Detox or cleansing has become a cringey fad these days, with its roots in juice fasts, quick weight loss, and deprivation. And even though we are equipped with our own internal washing machine, supporting our detox processes is absolutely crucial in modern times when we are exposed to countless pollutants in our food supply, environment, and personal care products. These chemicals are hormone disruptors and may even contribute to weight gain (obesogens). Supporting detox via cleansing is crucial for health. And I like to think of cleanses as a way take a break from your typical eating plan and flood your body with the nutrients it craves and needs for disease prevention. That’s why I put together this little 3 day plant-based cleanse to revitalize, reset, de-bloat, detox, and rejuvenate your cells.
I don’t recommend a fully vegan diet long term unless used therapeutically, like a keto diet, for example. But a shorter period of eating nutrient-dense plant foods, raw juices, teas, and healthy fats gives your digestive tract a bit of a break while fueling you with plenty of antioxidants and phytonutrients from colorful fruits and vegetables. This is not about starving or drinking weird concoctions, but it is a great way to break out of your daily food routine. Your body is always fighting disease and abnormal cells, so supporting detox processes and getting plenty of nutrients to quell inflammation supports disease prevention.
Use this plant-based cleanse anytime you feel you need a reset, your digestion is off (gas, bloating, a feeling of fullness), if you’ve been fatigued, or are overcoming an illness. It’s also a great way to jumpstart a weight loss program. It can be a first step in improving your health. After cleansing, work on your inner microbial balance and optimize digestion (check out my gut reset for that) and support immune health.
I designed this as a 3 day mini cleanse, but you could go for 7 days or even longer.
Here are some symptoms that indicate you will benefit from this 3 day cleanse:
- bloated, puffy
- brain fog
- restless sleep
- achy, joint pain
- acne, skin issues
- feeling “toxic”
- feeling depleted
Benefits of a 3 day plant-based cleanse:
- reduce inflammation
- flood the body with beneficial antioxidants and phytonutrients
- support detox
- disease prevention
- better focus
- feel lighter
- better sleep
- support hormone balance
- great way to nourish your gut bugs and poop better!
A 3 Day Plant-Based Cleanse to Revitalize
This cleanse is super easy and even fun. Grab a buddy for support. You can do this for 3 or seven days, or even longer. I would not recommend following this type of diet for longer than 21 days unless you’re working with someone to help you achieve certain health goals. We need a variety of nutrients for health, and it is impossible to get adequate levels of zinc and B vitamins on a purely vegan diet without supplementation.
If you want to further support detox, you could add a liver support supplement like this one to balance liver detox and gallbladder function.
Here are the foods to avoid
These foods create inflammation, stagnation, tax your digestive system, and mess with your blood sugar levels and mood.
- meat, seafood, all animal protein
- processed, fried, fast food
- refined sugar
- refined salt (like table salt). Sea salt OK!
- vegetable oils
- processed soy (like soy protein isolates)
You can also avoid legumes and grains and make this more vegan keto if you don’t digest those foods well. Check out the book Ketotarian for recipe ideas. If you do choose to use legumes and grains, I’d recommend only including them at one meal per day.
Here’s what you will be eating & drinking
These foods are rich in the minerals and phytonutrients your body craves and needs for repair and disease prevention.
- green juices (NOT fruit juice)
- herbal teas & green tea
- all veggies that appeal to you, especially bitter greens & cruciferous
- nuts & seeds
- olive oil & coconut oil
- low glycemic fruits like berries, green apple
- optional: gluten free grains & legumes. Wild rice, quinoa, lentils, black beans are good choices
- mineral broth to sip between meals if you like
There are four components to your cleanse:
- Morning tonic
- Fresh green vegetable juices
- Plant-based diet
- Supportive daily habits: sleep, stress relief, detox baths, gentle exercise
Putting it All Together
For the 3 or 7 days of your cleanse, make a daily routine for yourself that includes plenty of rest, a morning routine, meditation, light movement, hydration, detox baths (if you have a tub), journaling, nature walks, you get the picture. Each day I recommend the following:
- Morning tonic: Always begin your day by rehydrating after (hopefully) 8+ hours of rest. At the very least, make a 12 oz mug of hot water and add the juice of half a lemon. This gets your digestive juices flowing and supports detox. Add a dash of cayenne for added zing. You can also add bentonite clay that helps detox bind up toxins in the gut so they’re more effectively removed.
- Smoothie: when it’s breakfast time, an anti-inflammatory protein smoothie is easy to digest and filled with superfoods. You can use a functional detox smoothie mix like this one, or use hemp seeds for protein. Here’s my basic smoothie recipe. I add avocado or banana, berries, almond butter, chia seeds, and either spirulina or moringa.
- Salad: for lunch, mix up a big salad or a ‘buddha bowl’ with a mix of raw and steamed or cooked veggies. You can also add quinoa or brown rice to this. See below for example combos. Top with toasted nori or sea snax, nuts and seeds!
- Green juice: for a 3pm afternoon snack, try a green juice or vegetable juice like my afternoon energizer. I also like a celery, cucumber, green apple, ginger combo. If you don’t have a juicer you can buy freshly pressed green juice at Whole Foods or a natural food store.
- For dinner, how about a nourishing detox soup? This could be a lentil-chard stew (<–here is my recipe; just use the vegan version); a butternut squash soup; my green detox soup; or a cleansing beet soup like the one listed here. Beets are a detox superfood! (read more here)
- Don’t forget to hydrate during the day and sip teas. Burdock root and dandelion root are especially great for liver and kidney detox. Or try a Yogi detox tea. A cup of green tea is OK in the morning, but no caffeine after 12pm. I also like rooibos, good old peppermint (good for gas & bloating) and freshly grated ginger tea. Chamomile or bedtime blends are great for winding down at the end of the day. I also love medicinal mushroom tonics that include reishi, cordyceps, lion’s mane, etc. Check out the Four Sigmatic blends.
- Particular cleansing superfoods include sea vegetables, beets, bitter greens (dandelion, kale, chard, arugula), cruciferous, turmeric, raw kraut for probiotics, herbs like cilantro, parsley, garlic.
Example Day Routine
Wake up, morning tonic to rehydrate. Meditation + yoga or gentle movement.
Morning green juice or smoothie.
Snack: handful mixed nuts with walnuts, Brazil nuts, hummus with celery, carrots & guac, OR green juice
Lunch: buddha bowl with roasted cauliflower, kale, roasted beets, roasted carrots, tahini dressing over quiona Optional chick peas.
Lunch salad ideas: the sky’s the limit with creativity here, but making salads a mix of raw and roasted veggies is satisfying. To make buddha bowls, choose a grain base like brown rice or quinoa, OR for grain free use riced cauliflower or butternut risotto. Then layer veggies like greens, roasted beets & carrots, onions & peppers, root vegetables, roasted or sauteed zucchini, arugula, chick peas, lentils, black beans, avocado, dressing of your choice. Side of raw kraut for probiotics.
Here’s a grain free buddha bowl using tempeh for protein: Use cauliflower rice as a base and layer arugula, avocado, sunflower seeds. Add roasted tempeh; drizzle tahini dressing. Or try a Mediterranean bowl with romaine & quinoa base, then layer with red peppers, hummus, olives, red onion, olive oil/apple cider vinegar herbed dressing.
Dinner detox soups: try my green detox soup, the beet soup I mentioned, or a healthy borscht recipe, a basic veggie soup, or whatever vegan soup chock with veggies appeals to you.
If you’re struggling with bloating, incorporate the digest tea blends and use peppermint (good for gas) and ginger tea.
Ending the Cleanse
To transition off the cleanse, it’s best to not immediately jump back into steak and potatoes or processed foods. Transition slowly back to animal protein, first incorporating eggs and omega 3-rich seafood options like salmon and lighter seafood protein. Keep up with your veggies! Take 5-7 days to reincorporate animal protein and slowly reintroduce foods you eliminated. You may even find you experience reactions or bloating when adding certain foods (typically dairy and gluten) that may inspire you to keep those foods out of your routine if they’re not serving you.
Did you find something in your routine you can stick to? Perhaps to morning tonic, the smoothie, or even a daily vegetable juice? Can you keep up with a daily meditation or breathing exercise? Try not to abandon all the healthy habits you practiced during the cleanse. These little habits all add up to boost health. Try come of these 10 daily detox habits to keep supporting your body’s internal washing machine.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.