Better skin, more energy, a purer body – can ‘detoxing’ really deliver all that? It depends who you listen to – the concept of ‘detox’ is open to many interpretations, some healthier than others.
For die-hards, the term ‘detox’ is a strict fast or very low-calorie diet which bans wheat, dairy, fats, and includes the use of specially-prepared lotions, potions and body wraps in an aim to eliminate so-called toxins (pesticides, artificial additives, pollutants in the air and so on) from the body.
However, according to mainstream nutrition experts this approach is neither safe, nor actually accurate. They argue that the idea of starving your way to a cleaner purer body, helped by specially prepared (and expensive) lotions and potions is a myth.
Busting the detox myth
‘The fact is your body’s organs (such as liver, kidneys, skin) are designed to handle and metabolise or excrete these kind of everyday toxins from the body,’ says Dr Frankie Phillips, registered dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. ‘Detox fads and fasts rid the body of vital nutrients, upset blood sugar levels, and don’t provide enough calories to provide your body’s needs.’
Healthy does it
However, the kind of detox programme which may well be worth embarking on, say experts, is a sustainable, nutritious and well balanced eating plan – rich in fruit and veg, and which you can follow for up to four weeks. Rather than ‘detoxifying’, it aims to restore energy and improve digestion.
Registered dietician, Anita Bean (www.anitabean.com) explains, ‘Your body is designed to cope with toxins, but the problem arises when you take in more toxins than your body can handle, and your system becomes overloaded, leading to symptoms including bloating, lack of energy and dull skin.’
She adds, ‘A detox diet can give your body a helping hand, thereby boosting your immune system, allowing your liver kidneys and bowels to work more efficiently. Plus it may help kickstart a healthier long-term lifestyle.’
So how best to do it?
Dr Frankie Phillips explains, ‘You can help boost your liver and digestive system by drinking more water, upping your intake of fresh fruits and veg, cutting down on salt-rich, high-fat foods, sugar, caffeine, and by taking more exercise.’
Certain foods also have a cleansing effect on the body’s elimination systems – such as cruciferous veg, dandelion tea, and pineapple and lemons - so adding those to your diet can help fast-track a healthy detox.
Follow these golden rules to healthy detoxing. You’ll feel the benefit within three to four days but for maximum results follow for no more than 28 days.
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and veg daily (fresh or frozen); they provide antioxidants which help mop up the free radicals which cause disease and ageing.
- Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day; it helps eliminate water-soluble toxins from your body, helps prevent constipation, reduce bloating and encourage clear skin.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, artificial colours and flavours, sugar-rich and fatty foods, red meat, salt, hydrogenated fats, ready meals and convenience products
- Swap refined carbs - white breads, and pastas – for fibre-rich wholegrains such as wheat-free pasta, brown rice, oats, buckwheat and rye as they help support your digestive system.
- Swap red meat for non-meat sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soya, tofu and grains; animal products create added work for your digestive system.
- Avoid dairy products as they can create a mucous build up, and may cause bloating and flatulence. Try rice or almond milk instead
- Substitute saturated fats for healthier varieties such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, plus seeds and nuts. Fats help release energy from foods, and promote healthier skin and hair.
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