With New Year’s resolutions fading fast in the rear-view mirror, you might be considering a detox diet to balance out holiday binge or jump-start a commitment to more healthful living.
Detox diets, also known as colon-cleansing diets or cleanses, promise benefits like reducing fatigue and alleviating ailments like allergies, asthma and arthritis. Detoxes can also brighten your appearance: A nutritional detox rich in superfoods like leafy green veggies (Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron), salmon, seeds and nuts (Omega-3 fatty acids, B and E Vitamins), chicken, turkey and beans (protein, zinc, iron) and whole grains (zinc, iron, B Vitamins) promotes healthy skin and growth of strong, resilient hair.
The theory behind detoxing: Strictly limit and control what you eat and drink for a period of time to help your digestive system get rid of internal and environmental toxins – and to help identify possible allergy triggers. Though there’s little scientific evidence that detoxing works any faster or better than your body's own natural cleansing system, some health care practitioners and detoxers swear by it.
Detoxes range from the “Master Cleanse” cayenne pepper/lemon juice/maple syrup fast to juice or soup cleanses to a “nutritional cleanse” of high-fiber shakes and supplements and simple meals made of fresh, whole ingredients. Detoxers beware: any eating plan that severely restricts nutrients for an extended period of time can be detrimental to your health. And even in the short run, a detox diet can backfire if you rebound to old habits.
I consider a healthy detox a way to reset your eating habits, rid your diet of foods that aren’t good for you and try new foods that are. A couple of years ago I completed a 21-day nutritional cleanse. It left me with lots of energy, “recalibrated” taste buds and a few pounds lighter. Because I ate whole, fresh, flavorful foods, I didn’t feel as if I was depriving myself. Today when I’ve been super indulgent, (say, Christmas through New Year’s) I return to the principles of my cleanse to get back on track.
If you want to detox, check with your doctor first, especially if you have chronic health issues and take medication. Figure out what type of detox will work for you, your level of patience and your lifestyle. Then be sure to do the following:
1. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily.
2. Avoid all processed foods. Prepare your own meals as often as you can.
3. Give yourself at least 12 hours’ digestion time between evening and morning meals (snacks too).
4. Commit and stick to it. But be mindful of your body’s mental and physical changes. Temporary side effects, depending on the cleanse, might include tiredness, headache, acne and constipation. If they are prolonged or worsen, stop and see your health professional.
Once you’re done, maintain your results by eating a well-rounded fruit-and-veggie based diet with whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes and lean protein.