Despite the promises, a detox diet is not the magic pill you need to boost health. Most medical professionals discourage the use of detox diets because they are unnecessary and can be dangerous.
Identifying a detox diet
Weight loss is not always the main goal with detox diets. Most claim that they will help rid your body of toxins resulting in increased energy or a boost in metabolism.
They are similar to other fad diets in that they involve calorie restriction, cutting out food groups, and often forbid solid foods altogether. Detox diets include juice fasts, colon cleansing, and master cleanses. They often require the purchase of expensive herbal supplements (such as powders, pills, or teas).
Dangers of detox diets
The kidneys and liver sufficiently cleanse the body and eliminate toxins without help from detox diets. According to Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., the benefits that people claim they feel after trying a detox diet may come from simply avoiding highly processed foods, which contain solid fats and added sugars.
Fatigue, irritability, headaches, cramping, and nausea are only the initial side effects of many detox diets. Long term, these diets can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and dehydration. Detox diets are especially dangerous for those with diabetes, low blood sugar, teens, pregnant women, and those with eating disorders.
Due to low calorie and low protein intake, detox diets can also lead to a loss of muscle mass. Muscle keeps you fit and supports a healthy metabolism. A healthy fitness plan is one that helps you build and maintain muscle mass, not lose it because of a quick-fix promise for more energy.
Alternatives to detox diets
Improved health and increased energy come from a balanced diet and regular physical activity. You can promote a healthy digestive system that removes toxins by eating fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, by staying hydrated, and by eating foods that promote digestive health (such as yogurt). Get the nutritional benefit of fresh fruit juices by incorporating them into an already healthy diet, not by making them your sole source of nutrients for a week.
Also remember that when it comes to nutrition and health, detox is a term that is often used loosely. You may hear a friend claim she’s on a detox diet this week only to mean that she has cut out processed foods or desserts. But if those detox diets include cleanses and fasts, your money would be better spent on nutritious foods that promote a healthy lifestyle.