Have you ever bought a detox tea or smoothie? Or tried a 7-day detox programme, that promised to get you leaner, cleaner and healthier? Sales of these products soar every year following the Christmas period, due to many of us over-indulgencing in vast amounts of high fatty and sugary festive goodies. The idea that you can wash away your calorific sins is the perfect antidote to many of our fast-food lifestyles and alcohol-filled social lives during this time of year.
“Detox” and “cleanse” are two popular buzzwords in the present dieting world! With many of us nowadays seeing products labelled with such words and immediately thinking great, we will lose all our unwanted excess weight in just a couple of weeks but just because these quick fix products and diets are advertised all over the media and endorsed by numerous celebrities, doesn’t mean these are sustainable dieting methods or do not negatively affect our health. So, do these detox diets improve our health? The truth is that, this idea we can flush our systems of impurities and leave our organs squeaky clean and ready for prefect functioning- is a novel marketing idea! The only thing these diets and products are cleansing, is our wallets.
Detox diets can usually last from one day to a month, involving: fasting for short periods of time, consuming only fruit and vegetables, cutting out and limiting certain food groups such as wheat and dairy products and avoiding caffeine and alcohol completely. Majority of these detox diets often claim, “lose weight fast”, “improved digestion”, “improved hair, nail and skin heath”, “boosted energy levels”, “boosted immune system” and “banish cellulite”.
Firstly, it’s best that we all understand these specific terms before getting scientific, so detoxification is the constant process performed by the body utilising important nutrients from the diet, and the removal of toxins from the body. Toxins are chemicals that bombarded our bodies every day, that could potentially have harmful effects on the body, they can be classified as either endo- or exo- toxins. There are a range of sources toxins can originate from including alcohol, caffeine, pesticides or other chemicals used to grow or prepare food, smog or other substances in the air, substances such as artificial sweeteners added to food, sugar and chemicals found in water. The effects of exposure to toxins varies from individual to individual. Some people are highly sensitive to different endo and exo toxins. Others, because their bodies are more resilient, and their livers can detoxify more efficiently, are not so sensitive.
The kidneys, liver, skin and the lungs are detoxifying your body as you read this, through urine, faeces, perspiration and exhalation. The liver is the most hard-working organ in the human body. It performs many functions that are vital to life, the most important being its role of detoxification in the body. The liver detoxifies harmful substances by a complex series of chemical reactions. The role of these various enzyme activities in the liver is to convert fat soluble toxins into water soluble substances that can be excreted in the urine or the bile depending on the specific characteristics of the end product. When optimum nutrition is provided the liver operates efficiently. However, many of us do not eat the right kinds of foods to provide the liver with everything it needs for the elimination of the unwanted toxins our bodies are exposed to daily. If nutrition is compromised through poor dietary and lifestyle habits, this will have implications on detoxification processes in our body, and other organ functions will suffer as the body retains the toxins it cannot eliminate.
Detox diets may lead to rapid weight loss due to their extreme nature, calorie restriction and the fact that they cut out whole food groups which limits both energy and nutrient intake that are essential for good health and well-being. However, this weight loss is mainly water, glycogen and muscle mass, therefore it is not sustainable and is usually regained once a normal diet is resumed. These detox programmes may also make you feel nauseous, dehydrated, weak and light-headed due to limited energy and accumulation of chemicals such as ketones, which may restrict the body from carrying out any sustained exercise of activity.
The truth is, if the body accumulated so many toxins, we would feel very ill and in some extreme cases may lead to death. However, removal of toxins gives many positive health benefits, giving increased energy, clear skin, vitality and a general feeling of well-being. If your goal is to detox your body, don’t waste your time and money. Your body has specialist experience removing toxins no matter what you eat, therefore forget the term “detox diet” and instead focus on maintaining a healthy balanced diet to get your body looking and feeling its best.
MAINTAINING A BALANCED DIET FOR OPTIMUM DETOXIFICATION
If you are interested in adopting a healthier balanced diet, it is best you understand and master the basics to help get you started. Below are the 8 tips for healthy eating, that cover the basics of maintaining a balanced diet and choosing the healthier option:
- Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Reduce your sugar and saturated fat intake.
- Drink plenty of water, approximately six glasses is the recommended amount.
- Aim for at least two portions of fish every week.
- Reduce your salt intake. It is advised to eat no more than 6g a day. Avoid adding it to your meals, you’ll be surprised at how much is already there.
- Always eat breakfast, it starts your day the right day giving you energy.
- Use starchy foods as the base of your meals. These act as your fuel for the day.
- Get active. An average adult (aged 19 – 64) should take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. For example, try a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily.
From these basics, it is obvious the diet should include plenty of organic, unrefined, unprocessed foods, as fresh as possible and in their natural state. Fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and unrefined carbohydrates should make up most of the diet. Red meats, animal fats, sugars and refined foods should be reduced or avoided alongside caffeine, other stimulants and alcohol.
Drink at least 2 litres of water. Eat a minimum of one daily serving of cruciferous vegetables and at least five servings of fresh fruit should be included in the daily diet. Protein sources can be obtained from lentils, soya, beans, nuts, seeds and fish and organic chicken. It can be said that an efficient liver detoxification system is vital to health and to support this process it is essential that many key nutrients are included in the diet.
Overall, detox diets are marketing myths rather than nutritional reality. They sound like a great concept and it would be fabulous if they really delivered all that they promised! Unfortunately, many of the claims made by detox diet promoters wildly exaggerated – it’s best to stick to the sound, sensible, science-based advice you will always get from impartial, qualified, registered dietitians and nutritional advisors.
TAKE HOME MESSAGES
- Don’t rely just on your diet, your lifestyle habits are very important.
Avoid smoking, binge drinking, environment exposures and stress as these habits all cause extra toxins to enter the body. Another method to reduce the total amount of toxins in our bodies, is to take part in regular exercise. Regular exercise encourages circulation in the blood and lymph system. This will also enhance digestion, reduce tension, lubricate joints, and strengthen your body.
- Avoid inflammatory foods
Especially over Christmas, we our exposed to vast amounts of high fatty and sugary goods which often lead to obesity, inflammation and chronic diseases if consumed in large amounts. These foods include sugary snacks, crisps, processed meats and foods and alcohol. Instead, try alternatives such as natural sweeteners including honey, fresh or dried fruit, and choose lean cuts of meat.
- Eat lots of nutrient dense foods
You will always here us talking about berries, salads, leafy greens and foods very high in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre. These are natures finest detoxifying foods! For more advise that might save you money and time, check all our social media.