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Are detox diets good for you?



It’s that time of year when we’re surrounded by constant media chatter praising the latest miracle detox diet plan, which allows your body to ‘cleanse’ itself while promising 5kg weight loss in 5 days.


Detox diets can last from a few day to several weeks, and may involve:

-          Exclusion or restriction of food groups and/or meals.

-          Eating only fruits and vegetables.

-          Avoiding alcohol and caffeine.

-          The promise of ‘magic’ foods like shakes/bar/powders that you need to buy to get results.


While it might sound tempting, research strongly shows that these detox diets don’t work. They might give you some short-term results you’re aiming for, but they’re short lived and can be harmful to your body.

It’s important to be careful when considering starting a ‘diet’.  Here’s a few points to keep in mind:


Your body naturally detoxifies


There is no scientific evidence to suggest that our bodies need detoxing. Our body has its own inbuilt detoxification system – our kidneys, liver, gut, and skin filter out and excrete toxins and waste products (alcohol, caffeine, products from digestion, medications, dead cells and chemicals from pollution and bacteria) out of your body so that they don’t build up and cause us damage.


Foods rich in antioxidants are particularly good at helping the detoxification process. Eating a variety of different coloured vegetables (which represent different antioxidants) in your diet each day, and drinking plenty of water, are far more effective ways to detoxify than using ‘detox’ pills, powders or teas.


Small changes – big results!


Some people report to feeling better after being on a detox diet. However, it’s not the diet that’s making you feel healthier, it’s down to the fact that you’ve cut out or cut down on the amount of caffeine and alcohol, you’re sleeping better and moving more, which can make you feel more energised and healthier.


Beware of food exclusions


Many of these detox diets suggest that in addition to cutting out alcohol and caffeine, you also cut out key food groups such as carbohydrates and dairy foods. Beware of any diet that suggests that you cut out any of the core food groups (proteins/carbohydrates/dairy & alternatives/fats) because you can do more harm than good. There are many vitamins and minerals that need replenishing on a daily basis, so if you cut these foods out of your diet for weeks, you can become deficient in certain nutrients. 


Low on energy


Some strict detox diets can cause a condition known as a ‘starvation response’, where your body starts shutting down to conserve energy. Rapid weight loss can occur initially, but this is mainly water and carbohydrate stores, instead of fat. If your diet is too low in protein and calories, it can cause your body to break down muscle to get access to the fuel that it needs. This can slow down your metabolism and you may dizzy, have less energy and you soon find it very difficult to follow.


When you return to your old eating habits you can become ravenous, because your body wants to make sure that it has enough fuel on board to decrease the risk of you starving again. This is why many people regain any weight lost while undertaking a detox diet.


A balanced approach


Different eating plans can work for different people, but restrictive diets like detox diets can be harmful.

To maintain your wellbeing, avoid detox diets and find on an eating pattern that is sustainable for you over time, with a focus on eating for good health.


Making lifestyle changes takes time, as you need to plan and pace the change process according to your preferences, lifestyle and progress. Goal setting and working with a dietitian can be one of the most effective ways to make long-lasting changes while adopting a healthy lifestyle.


Book your free 20-minute Discovery Call today and we can discuss ways in which I can optimise your wellbeing.


References

Harvard Women's Health Watch (2008) The dubious practice of detox. Internal cleansing may empty your wallet, but is it good for your health? Accessed 20th January 2024 from www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HEALTHbeat_072208.htm


Polivy J. 1996. Psychological consequences of food restriction. J Am Diet Assoc. 96 (6): 589-92.


Tahreem A et al. Fad diets: facts and fiction. Frontiers in Nutrition 2022;9:960922. Accessed 20th January 2024 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9294402

 

 

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