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Tips for a Safe & Healthy Detox

From milk thistle teas to lemon and cayenne pepper, the world of detox dieting is full of people trying to sell you a quick fix for weight loss, 'cleansing,' or improved health. These diets often use scare tactics to persuade you that your body is full of chemical toxins that need to be flushed out -- with the help of an expensive detox diet.

In fact, a healthy liver is remarkably efficient at cleaning out toxins on its own, and highly restrictive or extreme detox diets (or fasts) can actually be harmful if followed long enough to cause nutritional and protein deficiencies. Any rapid weight loss that occurs on a restrictive detox diet will come right back. The good news is that a few days on a detox diet probably won't do you any harm. The bad news is that there's very little scientific evidence to suggest that it will do you any good, either.

So why bother? One reason is that many people do feel better after 'detoxing' for a couple of days, either because of the placebo effect or because they are genuinely eating more sensibly. The most reasonable and beneficial detox diets start to look a lot like what your doctor is recommending anyway: lots of fruits and vegetables, beans and pulses, minimally processed whole grains, and plenty of water.

If you'd like to go ahead and try a detox diet, here are a few suggestions for a safe and sensible detox.

  • DO consult your doctor if you choose a commercial detox diet.

  • DO eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to get all the nutrients you need. Berries supply antioxidants and vitamin C, tomatoes supply lycopene, avocadoes essential fatty acids, spinach iron. Organic produce will cut down on trace elements of pesticides and chemicals, and steaming or stir-frying rather than boiling them will preserve their nutrients.

  • DO go for minimally processed whole foods and grains like brown rice and quinoa.

  • DO avoid processed foods, animal fats and meat, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol.

  • DO drink plenty of water and pure fruit juices.

  • DO detox for short periods (1-3 days), and gradually re-introduce low-fat, high protein foods such as yogurt.

  • DO use a detox to kick off a concerted health regime that includes better nutrition and fitness.

And some things to avoid:

  • DON'T continue a diet that is making you feel weak, nauseated, or headachey.

  • DON'T go for a 'miracle' detox diet. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No pill or supplement takes the place of a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise.

  • DON'T starve your body. Any weight you lose this way will come right back.


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