Off the top of your head, how many diets can you name?
Atkins. Keto. Zone. Weight Watchers. South Beach. Paleo. Detox.
There are so many diets out there that proclaim immediate and amazing results – but none so much as detox diets (a.k.a. cleansing diets).
These diets suggest that simply by drinking or eating certain low-to-no calorie foods over a specific period of time (usually a week), you can experience spectacular health benefits such as increased energy and decreased weight.
But does this sound too good to be true?
While there is nothing inherently wrong with drinking fruit juices to improve your health, you need to consider the short-term and long-term effects of detox diets.
Ready to learn more? Keep reading to find out if detox diets are good for your health:
What is a Detox Diet?
In popular culture, detox diets are short-term diets designed to eliminate toxins from your body. They usually involve a period of fasting followed by a strict diet of juices, water, fruits, and vegetables. Some detoxes do include herbs, teas, supplements, colon cleanses, or enemas.
Detox diets claim to stimulate your liver to promote toxin elimination. They also claim to improve circulation, address obesity, improve digestive issues, and help with inflammation.
But are these diets too good to be true?
Research on detox diets is lacking andt here are no real studies to answer that question.
However, before we form an opinion one way or the other, let’s look at how your body naturall detoxes itself:
How Your Body Naturally Detoxes
Many people don’t realize that the body is capable of detoxing itself. There’s no evidence to suggest that a detox diet can magically “clean” you out in a week. Instead, it’s important to nourish your body in order to support its natural detoxification channels.
To give you an idea of how your body works to detox itself, let’s look at the three major organs that are involved in this process:
- Liver: The liver is your body’s filter and it prevent toxic substances from passing into your bloodstream.
- Colon: The colon contains bacteria that helps flush out toxic chemicals.
- Kidneys: Your kidneys are constantly filtering your blood and getting rid of toxins through your urine.
Overall, it’s your daily habits and lifestyle that best supports detoxing instead of a 7-day juice cleanse.
Are Detox Diets Effective?
Again, there are very few scientific studies into the effectiveness of detox diets and virtually none have been able to provide any solid data.
Anecdotal data, which is data collected from personal experience, indicates that some people feel more focused and energetic during and after doing a detox diet. However, many people also report feeling unwell during the detox period.
For those that have a positive experience, it’s hard to say what is causing the improvement. Is it the body “detoxing”? Or is it the elimination of unhealthy substances and the increase in vitamins and minerals that were lacking before?
When it comes to weight loss, there is evidence that detox diets can help people lose weight quickly but this can be more easily contributed to the loss of fluid and and calorie restriction instead of detoxification.
The weight is usually regained quickly once the cleanse is done. Plus, crash dieting can be a stressful experience because it involves resisting temptations and hunger.
So are detox diets effective? There’s no scientific evidence to prove that detox diets actually detox your body but they do lead to short-term physical improvement.
The Risks of Detox Diets
As with any extreme dietary change, there are certain risks that need to be considered.
First of all, detox diets involve fasting or severe calorie restriction. In the short-term, this can result in fatigue and irritability.
In the long-term, it can cause energy, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies as well as an electrolyte imbalance.
Colon cleaning methods, in particular, can cause dehydration, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.
Some detox diets recommend the use of supplements, laxatives, and diuretics. Many of these supplements do not have any scientific basis and overdosing can lead to serious health issues. Even drinking too much water, which many of these diets recommend, can be bad for your health.
There are also certain people who should not attempt a detox diet without consulting a doctor. These at-risk populations include children, teens, older adults, pregnant/lactating women, people with blood sugar issues, and people with eating disorders.
Detox diets can severely limit your energy and nutrient intake, which can be a risk to your health.
Alternatives to Detox Diets
As mentioned above, it’s your daily habits and lifestyle that best supports detoxing instead of a 7-day juice cleanse.
So, as an alternative to a detox diet that only yields short-term results, here are some dietary changes you can make to enjoy long-term results:
Fruits and Veggies
Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat every day can have positive health benefits such as improved hydration and increased energy. Whole fruits and vegetables contain essential servings of fiber which helps to keep your body’s detoxification system moving.
Eliminate Sugar and Fatty Foods
You can eliminate the unhealthy substances in your body by simply not eating them! Giving up harmful calories while still eating three meals a day is just as effective as a detox cleanse. If you have a hard time giving up the sweet stuff, look for healthier options such as sugar-free products (with natural sweeteners).
Instead of consuming the juices recommended in most detox diets, opt for a smoothie. While you shouldn’t use smoothies as a meal replacement, you can include this healthy drink as a snack or part of your meal – especially if you struggle to up your fruit and veggie intake! Just remember that smoothies still contain calories, so don’t overdo them throughout the day.
Did you know that your body doesn’t always need outside substances to detoxify itself? You can cleanse your body through exercise! Working out for 30-60 minutes boosts your energy levels and metabolism, making it easier for your organs to keep your body clean and healthy.
Are Detox Diets Good For Your Health?
Basically, detox diets are a fad and, just like any dieting fad, they will give you quick results that only last in the short term.
Many people who have tried detox diets report positive results and no harmful side effects. There is no evidence to suggest that the positive outcomes are the result of “detoxing” – they could simply be a reflection of an increase in vitamins and nutrients that were previously missing from the diet.
This is not necessarily a horrible thing and detox diets may be a great way to jumpstart the changes you want to make physically, but the results are non-sustainable unless you make lifestyle changes.
Hopefully, this article sheds some light on detox diets and some healthy alternatives. Check out our Health & Wellness category for more great articles!