Enhance the Body's Natural Detox Pathways with Cauliflower

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN

Along with most other registered dietitian nutritionists, when I hear someone mention a ‘detox’ that they’re doing, I cringe a little bit. The human body detoxes all on its own. We have systems built into us that allow us to detoxify harmful substances (like through our elimination systems and sweat). If we didn’t have these systems, our species would not have survived.

That being said, we are currently exposed to toxins at greater rates than we are able to handle. To make matters worse, we’re exposed to many types and classes of toxins, giving a compounding effect. The short is, our exposure to toxins has surpassed our evolved capability to detox. This is a huge problem. What makes it even worse is that the effect of this toxic exposure on the body cannot be effectively measured by our gold standard, double blind placebo controlled approach. This is because our exposure is chronic, rather than acute, and compounded, rather than of a singular toxin acting in isolation. Unfortunately, for the greater allopathic medical community, if we don’t have the studies to prove harm, there must be no harm done. So far from the truth.

The fact is, we do need to help our bodies natural detox pathways. We need to support them and boost or upregulate their activity. But not in the way that your local juicery is promoting. You don’t need fancy juices, smoothies, or even supplements to help support your body as it tries to rid itself of toxicants. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some good products on the market, but the VAST majority of them are developed under the pretenses of complete and utter quackery. In most cases, what we really need to do is eat foods that support these pathways. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and kale contain compounds called glucosinolates, metabolites that break down into compounds that upregulate the liver’s detoxification enzymes (1). By upregulating enzymatic activity, the body’s natural detoxification pathways are supported- giving you the boost you need to get rid of built up toxins. Because they have the ability to boost the body’s detox capabilities, cruciferous vegetables have been well study for their chemoprotective and anti cancer benefits (2,3). Many of the biochemical pathways that explain why cruciferous vegetables have this incredible anticancer effect are well studied. However, likely also at play is the synergistic effect of food, meaning that although we may understand some of the science behind the benefits of a particular food, isolating those beneficial compounds and consuming them alone does not normally result in as great of a benefit as eating the food itself. This is because there is much that we do not understand. Cruciferous vegetables, as part of a nutrient dense, plant based diet are what really have the healthspan promoting benefit. So for all of these reasons and more, I recommend that you make the following Detoxifying Sumac Spiced Cauliflower.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (optional)

Directions:

  1. Steam cauliflower florets for 10-12 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, combine spices, salt, lemon juice and garlic.
  3. Add mixture to a saute pan and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes to open the flavors.
  4. Add steamed cauliflower to the pan and saute until the liquid reduces and the cauliflower begins to brown.
  5. Serve warm or chilled.
  6. Optional: drizzle with tahini and serve warm.

References:

  1. Nho, C.W. & Jeffrey, E. (2001). The Synergistic Upregulation of Phase II Detoxification Enzymes by Glucosinolate Breakdown Products in Cruciferous Vegetables. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 174(2): 146-152.
  2. Higdon, J.V., Delage, B., Williams, D.E. & Dashwood, R.H. (2007). Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. 55(3): 224-236.
  3. Keck, A.S. & Finley, J.W. (2004). Cruciferous Vegetables: Cancer Protective Mechanisms of Glucosinolate Hydrolysis Products and Selenium. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 3(1): 5-12.