Detox diets can be great at cleansing your body of unwanted toxins and chemicals. However, there is a right and wrong way to detox. Starting an unnecessarily restrictive detox diet can leave you feeling fatigued, cramping, and moody while it provides only fleeting results. A healthy detox program, however, can lead to more energy, a sense of well-being, and a jump start for positive lifestyle changes.
Let’s start with what doesn’t work. Juice or liquid-only detoxes and fasts can be harmful in the long run because they rob your body of needed nutrients. “In a fast lasting longer than a day or two, the body starts to breakdown some of its muscles and organs to generate fuel for the central nervous system,” said Mary Hartley, RD, our resident nutrition expert, in this article. That doesn’t sound very healthy at all.
If you are detoxing to lose weight, choosing an extreme detox diet like the Maple Syrup/Master Cleanse Diet will provide fast results, but the chances of keeping the weight off are extremely slim. Most weight lost while doing a strict cleansing regimen is water weight, so when you go back to whole foods, the weight will be regained. Not only that, but you may gain more weight, as now your metabolism is slower as a result of the cleanse.
Now the skinny on colon cleanses. The colon, or large intestine, naturally clears out waste products, and there is no scientific evidence that a colon cleanse gives medical benefits. When you eat a diet of high fiber, whole foods, and drink plenty of water, the colon will be in balance without any “help” from cleansing products.
Here’s how to detox. Keep it simple: know which foods are best to be eliminated from the diet. Those are processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Caffeine should also be eliminated, but do it gradually so you don’t get nasty headaches or other withdrawal symptoms. Now would be a good time to also abstain from alcohol, too.
Next, focus on what you can have. The most important is to increase your water intake. Keep a water bottle with you to remind yourself to stay hydrated. Green tea, fruit smoothies, and 100% vegetable juices are other healthy drinks. For food, almost anything whole and unprocessed is acceptable. Explore the produce section of the supermarket for new fruits and vegetables to try. Many berries, fruits, and leafy greens are high in fiber, but fiber is also found in abundance in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. During a detox, you may find it beneficial to cut out meat for a short period in order to focus on other sources of protein (like these plant-based protein sources), but if not, simply stick to lean protein sources such as wild salmon.
The only difference between this detox plan and simply a prescription for clean eating is that during a detox, some foods and drinks are completely cut out for a period of time. Since most find it difficult to permanently abstain from their favorite indulgences, once you’re done with a detox, you can go back to enjoying a treat every now and again as part of a healthy and balanced diet.