Do You Really Need to Detox?

posted: 01/07/16
by: Mara Betsch
Green fresh healthy smoothie with fruits and vegetables

Chances are, either you or one of your friends have tried some sort of cleanse or detox diet. Whether that means only eating raw food or sipping on a variety of juices, there is no shortage of people trying these extreme diet plans. According to a Today show poll, 40 percent of participants had tried their hand at a cleanse.

But if you want to jumpstart weight loss, is a cleanse a good idea? And can you really detox your body?

In short, the answer to both of these questions, according to health and nutrition experts, is a resounding no.

How your body naturally detoxes
When we say "detox," the medical definition typically refers to a common treatment for those with life-threatening addictions. However, somewhere in the past 8-10 years, detox has transformed into a catch-all term to refer any restrictive diet plan that is supposed to magically erase a few too many drive-through runs and a lapsed gym membership.

The truth of the matter is that most healthy bodies are good at eliminating anything harmful. In fact, as you read this article, your skin, lungs, kidneys, and liver, to name a few, are probably working hard to process and remove any toxins from your body. And though there are upsides to certain cleanses -- a lack of alcohol and an increased intake of fruits and vegetables -- this can be accomplished with a more well-rounded diet and some good, old-fashioned exercise.

Some nutrients can help your body detox
Though there aren't very many foods that have actually been scientifically proven to help your body's detoxification process -- spirulina (blue-green algae) is the one with the most research -- there are definitely certain nutrients, like vitamins A, B, C, and E and flavonoids, that are proven to help your body's detox processes. It's safe to say that most of the so-called detox diets on the market don't necessarily contain the perfect mix of these vitamins and minerals, so you're better off just increasing your intake of spinach and other nutrient-dense foods.

But I just want to lose a few pounds?
Nutrition aside, do these diets help you lose weight? Not in the long-term. "It's very temporary water weight that you're losing so it's not going to persist," Dr. Roshini Raj told the Today show.

If you cleanse too long, you're also putting your body at risk by eliminating healthy nutrients -- like heart-helping monounsaturated fatty acids found in good fats -- and, let's be honest, you're going to be pretty grumpy. And though cutting back on alcohol is good, eliminating coffee may not provide any health benefits.

Although we definitely don't recommend cleanses or detox diets, we do understand that sometimes you need to press restart on an unhealthy lifestyle and build new, healthier habits. The best way to do that doesn't involve $8 juices -- it involves eating whole foods, cutting down on sugar and processed carbohydrates, and moving more.

Pretty simple, right?