The Right and Wrong Way to Detox

Read this before you jump on the cleansing bandwagon.

by Stacey Colino
groceries bag fruit bread vegetables picture
Photograph: YinYang

If cleanliness is next to godliness, we must be in the midst of a truly spiritual era. Not only do some Americans wipe germs off their hands every few hours, but now a growing number of celebs, as well as perfectly normal women, want to clean up their insides, too—by following a detoxification routine. “I like to do fasts and detoxes a couple of times during the year,” Gwyneth Paltrow wrote on her lifestyle website, GOOP. The actress is a particular fan of the Clean program, developed by New York City cardiologist Alejandro Junger. After three weeks on the regimen—juices interspersed with one small solid meal a day—“I feel pure and happy and much lighter,” she reported.

Detox diets are based on the unproven premise that our bodies are constantly bombarded with toxins from pollution, chemicals, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, processed foods and other unsavory sources and that these “poisons” can build up and cause health problems. According to this line of thinking, the older we get, the longer these noxious substances have been in our bodies causing damage; hence the perceived need for us to flush toxins periodically and, in theory, restore internal vitality.

To that end, cleansing diets prescribe restricted menus for a defined period of time; offending food ingredients such as sodium, caffeine and sugar are banned. “There’s something to be said for limiting choices. You’re giving your body a chance to rest, and that’s a good thing,” says Leslie J. Bonci, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The diet may even give you a psychological boost. “Because you’re following a program, you can feel like you’re in control,” says Sandra Haber, PhD, a New York City psychologist who specializes in eating issues.

There are other benefits, too. If you forgo salty, sugary and processed foods—items you probably shouldn’t be eating too often anyway—and eliminate or reduce alcohol, “you may feel more energetic,” notes Keri Glassman, RD, a private nutrition consultant in New York City and author of The O2 Diet. “Also, taking refined starches and salt out of your diet for a few days can help you feel less bloated and make your belly flatter, since both can cause you to retain water.”

However, there’s a difference between giving your body a respite and giving it a complete overhaul. What a detox diet won’t do is act like a CentralVac that scoops up and gets rid of toxins inside your body. The truth is, you don’t need that kind of assist. “A healthy liver and kidneys do a masterful job of detoxifying the body on a daily basis,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. And some ingredients purported to help cleanse, such as lemon juice, don’t do so (though lemon juice may improve digestion). Others, such as the nightly laxatives recommended on the Master Cleanse, are downright risky: They can dehydrate you and lead to electrolyte imbalances.

In fact, most nutritionists advise steering clear of some cleansing programs. ­Liquid-only diets, for instance, are unhealthy when they are low in calories and do not contain essential nutrients, Bonci says. A famous example: Master Cleanse, developed around 1940 by alternative medicine practitioner Stanley Burroughs, who was reportedly looking for a way to deal with stomach ulcers. In this plan, you consume a mix of lemon juice, ­maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water six to 12 times a day for 10 days. Such a regimen can make dieters feel dizzy and headachy and could, within 48 to 72 hours, lead to nutritional deficiencies, according to Katz.

For a more healthful approach, focus on detoxing your eating habits rather than your body. Diets that include regular meals (or “eating occasions”) and a varied mix of produce, lean protein and healthy fats can jump-start your efforts to slim down and eat better. The hope is that a short-term cleansing diet will encourage you to reduce your dependence on ingredients like sodium in the long run. Two examples of safer plans are the 21-day Quantum Wellness Cleanse, which calls for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and soy products as well as lessons in changing the way you think about food, and the three- to 10-day BluePrint Cleanse, which consists of six raw fruit, vegetable and nut juices daily. The nut products are a good source of protein.

For most women, a shorter cleansing plan is easier to follow. That’s why More asked Glassman to come up with a three-day detox plan that will encourage more healthful eating habits long after the diet is over. This 1,000-calorie-a-day regimen is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, lean proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and fluids—and is free of added salt, sugar, processed foods and alcohol. (Check with your doctor before following this or any other detox diet.) Bon app├ętit!

 

More’s Clean-Living Diet

Developed by nutritionist Keri Glassman, RD, this three-day detox plan offers back-to-nature foods while eliminating less healthful ingredients and helps ease you into a more nutritious eating pattern for life.

DAY 1

Breakfast

6 ounces scrambled firm tofu, mixed with 1 teaspoon ground flaxseeds and 1 teaspoon dried basil

1 cup green tea

1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice
   

Midmorning snack

1 sliced pear sprinkled with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
   

Lunch

Steamed kale (at least 1 cup but as much as you want), dressed with the flavored vinegar of your choice (such as fig, raspberry or orange)

3 ounces broiled, baked or poached salmon (no added fat) with 1 teaspoon dried spice, such as oregano

6 walnut halves

1 cup water with 1 ounce lime juice
   

Midafternoon snack   

½ cup edamame

1 cup green tea
   

Dinner

Large baby-spinach salad with 1 cup chopped carrots, tomatoes and red bell peppers, dressed with 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice to taste

Steamed broccoli (at least 1 cup but as much as you want)

3 ounces turkey (grilled, baked or roasted) with 1 teaspoon herb, such as thyme

1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice

1    cup raspberries

DAY 2

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs (made from 1 whole DHA/EPA-fortified egg plus 3 egg whites), mixed with 1 teaspoon
dried parsley

1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice

1 cup green tea
   
   
Midmorning snack
   
1 cup blueberries
   

Lunch
 
Steamed broccoli (at least 1 cup but as much as you want)
   
3 ounces cod, grilled with 1 teaspoon dried herb, such as rosemary
 
8 cashews
   
1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice
   

Midafternoon snack
   
½  cup chopped celery and ½ cup chopped cucumber
   
1 cup green tea
   
   
Dinner
   
3 ounces scallops (approximately 4 large ones), broiled or grilled
   
Large spinach salad with ½ cup chickpeas, ½ cup green beans, ½ cup red bell peppers and ½ cup carrots, dressed with 1 ­teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and the vinegar of your choice
   
1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice
   
1 cup strawberries

DAY 3

Breakfast
   
¾ cup fat-free cottage cheese, mixed with ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and 2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
   
1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice
   
1 cup green tea

   
Midmorning snack
   
¾ cup cherries

   
Lunch
   
Steamed asparagus (at least 8 stalks)

4 ounces firm tofu, topped with 1 ounce lemon juice and 1 teaspoon fresh sage
     
18 pistachios
     
1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice
   
   
Midafternoon snack
   
1 cup artichoke hearts, topped with 1 ounce lemon juice
   
1 cup green tea
   
   
Dinner
   
Large red-leaf-lettuce salad with 1 sliced plum tomato, ½ cup sliced cucumber and ½ cup diced green bell peppers, dressed with 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and the vinegar of your choice
   
Steamed Brussels sprouts (as much as you want)
   
3 ounces grilled tilapia, topped with 1 teaspoon dill
   
1 cup water with 1 ounce lemon juice
   
1 cup blackberries

 

Next: My Forkless Week of Juice Fasting

 

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First Published Thu, 2010-10-28 12:09

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http://www.more.com/health/healthy-eating/right-and-wrong-way-detox