Detox Diets – Good for Post-Festive Season Guilt?

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Now that the festivities are finally over, you feel bloated, uncomfortable and guilty for all that gluttony. 

Well, it’s time to make good on your resolution to eat healthily and maybe lose a little weight from all binging. Wait – before you go back into the gym and jump into looking up some articles on which diet is the easiest to attempt, you wonder if you should do a detox to jumpstart your quest.

With a plethora of detox diets and cleanses out there, information is broad yet unspecific. In general, detox diets last from three days to a week and most involve a harsh regimen of raw food, fruit and vegetable juices and water. Some of them include herbs, laxative teas, supplements, and even colonic irrigations!

However, these are short-term fixes and not recommended for the long-term. Nutritionists say that they may cause nutrient deficiencies. For instance, juices have no protein, which is needed for cell regeneration and hormone regulation.

That said, if you are still considering doing a detox or cleanse, let’s take a close look at what they are.

What is a detox diet?

Detox diets are designed to remove toxins from your body. These diets are meant to stimulate your liver to promote toxin removal through passing urine, sweating and moving your bowels.

It gives your digestive system, which has been working hard to process all that rich Christmas and Chinese New Year foods, a well-deserved break. It also floods your body with healthy nutrients, restoring any imbalance brought on by too much feasting.

They were originally recommended by health faddists to counter the effects of toxin exposure in your diet or environment. These toxins include synthetic chemicals, pollutants, pesticides and heavy metals. However, research suggests that such toxins are difficult to get rid of with a cleanse, and remain in your body for years.

These days, many people use detox diets to lose weight, although there is no concrete evidence that links detox diets to weight loss. Furthermore, going on a detox is an unsustainable way to lose weight and it is likely you will end up piling the weight back on.

Some popular detox diets include:

  • Juice or smoothie cleanse
  • Raw food diets
  • The Master Cleanse, where you avoid all solid foods and drink a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and water
  • Tea cleanses, where you consume teas containing senna, a herb that has a laxative effect
  • Fasting

Some people report better moods, more energy and glowing skin upon concluding their detoxes. But these feelings could be the result of avoiding unhealthy foods and beverages for a period, note health experts. A clean diet free of processed foods, sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol with a focus on fresh plant-based foods will likely produce the same effects.

Are detox diets necessary or safe?

Experts say detox diets are not necessary, as your body does a great job of cleaning itself out on its own. The liver acts as a filter and removes any toxins from the bloodstreams. It makes these toxins more water-soluble so they can be excreted through the bowels. Alcohol and certain medications, for instance, are broken down by the liver.

In fact, detoxes could be dangerous, experts note. Juice detoxes and tea cleanses could cause excessive trips to the toilet, which dehydrates your body. Juice cleanses could also lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, making it unsuitable for diabetics. Detoxing over the long-term leaves your body lacking in important vitamins and minerals, making it hard to fight off infections and illnesses.

If you choose to go on a detox diet, note that it is not feasible for the long-term. Stick to the minimum period of just three days to be safe.

What are some detox diet alternatives?

You could try a week-long clean eating programme as a safer bet. A diet that focuses on eating unprocessed and nutrient-rich whole foods is not only filling and satisfying, it also nourishes your body and instils some healthy eating habits.

You may also want to exclude the following when you are eating clean. These foods are harder to digest and puts the liver through extra work.

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Any kind of dairy product
  • Wheat-based products such as bread and pasta
  • Eggs
  • Meat products, fish and seafood
  • Condiments such as sauces and certain salad dressings
  • Sugar
  • Hydrogenated fats such as margarine and shortening

Instead, you should focus on the following ingredients. You don’t have to eat them raw – you can whip up creative and tasty meals with these foods. Or if you are lacking inspiration, there are many recipes that promote healthy and clean eating online.

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Plant-based oils
  • Oats and other whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds

Remember to drink plenty of water so your body can flush out toxins. Stick to about two to three litres a day. Daily physical activity also helps you detox through sweating. Do remember to keep exercise light as anything too strenuous may put a strain on your body. For obvious reasons, avoid smoking.

While your body is fully capable of eliminating toxins on its own, it doesn’t hurt to reset your dietary habits and treat your body better. A three-day juice cleanse doesn’t beat the long-term outcomes of adopting a balanced and wholesome attitude towards food.

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