Detox, pretox, or cleanse- it's important to know what your body really needs.
One of the worst decisions I ever made was to try a 5-day juice cleanse my senior year of college. Maybe it’s one of those things you just have to do once to know it’s a terrible idea.
Detoxing, or cleansing doesn't really remove chemicals or toxins from your body—that's something our organs and immune system already do. Our livers are specifically designed to remove bodily waste and our kidneys filter blood as well. The process requires zero strict diets, cleanses, detoxes, or starvation. Especially not starvation.
So when you're feeling sluggish, or looking to reset your eating habits, the best thing you can do is to provide your body with proper nutrition, enjoy fresh foods that are high in fiber, and drink plenty of water. Here are three cleanses we aren’t fans of, and three we think are just what you need.
3 Cleanses to Avoid:
An All-Juice Cleanse
I’ve tried one and I would never go back. I’m not going to name names, but the 5-day plan I followed was miserable and in retrospect incredibly unhealthy.
I started my day with a glass of warm water and lemon, followed by six bottled juices throughout the day that would supposedly “cleanse” me of toxins. The juices were super high in sugar (some have added sugars like maple syrup) and were very low in fiber. A proper healthy diet should provide the exact opposite of these.
If that wasn’t enough, the juices provided a daily intake of less than 1000 calories per day. Trying this left me weak, cranky, hungry, and generally unpleasant to be around. And don’t even get me started on the headaches. When your body starts fighting back, you know it’s not a good decision.
Carolyn Land Williams, PhD, RDN adds that juice cleanses remove all of the nutrients and fiber from healthy foods through the juicing process. Substitute in tons of sugar and no protein, and you’ll be left starving. Take our advice and skip this all together.
New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.
A Detox Tea Cleanse
Though every tea cleanse is a little bit different, most let you eat real food while supplementing “detox tea” throughout your day. You might think that would be safer. The brands provide very vague promises like detoxifying your body, relieving bloating, and making you “fit.” Plus, followers often have strange side effects like stomach cramps as a result of the laxatives often found in these teas, and sleep deprivation from caffeinated teas.
It’s also important to know you might technically lose weight on the diet but not unhealthy body fat, according to Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. Teas can help you lose water weight, and even have a laxative effect that make you feel lighter, but this won’t change your actual lean-to-fat ratio.
Williams says there can be positives to drinking tea. If you’re someone who typically drinks a lot of soda or sweet tea, this can help cut down on your caloric intake.
But it’s not something she thinks should be a cleanser. “Your liver doesn’t really need help,” she says. “We can help our liver the most by not taking in toxins to begin with and eating a healthy diet so our liver has the nutrients to do its job.”
The Master Cleanse
The Master Cleanse (made famous by Beyonce) claims a person can live off of nothing but six to 12 glasses of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water over the course of 10 days—and drop 20 pounds the process.
The goal of the Master Cleanse, according to their site, is to help you "overcome the psychological need to eat." The thing is, eating is more of a physiological need, given that you can't survive without doing it.
To really drive home how unhealthy the Master Cleanse is, they even recommend popping a laxative before bed. That's extra unhealthy given you’re not eating any solid food.
Though Williams says she understands the idea behind cayenne pepper as a weight loss promoter, going 10 days without food is absolutely not a healthy plan.
3 Cleanses to try:
But sometimes you just want a short-term reboot. When doing that, it’s important to focus on just eating real, unprocessed foods, Williams suggests.
She recommends following a meal plan that incorporates five pillars: Avoiding added sugars, eating whole foods, incorporating a lot of vegetables, choosing healthy carbohydrates, and avoiding alcohol.
These plans help you stick to several days of nutrient dense foods and get you back on track without any gimmicks or expensive additions. They consist of meals that cut out junk from processed foods, added sugar, and alcohol and will leave you feeling energized and motivated. And that's what you really want.