Detox diet are regularly advertised in magazines and social media, they are seen on TV and talked about by celebrities. Some popular high street shops even sell “detox diet kits”, containing tablets or juices to drink. But what is a detox, and should you do one?
A “detox diet” is based around the idea that you need to periodically cleanse your body of toxins to achieve good health. Some of the benefits advertised suggest; increased energy levels, rapid weight loss, better skin or a stronger immune system. The diets can range vastly in duration and severity, from one day to a month and often involve;
- Short periods of fasting
- Drinking only juices or smoothies
- Eating only fruit and vegetables
- Eating only soups
- Omitting alcohol and caffeine
- Excluding gluten, dairy and refined sugar
- Consuming vitamin pills or drinks
So, how much of this is true?
Firstly, the idea that you need to go on an extreme diet in order to “detox” your body is codswallop. Your body is an incredibly finely tuned machine and it knows exactly how to remove waste products and detoxify itself, without the need to fast for days, follow a restrictive diet, drink colon cleansing drinks or take multiple vitamin tablets. Your body is consistently filtering out waste products such as caffeine, alcohol, medications, food waste and bacteria from the body throughout the day. Organs such as your skin, liver, kidneys and gut are continuously sifting out what your body needs and what it doesn’t. So there is no need to put yourself through the restraining challenge of detoxing for a week or a month.
So, why do many people report feeling better after going on a detox?
This is very common, and is likely due to eating a better diet containing less salt, sugar and saturated fat. Many other health factors involved which may be leaving you feeling revitalised include regular exercise, sleeping better, consuming less alcohol and not smoking.
One common factor of many “detox” diets is the encouragement to drink large quantities of water. Whilst it’s important to stay well hydrated, many people don’t realise that drinking too much water can actually be as dangerous as not drinking enough. By drinking too much water you may flush out the important electrolytes and nutrients your body needs to maintain homoeostasis within the body. The best advice is to drink to thirst and check the colour of your urine which should be a pale yellow.
The truth about fasting
The basis of any fast requires excluding energy and vital nutrients, both of which are required for health and well-being. Fasting can leave you feeling low on energy, tired and dizzy and unable to exercise at your full potential for the duration of your fast. Instead, eat a calorie restricted but nutritious diet in order to provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs and supply you with the energy for exercise and long-term maintenance of a healthy weight.
When it comes to excluding products such as wheat, dairy, gluten etc… these foods provide us with the fundamental nutrients that our bodies need. There is no need to exclude them unless you have an allergy or intolerance to the specific food.
The “superfood” myth
Yes, fruits and vegetables are really good for you and consuming at least five portions per day is an essential part of a balanced diet. They are packed full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and antioxidants, but there is no such thing as a “superfood”. The word “Superfood” suggests that one particular fruit or vegetable is better than the others, but in reality it is the diversity of your diet that really matters. By eating a variety fruits and vegetables in a range of different colours you are providing your body with a wide range of nutrients, a mixture of antioxidants and plenty of dietary fibre. If you embark on a fruit juice only detox diet you are likely missing out on many important nutrients such as healthy fats, protein, iron, calcium and dietary fibre to maintain your gut health.
Importance of a balanced diet
Unfortunately, there is no magic trick when it comes to a healthy diet. Eating regular balanced meals containing carbohydrate, a small amount of protein, plenty of fruits and vegetables and 2 to 3 portions of dairy or calcium fortified alternative are the real key to health. If you want to focus on improving your health, try excluding excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine, high fat and high sugar foods. This will likely leave you feeling more energetic and revitalised, as opposed to the more extreme alternatives.
Detox diets are more of a moneymaking marketing myth than a genuine health improvement. So whilst they seem to be a great way to kick start your weight loss plan or healthy eating regime, many of them are too extreme and nutritionally unbalanced. A better option is to eat a nutritionally balanced diet with regular exercise to maintain a fit and healthy body which is full of vitality. So, rather than looking for a quick fix, try looking after your body for the long term and giving it what it the nutrition it really needs.