Detox diets- what are they, exactly? Well, these “diets” are short-term “cleanses”that most people follow to quickly lose weight, to give the body a fresh start from a long period of eating unhealthily or, generally, to detoxify the body. Juice cleanses, fasting, drinking only liquids (with no food), and restricting foods to only eating fruits and vegetables are a few of the detox diets out there. Are these diets healthy and do they really help to detoxify the body? Let’s start by looking at the body’s natural detoxifying process.
What does the Body do to Detoxify?
Did you know that the body is always working to detoxify itself? The lungs, liver, kidneys and digestive track work together to detoxify the body through perspiration, defecation, and urination. To explain how the body detoxifies, we have to look into the biochemistry involved.
According to Robin Foroutan, a registered dietitian from the Academy of Nutrition, there are two phases that are involved in the detoxifying process: Phase I detoxification involves turning fat-soluble toxins into free radicals, and Phase II detoxification involves converting those free radicals into stable, water-soluble molecules that can be excreted through urine, bile and/or feces.
What do Detox Diets do to Your Body?
Most detox diets involve a plethora of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, as they involve eating fruits, vegetables, and possibly other spices and herbs that are “good for the body”. However, these foods are very low in calories, and would most likely result in an unhealthy daily calorie intake. It is recommended that adult women eat 1,600 to 2,400 calories and adult men eat 2,000 calories to 3,000 calories, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. Usually detox diets go way below those ranges, and this may create feelings of fatigue, dizziness, low blood sugar,and extreme hunger pangs that may lead to binge eating.
Are Detox Diets Healthy?
There is an ongoing debate of whether or not detox diets are healthy or not, but according to a 2014 survey, from a group of 147 Registered Dietitians, 80% did not recommend cleanses or detox diets. The body needs a variety of foods to function properly, including protein, carbs, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Following a balanced diet is key to naturally cleanse the body. Below are some tips on what to include in your diet to help your body restore all by itself!
- Drink up! Your body mostly composed of water, so it needs enough to maintain that balance to keep going. Depending on your activity level, make sure you drink enough water to keep hydrated.
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, especially berries and green leafy vegetables. Eating these will help get rid of those free radicals.
- Eat a variety of natural, whole foods. Create a rainbow on your plate with whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds. All of these foods contain all the nutrients needed for a healthy body. Check out ChooseMyPlate.org for recipes, tips and more!
- Eat enough fiber for healthy bowels. Fiber can be found in 100% whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.
If cleanses or detox diets are something that you may be considering, speak with your healthcare provider or with a registered dietitian to see what would best work for you. It is important to remember that not all diets found on the internet that may have worked for others are healthy for your body.