Detox diets and cleanses continue to gain popularity and are often promoted as the golden ticket to feeling great and losing weight.
Detox diets have been all the rage for years. Many dietitians, including myself, thought such diets would have their fifteen minutes of fame and that their popularity would fade over time. No such luck.
What is a detox diet or cleanse?
Toxins may build up in the body over time as a result of the food we eat, what we drink, the air we breathe and medication overload. The thought is that the right detox or cleanse can help rid the body of such toxins. The benefits often outlined are increased energy, improved immunity, increased metabolism, decreased bloating and weight loss (of course!).
There are many different detox regimens out there, some promote days, weeks or even months of juicing, cutting out food groups for a period of time and adding them back in, while others encourage the elimination of sugar, salt, all processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. Some of these regimens really do make you feel great during the process, but that is likely due to the dietary changes that are being made and not necessarily a result of so-called toxins leaving your body.
Is it worth the trouble?
Overall, detox diets sound like a whole lot of effort, especially when our bodies have been designed to take care of this detox or cleansing process. The liver, gastrointestinal system, kidneys and lungs help rid the body of toxins each day. In healthy people this process is pretty efficient. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that detox diets really work and there doesn’t seem to be a physiological need for them either. What’s more, some detoxes can be detrimental to your health when followed long term.
Long term restrictive diets can…
- Cause nutritional deficiencies;
- Lead to decreased muscle mass which may slow down your metabolism, and
- Lead to a poor relationship with food as you obsess about every meal and snack you eat
The upside to a detox or cleanse is that some encourage and emphasize the importance of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed and homemade food, and decreasing alcohol and caffeine. These are great ideas to help jump start healthy dietary changes for anyone.
The key is to adopt these changes daily, one small change at a time, rather than going to the extreme of a restrictive diet for weeks or months and then returning to old habits. Making healthy dietary changes that last. This will allow your organs to take care of all the detoxing your body really needs.
What can you do instead of a detox diet to help you keep up with clean eating and reaching your goals?
Choose whole, unprocessed foods more often – Get back into the kitchen and make as many meals and snacks from scratch. Use whole ingredients such as fruit, vegetables and unrefined whole grains.
Limit processed meats and choose unprocessed plant based proteins – Leave the deli meat at the counter and choose beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters as your protein source. Try adding pureed beans or lentils to your favorite muffin recipe. Add black beans to your next taco and aim to have at least one day of meatless meals once a week.
Reduce your intake of sugar and salt – Reducing your intake of processed foods will help take care of this tip. By choosing whole foods prepared at home you will likely reduce the amount of sugar and salt you are eating. Try to use less sugar and salt in cooking too and don’t forget to replace those sugar sweetened beverages with water.
So now what?
Following detox diets or a cleanse, (whether short or long term) has not yet been proven to benefit your health, but aiming for healthy food choices each day will get you on your way to feeling great!
Speaking of getting back into the kitchen, check out the recipe below which highlights great finds from our local farmers market.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 bunch of golden beets (beets and greens)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 onion
- 1 clove garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup white cannellini beans, (drained and rinsed if using canned)
- 2 tablespoons pepitas, roasted
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- Cook quinoa as per package instructions and set aside covered.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove beet greens from beets and rinse well under cold water to remove dirt. Chop leaves and stems and set aside.
- Wash and peel golden beets, slice to 1” thickness. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and roast in preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes; or until softened and golden brown.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Dice onion, mince garlic; set aside separately.
- Saute onions until they have softened then add garlic. Saute for 1 more minute.
- Add beet greens to the pan and toss with onion and garlic until the greens have wilted.
- Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- To make the dressing: Combine tahini, lemon juice and warm water in a small bowl, whisk together until smooth.
- Once all ingredients are ready, assemble together, top with pepitas and tahini lemon dressing.
Authored by: Melinda Lamarche MScCH, RD