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Detox Diet

It sometimes feels like everyone is detoxing. From following a juice cleanse to the cabbage soup diet, detox plans entice people with the promises of rapid weight loss and full body transformation. Unfortunately, these detox diets often fail to hold up to more intense scrutiny. Choosing a diet plan that is safe and healthy is important to keep your body in good shape.

What Is the Purpose of a Detox?

Detox diet supporters believe that frequent detoxing can cleanse the body of toxins. They argue that the body accumulates toxic chemicals from the foods we eat, air pollution, water pollution, and other contaminants. According to this theory, even certain lifestyle choices we make, such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or eating heavily processed foods, can lead to the buildup of toxins. Detox diet plans are designed to cleanse the body of toxins and restore optimal functioning.

Common Types of Detox Diet Plans

There are dozens of detox diet plans promoted by celebrities and circulating on the Internet. Some are options for a liver or colon cleanse while others claim to provide full body rejuvenation. Some of the most popular detox diets include:

  • Master Cleanse. The Master Cleanse is perhaps the mother of all detox diet plans. This cleanse involves creating a cleansing concoction that contains water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. It may also entail consuming a beverage composed of warm salt water and laxative tea during the day. The Master Cleanse is designed to be followed for at least 10 days (U.S. News and World Report, n.d.). Proponents of this cleanse claim that it stimulates weight loss and alleviates symptoms of chronic health problems.
  • Colon cleanse. A colon cleanse often includes one of two methods: enemas or laxatives. Both methods are designed to clear the colon of waste. Colon cleanse practitioners believe that this flushes harmful toxins from the gastrointestinal system, improving overall health.
  • Juice fasting. Juice fasting involves drinking only fresh fruit or vegetable juice for the duration of the diet. Some commercial juice fasting plans provide specific juices over the course of the diet, while others permit you to create your own juices at home.
  • Liver cleanse. The liver is the organ responsible for detoxifying the body. Thus, harmful toxins are delivered to the liver to be broken down into harmless metabolites. A liver cleanse is designed to flush these toxins away and restore the liver’s regular functioning. Thus, liver cleanses often focus on drinking vegetable juice, boosting potassium consumption, eating beef liver, and taking specialized supplements (Axe, n.d.).

Does the Research Support the Use of the Detox Diet?

Few research studies explore the effects of detox diets on health; and, because of this, many people in the scientific community remain skeptical about the effects of cleanse or detox plans and some question their safety. The body is equipped with its own natural defense against toxins. This includes the skin, liver, kidneys, intestines, respiratory system, and immune system (Harvard Medical School, 2008). These organs serve to prevent toxins from accumulating in the body and contributing to poor health. Thus, detox diets are unnecessary at best and harmful at worst.

Research does support the effectiveness of diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein in reducing symptoms of chronic disease (Sofi et al., 2008). Dietary experts often recommend making daily choices to work toward this diet, rather than focusing on a fad detox diet plan. This approach has better scientific support than detox diet plans.

Health Concerns Associated with the Detox Diet

Some people report that they experience weight loss, boosted energy, and increased focus during a detox diet plan. These effects are likely due to cutting out processed, unhealthy foods, rather than any specific detoxifying effects (Zeratsky, 2015). Furthermore, a cleanse may have negative effects on health. Many cleanse plans restrict intake of protein, leading to significant fatigue. Furthermore, longer term detoxing can lead to vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

In addition to the acute health concerns associated with detox diets, these diet plans simply do not form a long-term solution to health problems. Detoxing may be associated with feelings of rejuvenation or alertness in the short term. However, if the body is truly being exposed to toxins that contaminate its functioning, detoxing is not the solution. Finding ways to incorporate healthy foods into the diet and monitoring exposure to environmental pollutants is a healthier long-term plan.

Although these solutions do not provide the one-size-fits-all appeal of detox diet plans, they make more sensible choices over the long run. Additionally, eating a healthy, varied diet will help you maintain an appropriate weight and will keep your liver working optimally to naturally detoxify the body. If you do choose to follow a detox diet plan, consult with a health professional to ensure that it is safe for you to do so.

Healthy Detox Recipes

We advise using these recipes as part of a complete and balanced diet. Each supplies an ample amount of the nutrients you need, but only when used as part of a regular diet. For tips on using these drinks to lose weight, check out our protein shakes page.

Protein-Packed Detox Smoothie {vegan}

Protein-Packed Detox Smoothie Recipe {vegan}

Those tantalized by the detox diet should note the incredible nutrition offered by this simple smoothie. For those hoping to attain the goal of weight loss, this blended beverage makes the perfect breakfast substitute, with enough protein and fiber to keep you feeling full and a n abundance of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Ingredients: Almond milk, frozen banana, spirulina, hemp protein powder (optional), fresh mint, chia seeds, hemp hearts.
Total Time: 5 minutes | Yield: 2 399-gram servings

Spirulina Smoothie

Spirulina Smoothie Recipe

This simple smoothie is easy to make and supplies a hearty helping of the nutrients you need- and not much else- meaning that it’s low in calories and fat to help keep you energized without adding bulk to your diet.
Ingredients: Spirulina, banana, fresh spinach, apple juice, crushed ice, lemon juice.
Total Time: 2 minutes | Yield: 2 smoothies

Detox Snacks

These items each offer their own cleansing benefits to help your support your system’s natural mechanism for removing harmful elements from your body. For more detoxifying snacks, check out our page on antioxidants.

References

Axe, J. (n.d.). Liver cleanse. Retrieved from http://draxe.com/liver-cleanse/

Harvard Medical School. (2008). The dubious practice of detox. Family Health Guide. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/family_health_guide/the-dubious-practice-of-detox

Sofi, F., Cesari, F., Abbate, R., Gensini, G.F., Cassini, A. (2008). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: a meta-analysis.British Medical Journal, 337, 1344.

U.S. News and World Report. (n.d.) Master cleanse (lemonade diet). Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/master-cleanse-lemonade-diet

Zeratsky, K. (2015). Do detox diets offer any health benefits? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/detox-diets/faq-20058040