The holidays are finally here -- and so are everyone's favorite family recipes and holiday meals. Unfortunately, these facts tend to add more inches around the waist, and can leave many wishing for a quick fix diet after the new year.
It is not uncommon to hear a coworker, friend, or even a family member discussing the newest diet trends they have tried. And while there are several diets to choose from, one trendy option are detox diets, which have gotten a plethora of attention in recent years for "cleansing" capabilities.
Detox diets claim to provide short-term interventions to eliminate toxins in the body and promote weight loss, improved health, and well-being. Many detoxes require food modification, juice fasts, total fasts, or use of laxatives, diuretics, vitamins or minerals.
While the idea of detoxing sounds like a great way to rid the body of unwanted toxins, these diets can be daunting and overwhelming. Fortunately, detoxification does not require a rigorous diet plan, because the body works around the clock as a natural detoxifier through its many functions.
What is detoxification?
Detoxification is the process of eliminating harmful toxins that accumulate in the body.
There are two types of toxins: metabolic and contact. Metabolic toxins are those that are made within the body such as lactic acid or urea. Contact toxins are those that come from outside the body and are absorbed, such as: chemicals, drugs, or pesticides.
What are examples of detox diets?
One popular detox diet that aims to cleanse the body of these toxins is the liver cleanse. This detox diet emphasizes vegetarianism, high-fiber, and low-fat food products for eight weeks. During these eight weeks, no processed or sweetened foods can be consumed.
Another popular detox is the lemon cleanse. This diet is known for replacing meals with a drink that contains lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper, and tea tree syrup, or sea salt water with a mild laxative for 10 days.
The clean cleanse diet is a 21-day program whereby individuals consume “cleanse” shakes, supplements, and probiotic capsules for breakfast and dinner. Lunch is a balanced meal that excludes dairy and processed foods.
Another related example is juicing. This trendy detox diet promises to give the body rest from digesting foods and reset the metabolism; however, it can cause intense insulin spikes and leave people feeling lethargic and hungry. With hunger pangs signaling the brain to eat foods, people ditch their efforts, and often their detox diets fail.
Do detox diets work?
While these diets promise fast and promising results, there is currently no evidence that suggests these diets work.
Moreover, detox diets pose health risks associated with severe energy restriction and nutritional inadequacy leading to deficiencies, electrolyte imbalances, lactic acidosis and overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics and water.
Luckily, the body’s natural detoxifying organs (liver, kidneys, colon, and lungs) work around the clock to help us eliminate toxins; however, there are certain things we can do to help make their job easier.
How to help your body detox naturally
Stay hydrated: While the recommneded amount varies depending on age, sex, and activity level, a general rule of thumb is to drink eight to ten cups per day. Keeping a reusable water bottle with you can help meet this goal.
Consume five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day: Quiche muffins are an easy and versatile way to include vegetables throughout your day. You can have them for breakfast or as a high protein snack. Breakfast smoothies are a fast and nutritious way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your breakfast. You can also add berries to yogurt, eat omelets, or have steamed vegetables alongside your morning eggs, reaping the nutritious benefits.
Consume plenty of protein: Protein requirements are individualized and dependent on weight, and the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 0.8g/kg. However, there is research indicating that more could have positive benefits. To calculate your recommended protein intake, take your weight in kilograms and multiply that number by 0.8.
All in all, while health improvement is a great goal, detox diets do not in fact deliver upon what they promise. Detox diets are not evidence-based, and can lead to nutritional inadequacy along with being challenging to follow.
Instead, try consuming a balanced diet rich in lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and water to help promote your body's natural detoxification and shed those unwanted holiday pounds.
Article written by Taylor Williams, Rielle Campbell, and Lakin Simmerman. Taylor, Rielle, and Lakin are students in the Cox College Nutrition Diagnostics Dietetic Internship.
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