The Scoop on Detox Diets

Sponsored by Suja Organic Juice

detox dieting"Detox" is apparently the magic word in the dieting world. Whether it is through celebrities or magazine diet plans the benefits of detoxification seem to be touted everywhere. But, what exactly is detox, and is it beneficial?

The Claim

Those who support detox claim that our bodies are constantly overloaded with toxins. These can include pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides, alcohol, caffeine, and food additives. They claim that when these toxins build up in our systems, health problems can occur, including weight gain, headaches, bloating, fatigue, and a general lack of well-being. The advocates for detox feel that removing these toxins will help us to lose weight and feel better.

What is Detox?

There are many methods of detoxification. They range from pleasant activities such as saunas and massage to fairly unpleasant procedures such as colonic irrigation or bowel enemas. For many detox plans, herbal supplements are also recommended, and as is most popular in the United States, a detox plan will almost always have a large dietary component. Detox diets may include fasting, consuming only juice or fruits and vegetables, consuming a limited range of foods, or avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

The Facts

Even though detox diets seem to be mainstream in popular culture, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the human body needs help getting rid of waste products if it is healthy. Our bodies are completely capable of excreting waste without fasting, enemas, or induced sweating - that's why we have a liver, lungs, kidneys, and skin. Strict detox diets that are followed for a long period of time can actually lead to nutritional deficiencies and associated health problems. For instance, if you follow only a juice diet, then you will be missing nutrients such as calcium. A prolonged deficiency of calcium may lead to osteoporosis or brittle bones down the line. Moreover, if you fast for a significant period of time, then your metabolism will likely slow down, and your body will adjust to a very low calorie intake. Therefore, when you return to a normal eating pattern, you will be more likely to gain weight.

Is there weight loss?

Of course! How can there not be weight loss when you are barely eating anything? Cutting out major food groups - or all food - will drastically slash your caloric intake. In fact, the more severe the "detox", the more weight you'll be likely to lose simply due to a lack of food. Plus, the fact that you are drinking loads of water helps lead to a loss of water weight as well. However, as mentioned above, the weight loss will be short-lived and accompanied by a slowing of your metabolism, leading you to likely regain all the lost weight once real foods are reintroduced to the diet.

Are there any pros to detoxing?

Many people are probably following unhealthy diets. If following a one or two day detox plan helps get you into a healthy eating frame of mind, then a detox can be great. Detox diets can encourage healthy eating habits such as including more produce into your diet, drinking more water, or cutting back on processed foods. Detox diets also encourage forgoing alcohol and caffeine. All of these changes can be wonderful for your health and motivate you to get on track.

So what should I do?

If you feel you need a one or two day detox to get you on track, then fine. But then please, give it up! Severe restriction is not healthy and is almost definitely not maintainable in the long-term. In addition, many of these detox plans put certain foods on a pedestal. While a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, there is no one food that can provide nutritional nirvana.

You can detox in a much less severe manner that is a lot healthier for you. Cut out all refined sugar, carbs, and alcohol, or cut out all snacking after dinner and drive 8 cups of water a day. Strict, but doable changes like these for a few days can be hugely successful. If you want to maintain or achieve optimal health, the best approach is a balanced diet and regular exercise. So keep eating your fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish, and whole grains.

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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