What’s All the Hype About Detox?

juice cleanseWhile scrolling through Pinterest and Facebook, I cannot help but notice all of the “detox diets” and products out there.  I have seen detox teas, detox pills, juice cleanse diets and even a recipe for a detox bath (which I tried with no result whatsoever except for a really nasty bathtub ring that had to be cleaned) that claim to “release” or “expel toxins” from the body. I was not quite sure what to think about all the hooplah and I’m not sure what is even meant by the word “toxins,” but what I do know, is that is what our liver does.  Some of these diets or drinks claim to help promote weight loss, but do they work? The truth is, they probably work in the short run, but could possibly have an opposite effect on the long run.

Juice cleanses:  When people talk about “juicing” or doing a juice fast/cleanse, they mean they are going to consume nothing but juice for a specific amount of time.  Some people take this to mean fruit juice or vegetable juice only.  Some people may add yogurt or flax seed to their juice to help balance the diet.

What’s the danger?  Calories.  It’s mostly about calories and balance. One sample menu I found for a juice diet averaged only 850 calories per day.  That is not enough. Period.  Restricting calories in this way could cause the body to go into “starvation mode,” and hold onto every last calorie it can instead of converting foods into energy.  Also, people tend to rebel after a while and may end up overeating when the cleanse is over. This particular sample menu was also severely lacking in protein, essential fatty acids, and many vitamins and minerals. (Please keep in mind that I make these claims based on one sample menu I saw.  Not all juice diets will be lacking in vitamins and minerals)  This particular diet was also very high in fiber, excessively so for women.  Most adults are not getting enough fiber, but too much can result in digestive distress like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Bottom line: Be careful if choosing a “juice cleanse diet.”  Make sure that you are getting adequate calories and protein.  If you want to be sure, you can enter what you plant to eat in the Super Food Tracker from Choose My Plate.

Detox pills:  Detox pills come in many forms from many different ingredients and can be found in the “dietary supplements” section of the grocery store.  The problem with these is that they are not regulated by the FDA, so you may not be getting what you are paying for in terms of purity and dosage.  Do they work?  Again, because they are not regulated, and there is no way to be sure that the labels are accurate, there is really no way to test for actual results.

What’s best: The human digestive system is incredibly complex and sophisticated.  It never stops working to absorb the things your body can use, and rid the body of what it cannot use.  Eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats from a variety of sources (lean red meat, white meats, fish, low-fat dairy, and beans), whole grains, and plenty of water should be enough to “detoxify” your body.  Fiber intake is low on average for adults. Women should be getting about 25 grams per day and men should shoot for 38 grams per day. Most adults only get about 10-15. Some great sources of fiber include bananas, berries, citrus fruits, and whole grains like oatmeal. It is also a good idea to limit the amount of processed foods and sugary snacks you eat to just a few a week. Make balance and variety a priority in your diet.  You won’t be sorry.

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