How to avoid detox diet pitfalls

Published: Sunday 8th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Certain words crop up a lot during the early part of the year, and “detox” is certainly one of them – those diet plans, smoothies, juices or even dodgy-looking pills promising to cleanse our clogged-up systems and leave us lighter, brighter and healthier.

But experts warn that these wonder remedies should be approached with caution. In fact, is detoxing even really real? After all, our bodies are designed to self-cleanse anyway, that’s what livers are for.

A fresh healthy start

However, there’s no denying that going on a bit of a health-kick, and perhaps cutting out treats, caffeine and booze for a few days can help get you started on a healthy eating regime, or simply shift that sluggish, bloated feeling if you’ve been overindulging.

“Absolutely,” says Rob Hobson, head of nutrition for . “I think to take a long weekend or week and fill your cupboards and fridge with really healthy, unprocessed foods is a great idea. Not only good for your body, but mentally it feels like you’re doing something positive for your health.”

Know what you’re eating

Incorporating detox-inspired elements into your health-kick – for instance, you might want to ditch processed foods and caffeine and go all-out on the veg and fruit for a couple of days – may feel beneficial.

But, notes Hobson, don’t assume that everything with the word detox on the label is going to be good for you. He says: “The term is thrown about quite a bit, and especially by people trying to market strange potions and pills.

“Also, be wary about detox preparations, as you never quite know what they contain.”

Beware quick-fix traps

Many detox plans are tempting because they offer fast weight loss, but this can be counterproductive.

Firstly, fast weight loss rarely leads to long-term weight loss (in fact it often results in yo-yoing and even greater weight gain), and fixating on the quick-fix and restricting calories can put you at risk of missing out on important nutrients.

“I have never been a big fan of the ‘quick-fix’, and many of these diets involve eating very few calories or avoiding solid food altogether, which of course is going to get you to lose weight, but unfortunately in the short term, this is just likely to be water and muscle loss from the lack of protein,” says Hobson.

Fast now, feast later?

While fasting has its advocates, there is “no evidence to suggest starving is going to improve organ function”, adds Hobson. “While crash diets and cleanses are not going to do you much harm in the short term, over longer periods they may negatively impact on your health and the way you view food.”

The same can apply when it comes to cutting out food groups. If certain foods don’t agree with you, or you can’t eat them for medical reasons, eliminating them from your diet might be beneficial and necessary – but always ensure you’re doing it for the right reasons and replacing lost nutrients with alternative sources.

“Juicing in particular involves avoiding solid food altogether, which means no protein, fibre or essential vitamins such as B12, and iron,” says Hobson.

Healthy habits for life

If you do fancy giving those green juices and smoothies a go, or want to overhaul your diet and jazz up meals with antioxidant-packed spices and trendy chia seeds and the like – great. But don’t fixate on one “healthy” habit, because, as we’re repeatedly reminded, unless you have a balanced diet, then it’s probably not that healthy at all.

Copyright Press Association 2015

Published: Sunday 8th February 2015 by The News Editor

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