium, and oats are another great source.
Cilantro contains linalool, which helps to support the liver. Try adding the herb to salads and smoothies to get a daily fix.
A Delicious Smoothie Alternative to Activated Charcoal
If you really want to support your body’s detoxification system, you can steer clear of the juice shop and save your money. Try blending up these ingredients at home for a delicious detox smoothie instead:
- ½ cup mango
- ½ a green apple
- ½ cup frozen pineapple
- ½ cup coconut water
- 1 cup of cilantro