We have all heard of detox diets/programs. The way that they are marketed, they seem like a necessity for every person who enjoys a better quality of life and less risk of diseases.
A detox diet is a program that should
- cleanse your body of toxins
- promote a healthy intestine
- provide better brain power and
- help you maintain high energy levels during your day
Of course most of the marketed detox diets do not do this. As a follow up to Health n’Horizon’s Post I’ll be discussing what a detox diet should be so that we get the effects discussed above and how to implement it in your life.
Identifying a Marketed Detox Diet
Usually these programs will promote some or all of the following:
- extreme fasting
- focusing on one food group (cabbage soup)
- a time limit for this diet (7 day detox plan!)
- extreme use of diuretics and/or laxatives (substances that drain the body of water)
- enemas (draining the intestine of its contents)
So what is this going to do?
- Extremely deprive the body of the fuel it needs to function every day. You (healthy adults) need a minimum of ~ 130 grams of carbohydrates everyday just for your brain function. This is other than the nutrients that are needed for other body processes.
- Decrease your immune system’s power
- Increase your visits to the bathroom
- Promote weight regain more than that lost when you start eating again (thoroughly explained in Health n’Horizon‘s post and my previous post)
As a rule of thumb, any diet that does not advise exercise during the time you are following the diet is not one you should follow. This is the case with most detox diets. This means that you are so low on fuel that you will not have extra energy that is needed when we exercise.
Exercise if you want to simplify it is all of your body’s processes working at a much faster rate than they usually do. When a certain regimen is telling you do not exercise, you can tell that this diet is not a comprehensive one and that for sure you are not getting all the nutrients you need for your body processes to properly function. This will lead to your organs not getting enough fuel to carry out its duties leading to decreased brain power and fatigue.
For me a detox diet is
Cleaning our body of toxins through NOT INTRODUCING NEW TOXINS!
As Health n’Horizons explained, our body can get rid of the toxins it has by itself as long as we give it an opportunity to do so. Give your body a break, let it regenerate its cells and protect your DNA through the proper food.
We are currently celebrating the end of the Christian fast and will start the Muslim fast in a few months. It has been found that fasting helps get rid of toxins and decreases the new flux of toxins. During a fast the immune system’s work decreases and the digestive tract gets a rest. By fasting here I mean a fast of a few hours every day so that we are consuming about 2 small meals per day over a period of a month or so.
This seems to have a beneficial effect on the body as long as we are consuming the right food items. We need to supply the body with essentials that will clean out the toxins. This begs the question, what is the source of the toxins so that we eliminate them? (my next post!)
Things to eat More of..
- Drink more water! Our body is composed of up to 60% water and our brain is composed of up to 70% water. Low water levels in our bodies (mild dehydration) is one of the main reasons of headaches and fatigue. Of course everyone’s water needs vary, but make it a point to drink water every 30 min- 1 hour to ensure you aren’t depriving yourself. This will also easily help you get the 8-10 cups of fluid needed per day.
- Fiber: Found in fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, oats and also rich in flaxseeds. Many people are moving towards fiber supplements with apple pectin being especially popular. Well if we are to think this through, apple pectin comes from apples. So instead of taking a powder, try to eat an apple a day! This is how it will keep the doctor away:
- First of all, fiber will not be absorbed it acts as a bulking agent making stool softer so those visits to the bathroom are faster and less painful. This will also decrease the risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids and constipation.
- Fiber will be fermented in the intestines releasing byproducts that feed the intestinal cells keeping them healthy and well functioning. This will bump up your energy levels because digestion is running smoothly.
- These byproducts have also been seen to decrease risk of diabetes and decrease cholesterol levels (independent of adhering to bile and excreting it through feces).
- Fiber itself will also bind to bile (a compound released to help in the absorption of fats, is made of our body cholesterol) and excrete it out of the body through feces. So we will be pulling cholesterol out of our body and excreting it. This will help in maintaining a healthy lipid/fat profile in our blood.
- However, if we increase our fiber levels suddenly, we may get indigestion so add fruit and vegetables to your daily diet, then add some beans (also contain fiber) and slowly throughout make the switch to whole grain.
- You also want to load up on antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents! These will help keep your cells strong and healthy. Read more WHY you want these in my previous post An Immune Boosting Food Guide.
- Lean Protein is your friend: You should have protein at every meal, and that protein source should be lean (stripped of its fat). Resort to low fat cheeses, labneh (yogurt spread), yogurt (also contains the good bacteria for your intestine) and milk. You can also remove the chicken skin before cooking (and throw it out!). When shopping for meat, ask you butcher to remove all fat from the piece of meat you are buying, then before cooking, remove any visible fat you can see. Fish is an excellent source of lean protein without needing to remove any internal fat (just the skin). Have a tuna salad or sandwich for dinner with red bell peppers, corn and tomatoes. Legumes (beans) also have protein, so stock up on our Mediterranean chickpeas, lentils and fava beans.
- Protein will help you keep good muscle mass (when coupled with a good exercise program). This is something encouraged since we want to have a good muscle: fat ratio which decreases disease risk.
- Protein will also help you feel fuller faster during the meal you are eating as well as between your current meal and next meals. This will help control body weight.
- Certain studies found with a higher protein diet, metabolism (body’s energy expenditure) will also increase.
- Here I am not promoting high protein diets, I am encouraging a portion of your every meal to be dedicated to protein to get these wonderful effects. Also note that if you take too much protein this protein will be stored as fat not muscle. Moderation is key.
- It is also important to pay attention to certain food items that your body is not tolerating. For example if you get diarrhea or bloated after drinking milk, gassy after eating beans, headaches after consuming citrus fruits…Listen to your body.
It’s never a complete program without Exercise!
Exercise will cause sweating which will help get the toxins out of your body. It will also relieve stress and cause a sense of accomplishment. It is important to practice deep breathing exercises to ensure oxygen is reaching all of the body’s tissues.