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Cleansing the body is a popular topic these days, and for good reason. We do, in fact, live in an environment where our bodies are bombarded with toxic substances on a daily basis. Exercise, supplement programs, fasts, meditation, yoga, etc. are employed to varying degrees in order to bring cleansing to the body. But the important role that food plays in cleansing – simply what we eat – can not be ignored.

Americans have a tendency to want quick fixes to problems and symptoms. We love our pills. We can swallow a capsule or tablet and go on about our business, no lifestyle changes necessary. But the problem with this approach is that it completely eliminates the connection between food and health that is so vital. Pills may mask symptoms, but the underlying problem of a poor diet will not be addressed. In other words, toxins are still building while the symptoms are being alleviated.

Sometimes, we look at food as our enemy – we think the less we eat, the healthier and thinner we will be. But what you do eat is very important. Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food, said Hippocrates (from whom doctors get the “Hippocratic Oath”). Let’s look briefly at some of the constituents in whole foods and their various cleansing benefits.

Fiber. This is a big one. Fiber is one of the primary ways to eliminate waste from the colon. Without it, bowel movements lack bulk and toxins can build up in the colon. Fiber absorbs poisons and waste matter as it moves along the intestinal tract, picking it up moving it out. High-fiber diets are also associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.

Vitamins and Minerals. Healthful, whole food contains these vital nutrients. These substances have more roles in the body’s health than can be discussed here, but some particular vitamins, such as C and E, have specifically antioxidant effects. Iron builds the blood; other vitamins and minerals build bone and tissue; still others play an active role in cell regeneration. Without vitamins and minerals, the body can not repair and rebuild itself from a cleanse.

Antioxidants. Many foods have these bodily scavengers. Green tea, berries, tomatoes, and other foods have antioxidant properties. Cranberries promote bladder and kidney health, which are important organs involved in bodily cleansing.

Essential Fatty Acids. We are just beginning to understand the importance of good fats in the diet. It turns out they are crucial, and, among other things, help support liver health. The liver is a major cleansing organ.

Phytonutrients. These are simply the nutrients found in plant foods, and they tend to have anti-cancer and antioxidant benefits.

What you do choose to eat has a significant role in the cleansing of your body. So, of course, does what you avoid eating. Refined sugar, white flour, and processed foods full of artificial preservatives, colors and flavors will have the opposite effect, building toxic waste in your tissues.