Detox diets are often advertised as a way to cleanse your body and kick start a weight loss plan, especially after the holiday season.
These ‘cleanses’ claim to help rid your body of toxins that lead to weight gain, fatigue and digestive issues.
So do we need to detox?
The short answer is no.
We all have an in-built detoxification system (our liver and kidneys) which works hard to remove ‘toxins’ from the body without the help of a detox ‘diet’.
Part of the bodies’ own detoxification process in the liver is dependent on amino acids which we find in proteins. As commercial detox diets almost always consist of juices that are made from vegetables and fruit, they are high in carbohydrate and low in protein and fat. As juice detoxes are low in protein, the claim that they promote detoxification is flawed on a number of levels.
You will lose weight on a detox diet, but the reason has nothing to do with toxins. Juice cleanses are low in calories – some contain from 900-1200 calories a day which, for many people, is much lower than what the body needs to function.
When you restrict your calorie intake in this way, the body reverts to using glycogen (stored glucose in your muscle and liver) as an energy source. Glycogen carries water with it, so part of your weight loss will be water and glycogen, which is quickly gained back once you resume normal eating.
A one week juice detox will not suddenly cancel out your alcohol and/or food indulgences. Simply eating a balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of plant-based foods will help you to stay well while your body continues to detox as it always does. It might not be as glamorous, but it works.
Nicola Jackson is a NZ-registered nutritionist with a passion for helping people to develop a healthier relationship with food. Nicola’s blog Eat Well NZ tells you why you don’t need to quit foods, follow rules, or go to the extreme to be healthy. Her blog showcases a balanced approach to eating well, with plenty of healthy recipes and other tips on nutrition, fitness and wellness. You can also find Nicola on Facebook and Instagram.