Here's how a registered dietitian really feels about detoxing.
Detoxes seem to be all the rage nowadays. Everywhere you look—from magazines touting celebrity eating habits to social media sites where "friends" promote crash diets—we're bombarded by the concept of "detoxing" our diets. This has left us wondering, with all the media coverage about detoxes, are they actually safe? We talked with Jamie Vespa, Cooking Light's assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, to get the scoop.
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The word "detox" is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification." Detox diets are often times promoted as a way to 'clean' certain organs, which is not how the human body works.
"Detoxification is a process that the body naturally performs around the clock using our organs and certain nutrients from the diet," says Vespa, "Unless someone is taking more of an elimination approach to 'detoxing' to figure out certain foods or nutrients they may be sensitive to, there aren't any documented medical reasons to participate in a detox diet."
However, there are some easy steps you can take to support your body's natural detoxification process without going on a crash diet. "Drink plenty of water, eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, consume at least 28 grams of fiber daily, and eat a wide range of naturally fermented and prebiotic foods." says Vespa.
If you're looking for a more structured program or guide to eating healthier, a detox may still be a tempting route to take. If you're interested in participating in one, Vespa recommends avoiding anything that suggests prolonged periods of fasting or is extremely calorie-deficient. Instead, choose a detox (like our Cooking Light 3-Day Detox) that eliminates unhealthy options like processed foods, added sugars, alcohol, or refined grains. This way, you've got more room in your diet to focus on wholesome choices like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole-grains, and more.
Even if you choose a healthy detox option, this way of eating isn't for everyone. "If you have any current health ailments, it's crucial to consult with your doctor or dietitian to evaluate detox programs for safety and effectiveness," says Vespa.