Look on the internet or flick through a lifestyle magazine and the chances are you’ll find advice to try a detox diet. But do they have any real health benefits?
Detox or detoxification diets are diets designed to remove supposed toxins from the body. They can range from a juice fast to a diet that simply cuts out foods that are a normal but not necessarily healthy part of a Western diet. These foods include alcohol, caffeine, fast foods, snack foods and confectionery. Detox diets may involve fasting, a restricted diet of allowed foods, herbal supplements and even laxatives.
Some people who normally eat a lot of processed foods, high fat foods, alcohol and caffeine report feeling better when they cut those foods out of their diet. This could just be because they feel that they are doing something positive about their health.
Detox diets may not provide you with all the nutrients you need. Many detox diets cut out entire food groups which make it hard for you to meet your nutritional needs. If a detox diet allows for small quantities of food, you may feel tired and low in energy. You may also experience side effects such as dehydration, nausea and dizziness.
It may help you lose some weight initially, but severely restricting foods or losing weight quickly can backfire by slowing down your metabolism. Most of the weight you lose is due to water loss. You may find that this weight comes back once you return to your normal diet and fluid intake, or it will be hard to maintain the weight loss.
Although popular, detox diets are not scientifically proven. As yet, no medical evidence has been produced to conclusively show that detox diets cleanse the body of unwanted toxins and assist in weight loss.
A normally-functioning human body is quite efficient at effectively removing toxins in the diet all on its own. You can help the body do this by keeping healthy through drinking enough fluid, doing regular appropriate exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet that makes you feel better rather than hungry and lethargic. Stick to a balanced eating plan based on fresh whole food that includes lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean sources of protein. Your doctor or accredited practising dietitian can help you come up with the right diet for you.
The Dietitians Association of Australia
Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Detox diets. [online] Deakin, ACT: DAA. [updated 20 May 2010, accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.daa.asn.au/
Harvard Medical School. The dubious practice of detox. HEALTHbeat. 2008; 22 Jul. Zeratsky K. Detox diets: Do they work? [online] Rochester, MN: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 22 Apr 2010 [accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/detox-diets/AN01334
Last published: 31 October 2011Top of page
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