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—
And the truth is, activated charcoal 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 according to some research (including a 2007 study published in the Journal of Food Quality) 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.
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. This is mostly due to the nutrient Choline which is present in eggs.
2. Carrots, blueberries, spinach, apples, beans, dark chocolate
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 antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals and supports liver detoxification.
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
Alisa Vitti is a women's hormone and functional nutrition expert and pioneer in female biohacking. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Vitti has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Health. She is the founder of The FLO Living Hormone Center, the world's first menstrual healthcare platform that has helped hundreds of thousands of women around the world put their period issues like PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, and PMS into remission naturally using her highly effective FLO Protocol and the FLO Balance Period Supplements, and the creator the MyFLO period app—the first and only functional medicine period tracker. She is also the author of the best-selling book WomenCode. She has presented at SXSW, TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, and SHE Summit and regularly trains women in the workplace on how to use her Cycle Syncing Method for greater creativity, productivity, and wellbeing at work.