While many are spring cleaning their homes, they’re also interested in spring cleaning their bodies. So around this time of year, as well as after the Holidays, I often get asked about detox diets. While I don’t think that an extreme type of detox that uses excessive supplements, laxatives, etc. is safe (let alone enjoyable), a gentle “cleanse” using clean, whole foods, while cutting out the junk, certainly can’t hurt. So if you’re interested in giving a detox diet a try this spring, read on.
A few general detox guidelines:
- Begin a detox on the weekend (or a day off), so that you can find adequate time to shop & prepare the foods you’ll be enjoying. Or, consider having your fruits & vegetables delivered to you around the time you plan to start your detox. Don’t forget about your farmers’ market or local CSA as a great source for fruits, vegetables & other products.
- Choose a timeframe that works for you—3 days, 5 days, even a week. Do your best to pick a time that you know you won’t have excess stress (where you may be tempted to reach for excess caffeine) or a lot of social events (where you may be tempted to reach for that glass of bubbly or cupcake).
- Select organic foods when possible. But this doesn’t have to become a financial challenge or a scavenger hunt to several stores. Start with buying the Dirty Dozen fruits & vegetables organic if you can find them.
- Don’t worry much about the amounts of what to eat or calorie-counting, nor should you get bogged down with menu plans. Just eat a variety of the whole foods suggested below, when you’re hungry for meals or snacks. This is not a fast.
- Sip on plenty of filtered water. You can make it more spa-like by adding lemons or limes, cucumbers or even raspberries. You may also want to sip on herbal teas, or even one of the detox teas on the market (please be sure to avoid these if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if they’re otherwise contraindicated in your case). Increased fluid intake is especially important as you are increasing your fiber intake (found in fruits, vegetables & whole grains).
- Plan on light exercise during your detox, such as walking or yoga.
You may choose to continue with your daily supplements (such as a multivitamin/mineral, vitamin D, and fish oil) or resume taking them after your detox.
If you’d like to take a green powder supplement, I like Miessence DeepGreen Superfood (it’s certified organic, contains NO cheap fillers/bulking agents, and NO artificial or herbal sweeteners). Add it to smoothies, or use it to make a green juice to start your day.
Additional supplements, although often included in some detox diets, aren’t absolutely necessary. You’ll be getting plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber from your increased intake of whole fruits, vegetables & grains.
What NOT to eat or drink during a detox:
- Caffeine (this includes coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, etc.). I would not recommend going cold turkey on giving up caffeine. The headaches you’ll experience within a day are only a preview to the muscle aches that may come in a few days. Instead, begin to wean yourself off by cutting half of your cup of coffee with decaf, and so on. If you need a fizz fix, try DIY homemade soda.
- By avoiding as many processed & packaged foods (including condiments) as you can, you’ll be cutting out:
- Trans fats (will show up on a label in the ingredients list as ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil)
- Added salt
- Added sugars
- Artificial sweeteners
- Some detox advocates also recommend avoiding:
What TO eat during a detox:
Vegetables: any & all; be sure to include leafy greens, broccoli & cabbage, as well as artichokes & beets
Fruits: any & all; be sure to include berries & melons
Nuts & seeds, but opt for raw & unsalted (some choose to avoid peanuts & peanut products)
Dairy substitutes, such as rice milk, almond milk & coconut milk (watch for artificial flavors & excessive sweeteners)
Oils, including extra virgin olive oil
Herbs & spices, as well as vinegars
Try to enjoy the experience. Experiment with a new vegetable, grain or herb. Play around with some of your recipes, or try out a new one. Pay attention to changes in your body, including your skin & energy level. Maybe this detox will be just the Fresh Start you’re looking for, and one of these suggestions will become a lifestyle change for you. (You may never go back to that diet soda.) If so, let us know in the comments!
While you’re detoxing your diet, don’t forget about your home & work environment. Consider your exposure to chemicals including smoke, fertilizers, artificial fragrances, cleaning products, body care products and those leached from plastics. Stay tuned for tips on cleaning up those areas too, or shop for some clean, Fresh Start favorites.
As featured on the Charlotte Today show (May 2012):