After the onslaught of Christmas, stodgy mince pies and puddings galore, many of us will embrace the idea of a good old fashioned detox now the New Year is upon us.
But are detox diets really worth the effort? And if so, what’s the best way to detox?
First off, we know that cutting out all the junk – cake, chocolate, sugary and fizzy drinks and even caffeine is a sure way of making us slim down and even prevent feelings of sluggishness and bloating. But then what’s the difference between a diet and a detox – as surely the same principal remains?
Well, a diet means you control the amount of calories you take on board, so you are counting the amount you eat, and not going over a certain amount. You might cut out certain foods, but it’s more about the sum of all the food and drink you eat together.
Detoxing means eliminating anything potentially “poisonous” to your body. Toxins, such as caffeine alcohol, cigarettes, saturated fats and unrefined sugars all contribute to feelings of sluggishness and tiredness, irritability and even illnesses, but there is actually no scientific research to suggest that detoxing actually works.
It works more on the basis of what we know already, that high fat, refined foods and other foods that are “bad” for us, make us feel bad and therefore by eliminating them we feel better.
The best way to undertake any detox diet is with a firm grasp of what you are hoping to achieve and a knowledge that a strict detox diet cannot, and should not be maintained for long periods of time. That said, if it’s alcohol or cigarettes that you are cutting out of your diet, then there is no reason not to make this a lifelong habit.
The problem with detoxing is that it can become slightly addictive – much like exercise can be. Once you start eliminating foods, you have to be careful that you don’t start cutting out vital food groups that the body needs to sustain itself. For example, you might start cutting out dairy products if you feel that a glut of cheese and cream has left you feeling bloated, but your body needs calcium to build up strong bones. And if you cut out meat then you are lacking protein which you would normally get and you might start to become anaemic.
It’s wise to start off any detox diet with the blessing of your GP, as you don’t want to cut anything out that would be damaging to your health. And the best way to detox is to use it alongside a sensible diet, rather than just cutting out food groups that you think might work.
Most detox diets follow a seven-day plan, and rarely go for any longer than this. The idea behind is to cleanse the blood, and in doing so provide a blank canvass for you to then take on a healthy diet going forward.
Detox can follow a regime of drinking only pure fruit and vegetable juices with water – eating only non-processed foods, and cutting out all the toxins mentioned previously. If you’ve been a caffeine junkie, or alcohol has been a heavy feature in your week then you can expect to get detox headaches, which for some can be quite overwhelming.
When you’ve finished your programme, you can then go forward with good lifestyle practices which include:
Eating plenty of fibre, found in organically grown fresh fruit and vegetables will help you keep your system working like clockwork and the best foods for detox include veg such as beetroots, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli and seaweed. Brown rice is another good source of fibre, compared to its white counterpart.
There has been discussion around herbs to protect the liver which may have beneficial effects – including dandelion root, burdock and milk thistle, although again you must discuss any supplements and vitamins with your GP as these can have a counter effect on conventional medication, and must not be taken in pregnancy.
Keeping topped up with vitamin C by eating lots of citrus fruits will help keep your immune system tip top and keep colds at bay.
Drinking water is hugely underrated – and whether you’re detoxing or not it helps keep the body hydrated and alert. Aim for eight glasses a day.
Some people support the idea of taking saunas and dry body brushing your skin to help eliminate toxins from the body.
And although not mentioned as yet, exercise is one of the most important elements of detoxifying. Sweating out impurities and making your body stronger is vital in helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
So do detox diets work? In short, yes they can, provided you do them right. For many people detoxing is a way of getting on the path of healthy living and merely the beginnings of eating right, exercising often and living a long and healthy life. Goodbye memories of mince pie bloating, and hello new you!
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