Commercial cleansing, or "detoxing," is often promoted as a way to lose weight and improve health through ridding the body of "toxins." It typically requires a rigid diet, an expensive kit and the willpower to endure hunger and headaches. Is it worth it? Do detox diets really help?
There is no reliable scientific evidence supporting popular cleansing claims. Detox diets can actually be harmful. Not only can they cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms, changes in healthy gut bacteria and dehydration, but they can also set folks up for an unhealthy relationship with food.
Here's the truth: Your body is brilliantly equipped with systems for natural detoxification. Your intestines, lungs, liver and kidneys effectively remove waste from your body every single day. You can certainly enhance the function of these organs by being mindful of what you put in your mouth, but a diet of only juice is not the answer.
As dietitian Leslie Beck recently wrote, "… a cleanse is something your body does daily, naturally, without any help from fashion models and celebrity doctors. Instead of clinging to the false promise and dubious science of detoxes and cleanses, make 2015 the year you adopt eating clean."
If you are looking to lose weight or simply improve your health, remember this: Ditch the all-or-none approach and eat for fuel, flavour and fun.
Eat for fuel
Plan to eat balanced meals while being mindful of your hunger cues. Many detox diets are excessively restrictive and put the body at risk for nutritional deficiencies. Instead of cutting out entire food groups and relying on willpower to push through your hunger, aim to eat throughout the day.
To help you fight cravings, keep a nourishing snack close by. We all know that candy on our desks is hard to resist, but did you know the same is true for healthy choices? Resolve to keep a glass of water with a nourishing snack at hand. When you need fuel, you will be more likely to choose what's nearby than the less nourishing options that are farther away.
Throughout the day choose plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts, most often. These foods provide important fibre and nutrients to help you manage your weight and improve your health.
Eat for flavour
Learn new ways to make healthy food delicious. Wouldn't you rather eat tasty nourishing meals made from fresh ingredients than choke down a detox drink? I know I would. Explore your inner chef. Foods made at home tend to be lower in added sodium, sugar and fat.
Look up new recipes using apps and websites like www.cookspiration.com, where you will find more than 300 recipes from the Dietitians of Canada. Try new ingredients – herbs, spices, and balsamic vinegars are great flavour enhancers. And include the occasional treat.
Eat for fun
Eating should be a pleasurable experience and not a test of will (as most detox diets are). Try to make changes to your diet and lifestyle that you can stick with in the long term – and don't forget to enjoy food. For example, if pizza Fridays are a regular in your house (as they are for many of my clients), don't break the tradition altogether. Instead, make pizza at home and serve it with a side salad.
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Casey Berglund is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada. She is also a registered yoga teacher based in Calgary. She is on a mission to help you ditch the all-or-none and eat for fuel, flavour, and fun at www.worthyandwell.com and on Twitter @worthyandwell.