The Best Detox

The Best Detox
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The most powerful natural inducer of our liver’s detoxifying enzyme system is sulforaphane, a phytonutrient produced by broccoli.

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There’s lots of talk these days about detoxing, but talk is cheap. Our liver is actually doing it, all day, every day. And if we want to detoxify, the best thing we can do is boost our liver’s own detoxifying enzymes. And sulforaphane is the most potent natural phase 2 enzyme inducer known. That’s one of our liver’s detoxication systems.

So where do we find this stuff? Broccoli, which produces more than any other known plant in the world.

In micromoles per gram seed, fresh weight broccoli’s number one, then kohlrabi, and cauliflower gets the bronze. It’s interesting; broccoli raab, which is all gourmet, expensive—is it worth the extra price? No. Broccoli raab produces about 500 times less than broccoli.

Broccoli is an exceptional source of sulforaphane, but at the same time, there’s none actually in the vegetable—until you bite it.

You know those chemical flares, or glow sticks, where you snap them and two chemicals in two different departments mix, and set off a reaction? Broccoli does the same thing. In one part of the cell, it keeps an enzyme, called myrosinase, and in another part, it keeps something called glucoraphanin. There is no sulforaphane, which is what we want, anywhere in the broccoli—until some herbivore starts chewing on the poor thing.

Cells get crushed, the enzyme mixes with the glucoraphanin, which is a type of glucosinolate, and sulforaphane is born. And the herbivore is like, “Ew, this tastes like broccoli,” and runs away. The plant uses it as a defense against nibblers and noshers. Little did broccoli count on a little lemon juice and some garlic, maybe a little tahini dressing. It’s our counterattack.

Just make sure to chew; otherwise you won’t get as much of that magical mixture. In this study, they had people just swallow broccoli sprouts whole, day one, and got some action. Obviously, their stomach stepped in, and did a little churning. But on day three, when they actually got to chew their sprouts, you can see significantly more got absorbed into their bodies.

Chew it or lose it.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Fir0002 and Jawahar Swaminathan via Wikimedia Commons, and Bruce Wylde and Spencer.

There’s lots of talk these days about detoxing, but talk is cheap. Our liver is actually doing it, all day, every day. And if we want to detoxify, the best thing we can do is boost our liver’s own detoxifying enzymes. And sulforaphane is the most potent natural phase 2 enzyme inducer known. That’s one of our liver’s detoxication systems.

So where do we find this stuff? Broccoli, which produces more than any other known plant in the world.

In micromoles per gram seed, fresh weight broccoli’s number one, then kohlrabi, and cauliflower gets the bronze. It’s interesting; broccoli raab, which is all gourmet, expensive—is it worth the extra price? No. Broccoli raab produces about 500 times less than broccoli.

Broccoli is an exceptional source of sulforaphane, but at the same time, there’s none actually in the vegetable—until you bite it.

You know those chemical flares, or glow sticks, where you snap them and two chemicals in two different departments mix, and set off a reaction? Broccoli does the same thing. In one part of the cell, it keeps an enzyme, called myrosinase, and in another part, it keeps something called glucoraphanin. There is no sulforaphane, which is what we want, anywhere in the broccoli—until some herbivore starts chewing on the poor thing.

Cells get crushed, the enzyme mixes with the glucoraphanin, which is a type of glucosinolate, and sulforaphane is born. And the herbivore is like, “Ew, this tastes like broccoli,” and runs away. The plant uses it as a defense against nibblers and noshers. Little did broccoli count on a little lemon juice and some garlic, maybe a little tahini dressing. It’s our counterattack.

Just make sure to chew; otherwise you won’t get as much of that magical mixture. In this study, they had people just swallow broccoli sprouts whole, day one, and got some action. Obviously, their stomach stepped in, and did a little churning. But on day three, when they actually got to chew their sprouts, you can see significantly more got absorbed into their bodies.

Chew it or lose it.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Fir0002 and Jawahar Swaminathan via Wikimedia Commons, and Bruce Wylde and Spencer.

Doctor's Note

There is a level at which sulforaphane may become toxic, but that appears to be only at extremely high doses (see Liver Toxicity Due to Broccoli Juice?, and How Much Broccoli Is Too Much?). Watch my other videos on liver health.

Note that most of the sources for this video are open access, so you can download them by clicking on the links in the Sources Cited section, above.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Fighting Inflammation With Food SynergyAntioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and SpicesStool Size and Breast Cancer RiskBreast Cancer Survival and Soy; Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. BroccoliThe Best DetoxTreating PMS with SaffronEating Green to Prevent Cancer; and Are Microgreens Healthier?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

61 responses to “The Best Detox

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  1. This “glow stick” reaction is similar to what happens in garlic. I talked about it in #14 of my Ask the Doctor Q&A blog. There is a level at which sulforaphane may become toxic, but that appears to be only at extremely high doses (see Liver Toxicity Due to Broccoli Juice and How Much Broccoli Is Too Much?). Watch my 18 other videos on liver health, as well as hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects. Note that most of the sources for this video are open access, so you can download them by clicking on the links above in the Sources Cited section.




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    1. Will this process release the sulforaphane? Freezing fresh broccoli to use the ice crystals to tear the broccoli cells apart then thaw the broccoli to room temperature for several hours before cooking?




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  2. hello! i’ve been a huge fan of your videos ever since i saw you speak at the nyc veg fest. thank you for bringing so much information into my life!

    i have a question regarding detox. this pas year i’ve been trying to do a raw food diet to try to cure my asthma, allergies, and just feel generally happier. i want to experience a full detox and get the detox phase over with, i have read about “monofruit island” and that eating only one type of fruit for a short period of time is the best and purest way to do a detox. i was considering doing bananas for two weeks. i was wondering if you had any input or suggestions on this.
    MUCH appreciated!!! thank you.




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    1. Do not follow the “detox plan” myths. The best detox is drinking LOTS of water and eating totally whole foods plant based. Including a lot of broccoli in your diet will be highly beneficial for cleaning up your body.




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    2. Hello yuli.90, it looks like we have similar problems. I´m answering a two years old comment but I hope in the meantime you have found the perfect detox for you.
      I am 32 years old and all my life I had severe problems with allergies and asthma. I took all the pills that the doctors told me to take. That cured indeed my allergies but didn´t prevent them from happening again.
      2 years ago I definitely got upset for can´t control it and I have started to change my diet to a vegan one ( no animals, no dairy ). In the beginning I have made a lot of errors but I have learned from it. After two years, more precisely these Spring I had the final test for my diet.
      Every Spring my body reacts VER BADLY to pollen, so before Spring came I watched a lot of Dr Greger´s Antioxidant videos. That said I started to eat EVERYDAY red fruits ( mainly cherries, blueberries and açaí ), watercress and red cabbage. All foods full packaged with the best antioxidants. Also, and very important, I ´ve started to put a pinch of oreganos and cloves in every food I took. No doubt my antioxidant levels raised!

      This Spring, for the first time in my life, I didn´t have any problems so far! I can´t explain how happy I am for that and It is really exciting to know that I could took a major change in my body and that definitely happened with the help of the great DrGreger.

      If you want detox, you want antioxidants.




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  3. Hi Dr. Greger,
    Do you have any research on broccolini or broccolette (cross between broccoli and chinese broccoli – gai lan)?
    Thanks!
    Emily :)




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  4. good news is I love these veggies, bad news is your Dad hates them.  Just got out of the hospital with my heart, his mind is going and my overall health is going,
     we make a heck of a combination, hope you are well!




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    1. If u puree it beforehand and let it sit for 10 min, then apply heat and put it in the soup, you will probably get more of the sulphorophane, which “cleanses” you.




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  5. Hi Dr,

    What happens to the body on the inside if we do a 10 day Master Cleanse (lemon diet), or a 20 day or 30 day? Is it safe? Are there risks?

    Thanks.




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      1. How confusing to see another video on this site stating that boiling greatly magnifies the protective effects of broccoli and other greens such as chard and kale. I detest ALL raw greens and vegetables (except lettuce), but LOVE them ALL cooked. Broccoli sprouts are particularly nasty tasting. And now here’s this issue with the Sulphurophane. I am obviously not chewing the broccoli before I boil it, only afterward. But I need clarification, if in order to get the benefits I must grind it into a smoothie, I will, please advise!




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          1. Thanks. It may be immaterial since I like (lightly boiled) broccoli and usually eat about 1 cup a day, in addition to other things like brussel sprouts, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, chick peas, bell peppers etcetera, making it likely that even less than optimal sulfurophane in my broccoli is not a problem. But the confusion comes from the research on the ‘muddling’ or chewing/cutting/crushing of garlic and broccoli in order to activate it chemically. Garlic cloves are easy to crush and leave for 10 minutes before cooking, or better yet, buy in pre-chopped form. Whereas broccoli comes in a bunch on a stalk, and is not easy to ‘crush’ unless you’re chopping or blending it. Since I prefer whole florets lightly boiled or well steamed, theres a limit to how much ‘chopping’ I’d like to do to it. I wonder if the research looked at how much of the sulfurophane in the entire broccoli head is activated by 1)cutting it in the fields 2)chopping off the florets 3)semi crushing it on a hard surface, etc. For all we know, cutting a 4 inch floret from the stalk fully activates the phytonutrients in the entire length of that floret. With broccoli the distance that the cutting effect travels from the point of trauma is important to know if you prefer it in traditional floret form. Unless in my case, as I said, eating plenty of it daily in concert with other vegetables already provides adequate sulfurophane. Thats the thing about these research nuggets, you always want a little more clarity.




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            1. There is indeed sulphorophane activity from consuming a whole un-chewed piece of broccoli. I forget which video Dr. Greger demonstrates this in. In the big picture it doesn’t really matter. We should consume broccoli in which ever way entices us to eat them as long as they are not doused in butter or bacon wrapped.




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              1. Agreed. But he ends the above video with the suggestion to “chew it or lose it” referring to the study showing increased sulphorane release when the broccoli was chewed. For practical reasons I’m not sure why or when you’d want to eat a whole un-chewed piece of broccoli but it seems worth it to do some gnawing on the healthy green veg before swallowing. Having said that I’ve gone through medical issues and known others who have had medical issues which made pre-blending or breaking down all food (a pre-digestion) before ingesting during the healing/ treatment time. As others have commented I wonder if this would serve same purpose, i.e. is it the mechanical action of chewing that releases the increased sulphoraphane and or chemical action of saliva? As you said, big picture doesn’t matter really (its all good) but it would be nice to have this clarified.




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                1. Sorry, should have finished sentence about pre-blending food. Im sure you understood I was trying to explain that in some cases breaking down food before eating (as in blending etc.) is advised as part of certain treatment plans for serious GI issues (alone or secondary). I know for me and others it was…and we werent really worried about the detox process at the time but that’s life. All is well now.




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                2. All that has to happen is the cells need to be broken up sufficiently for the enzyme and the precursors to find one another and bind to form the product sulforaphane. Chewing, blending, chopping, and possibly head-banging, running over, and dueling with raw broccoli does that, to varying degrees based on how well the cells are crushed and broken. There does need to be some time for the enzyme to do its work on enough precursor molecules though, so there must be some waiting before cooking if you’re going to cook it. Once there has been sufficient time (I’d say 30-40 minutes is plenty), the sulforaphane has been created in good quantities, and it is not destroyed by cooking once it is created. So you can then cook it all you like if desired.

                  If you’re just eating raw broccoli, there is apparently enough time for the enzyme to do its work in the mush you have swallowed into your stomach, at least somewhat, before your stomach acids destroy the enzyme. Bottom line is eat broccoli however you like besides swallowing it whole (sounds rather difficult anyway), and if you’re going to cook it, great, but crush the cells up in some mechanical fashion first and give it 40 minutes before applying the heat.




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    1. The entire Brassica family (which includes cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, mustard greens, red radishes, giant white turnips, watercress, etc.) needs to be eaten raw and chewed well for maximum health benefit. About half of the glucosinolates are destroyed by boiling, about half are destroyed by freezing, and about three-quarters are destroyed by freezing-then-boiling.

      However, other families of vegetables are not as severely damaged by cooking. For example, eating cooked/canned tomatoes has some health advantages and some health disadvantages when compared to eating raw tomatoes. Legumes (including foods made from soybeans) tend to retain the vast majority of their health benefits even after cooking or factory processing. The beneficial chemicals in allium vegetables (garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and chives) are moderately damaged by drying or cooking but not as severely damaged as in cabbage family vegetables.




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  6. Here’s an interesting study from Lithuania which indicates that cabbage eaters have a lower death rate from stomach cancer than broccoli eaters:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16227704
    http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/isothio/

    Pesticides are less of a problem for cabbage eaters than broccoli eaters because the outer layers of the cabbage are almost always thrown away both by the farmer and the consumer.

    The fungus (black mold) which infects most cabbage family vegetables can more easily be removed by cabbage eaters than by broccoli eaters.

    As a result, head cabbage has a longer shelf life than broccoli.

    However, broccoli contains substantially more lutein, which is a carotenoid that is beneficial for preventing age-related eye diseases.




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    1. Not sure about how much cooking is needed. I would assume that after it is at boiling tempuratures, 6+ minutes would surely do the trick. Otherwise though, getting the right amount of iodine should do its job just fine. Don’t take my word for it though. I’m no thyroid expert. I just know what I’ve heard in the videos on this site :)




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      1. I’m not sure this is the place to say this, but here goes about cooking broccoli. Mince a small clove of garlic, meantime, get a tbsp. of good, coldpressed, or expeller pressed oil in a wok or frying pan, with fire on. You would’ve already have chopped up about a head of broccoli by now (bite-sized pieces). When the oil starts to heat up, throw in the garlic (by now you would’ve waited about 10 min), when the garlic sizzles to just under a light brown color(the aroma is your sign too that it’s nicely seared), throw in the broccoli. Stir it up so that the oil, garlic is mixed into the veggie. Then, throw in about 4 or 5 tbsps. of water. Immediately cover with a lid. Under full fire, the whole cooking time should last no more than when you see the evaporation escaping(perhaps 2 min under full fire). Switch off the fire, wait another 1 or 2 min. Open the lid, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt over, and stir. Here is when you can also add in a pinch of mustard powder (Dr G did a video on this, about mustard powder releasing the sulphoraphane). The broccoli will taste crunchy. Enjoy!




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    1. He lists a video above on juicing it and if you watch it I think you’ll see it doesn’t note any negative impact but neither does it point out any benefit, i.e. increased sulphorophane. I believe it needs to be clarified whether the increased enzyme was from the mechanical breakdown action of chewing and or the salivary or bio-chemical action. Maybe somebody knows and will comment.




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      1. It’s definitely produced at least from the mechanical breakdown alone. Because in other videos it is demonstrated that blending up or chopping raw broccoli, letting it sit for awhile (to make the sulforaphane), then cooking it (destroying all enzymes), and after all that finally eating it…still has the effect. The blended up, un-chewed broccoli has also had its sulforaphane content analyzed and it has the full amount expected.




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    2. Whole juice, where you retain the fiber would work, but you’ll always reduced the quality of your food when removing fiber as conventional juicing does.




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  7. Hi, the question I always had and could not find an answer to is the possibility of harmful oxidation of the food being blended. Just like the homoginization process oxidizes the fat in milk. Doesn’t that happen to the particles of food also?




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  8. Excellent website-a lot of good information on nutrition–Thankyou, Nutritionfacts! One thing I will add from my own experience when it comes to cleansing/detoxing. The cleanse that Dr. Schulze at herbdoc.com developed totally changed my life many years ago. If you have any type of terminal disease then please check him out.




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  9. Does the detox covered here implies getting rid of heavy metals as well or only stuff like toxins? I always thought that spirulina and triphala are best for heavy metal detox but now I am not sure what to use instead.




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    1. This detox is referring to anything that has to go through phase 2 liver conversion in order to be rendered harmless and eliminated from the body. For instance you eat a drug or substance that is broken down during digestion. One or more of it’s components may undergo chemical reactions that render it harmful to our bodies. A common example would be alcohol. So the liver then attaches a chemical or enzyme and takes it through a second series of reactions which ultimately renders it harmless and it passes out in our stool. The difference with heavy metal toxicity is that the metals are usually bound in our fat or in our bones. If you loose weight, or if you have osteoporosis and your bones break down, or if you take a substance that liberates the metals they then go into the circulation and it’s the livers job to put them through the process and eliminate them from your body. Spirulina and many of the other “detoxifying” greens have phytonutrients, antioxidants and nutrient co-factors that the liver uses in the detoxification process. So the answer to your question is yes.




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