By Sanah Thakur
While our over worked brains are granted relaxing vacations, our equally exerting bodies lose out on the rewards. Show some gratitude to your organs by embarking on a detox diet and relieving them off the load. Spanning over a short period, detox diets emphasise a reduction in chemically processed foods and sugar. In place, there is an increase in fibre and nutrient rich foods, vitamins, anti-oxidants and water. This change encourages the body’s naturally detoxing organs, including liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin and lymphatic systems to work together to neutralise and eliminate the harmful toxins from the body. In addition to diet, exercise and regular breathing practice is also recommended to aid the cleansing process.
There are a number of chemicals we ingest with our daily intake of food, air and water in the form of pesticides, drugs, hormones, antibiotics, pollution, and toilet cleaners etc. which accumulate in the body as fat deposits. This in turn leads to effects on the body such as muscle pain, fatigue, poor concentration, headaches, indigestion and unhealthy skin. A detox diet helps to prevent the above-mentioned effects of chemical overload, boosts overall energy and digestion and finally can even help you lose weight. Such diets can be customised for a period of one week to around a month and involve a variety of methods. Simple detox diets usually focus on limiting the range of foods consumed, while some diets involve fasting for short periods of time, eliminating alcohol and caffeine or even wheat and dairy products. Liquid detox diets are remarkably popular, substituting meals for smoothies and fresh juices, the lemonade diet being a commonly followed example.
A typical detox diet would include large portions of raw foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds (pumpkin, flax, sesame, sunflower etc.), organic eggs, lean meats such as chicken, fresh fish and legumes such as lentils and kidney beans for protein. High quality fats can be consumed through oils from avocado, coconut, olive or even sesame. With regard to grains and beans, white rice (high sugar content) is replaced with brown rice, black rice, qinoa or any such whole-kernel grain. Pasta and flour based products should be avoided. Beverages largely consume of water, especially warm water with lemon in the mornings to relax the stomach, and avoidance of all sugary and aerated drinks.
In the recent years, detox diets have become increasingly popular due to their claimed effects on body weight and vitality. The pros of this kind of diet include:
1- Short term weight loss: As a diet that stresses heavily on daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables along with the reduction of chemicals and sugar, detox diets are improving metabolic rates. The body transforms from fat depositing to fat burning and therefore, jumpstarts your weight loss programme.
2- Stronger Immune System: The body works harder to release harmful toxins that could be disease carriers. By avoiding chemically processed foods, health problems are avoided such as diabetes, autoimmune disease, digestive problems, joint pain, asthma, acne, allergies etc.
3- Arousing Mind and Spirit: A cleaner system allows for the smoother functioning of one’s mind and body.
4- Improved Body: Whether internal or external, your body feels nourished, with your kidney and liver working better than ever and your hair and nails shining.
Overall, a detox diet seems like a good plan to include in one’s health programme. A quick fix to your holiday binging and kick start to your weight loss schedule.
However, not all claims made by detox diet promoters seem to have reliable scientific data to back them up. Research on the efficacy of these diets has revealed that detox diets could have a number of negative effects which make them unreliable. Some of the cons include:
1- Restrictive diet: By cutting out a majority of food items, such diets limit the nutrient intake by the body, thereby reducing the level of nutrients generally required.
2- Low levels of energy: With a low-calorie and almost zero protein diet, the body experiences a considerable decrease in energy visible through mental fatigue, unfocused thoughts and frequent headaches. The lack of protein is of major concern, as damaged tissue is wasted and not repaired due to insufficient amino acids from the protein.
3- Increased bowel movements: Through this process, the body flushes away not just water but also essential nutrients and electrolytes that are responsible for the body’s healthy functioning.
4- Bloating and gas: The increased intake of fibre-rich vegetables and fruits can cause bloating and gas, commonly assumed to be a positive effect of the diet but in turn can lead to diarrhoea.
5- Expensive: Consuming organic products can be costly and therefore not the most budget friendly idea.
A good detox diet would therefore be one that provides you with enough nutrients and a safe level of calories. It is important that after a detox diet is completed, a calorie controlled, healthy eating plan is implemented to maintain the effects of the former diet.
With some guidance from your daily physician, you can be a pro detox dietician in no time!
* The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah