By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD
After the excesses of Christmas and New Year, many of us are tempted to 'detox' - and with the promise that detox slimming diets can do everything from helping us to lose weight, boost our immunity, beat headaches, get rid of cellulite and give us clear, glowing skin, is it any wonder.
However, most experts agree that our bodies are completely capable of getting rid of waste products without 'detoxing', providing we are healthy - that's what our liver, lungs, kidneys and skin are designed to do, after all.
Most detox diets do have a slimming effect, but this is generally because they severely limit the amount of calories you take in. While the exact foods that are allowed and banned can vary from diet to diet, most usually include low-calorie foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, herbal teas and massive amounts of water, and forbid higher-calorie foods such as wheat, dairy, meat, fish, eggs, caffeine, alcohol, salt, sugar and processed foods.
There are a few positives attached to detox slimming diets, namely that they encourage you to eat more fruit and veg, drink more water and cut down on junk food, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol. Added to this, they also help you to think about what you're eating and can be motivating as you take charge of your health. But, because most cut out major groups of foods such as meat, dairy and wheat products, they may leave you short on certain nutrients, potentially putting you at risk of dietary deficiencies and lowered immunity if you stick with them for a long time.
Following such a strict diet in the long term may also make you crave your favourite foods with the result that you give in to temptation and blow your slimming attempt. Furthermore, any health benefits seen after a period of 'detoxing' can usually be easily explained. For example, drinking plenty of water will prevent dehydration, a major cause of headaches, while eating more antioxidant-rich fruit and veg will help to give clearer skin. Meanwhile, less bloating is probably due to the fact that most people feel hungry much of the time!
If you want to try a detox diet, find one that has the least dietary restrictions, follow it for just a few weeks and use it to kick start a longer term, more varied healthy eating plan. Have a look at my (gentle) 7 day detox plan.
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