It seems like everyday there is a new ‘detox’ diet or product on the market promising to clear our body of harmful toxins. The ‘detoxing’ industry is thriving on a misconception that toxic products build up in our body and we need to regularly ‘cleanse’ our systems to get rid of them. If toxic waste products were allowed to accumulate in our bodies, we would become extremely unwell and eventually die (dramatic but true).
Our liver and kidneys function are extremely efficient at processing and remove harmful substances in our bloodstream. Despite what you may hear, humans do not need any additional help in the form of wheatgrass, acai berries or the like!
Detox diets often include:
• Fasting for short periods of time
• Consuming only fruits and vegetables
• Cutting out wheat and dairy products
• Consuming a limited range of foods
• Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
Why are these practises not sensible and unscientific?!
Disclaimer – it does make sense to avoid excessive intakes of caffeine, alcohol and high-fat, high-sugar foods in a healthy diet. It is the extreme practices associated with detox diets that we disagree with!
Dairy and wheat products provide essential nutrients. Cutting out whole food groups without seeking medical advice can lead to deficiencies, and in extreme cases, deficiency-related diseases.
Severely restricting food consumption limits intake of energy and nutrients needed for a healthy, functioning body. Rapid weight loss occurring during fasting is often just water, glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate stores) and muscle weight , rather than fat loss. You may feel fatigued and dizzy, and it’s likely you’ll have less energy while you are following a detox programme that involves fasting. This means you may have less energy to exercise or carry out your normal day-to-day activities.
Whilst we encourage enthusiastic consumption of fruit and vegetables (!) no one fruit or vegetable can provide nutritional nirvana – it’s the variety that counts. Eating only fruit and vegetables is likely to lead to inadequate intakes of protein and fat, both essential to keep your body systems running smoothly.
FTF verdict: Detox diets are marketing myths rather than nutritional reality. They sound like a great concept and it would be fantastic if they really delivered all that they promised! Unfortunately, many of the claims made by detox diet promoters are wild and exaggerated.