It’s that cleansing time of year again, when ads for miracle detox plans litter social media posts and the pages of magazines. But is a detox really necessary? Technically, no. Your body has its own sophisticated and efficient detox system that includes the liver, kidneys, and intestines. That said, a sane, simple cleanse can optimize your natural detoxification system, give your body a break from bad habits, and leave you feeling lighter, cleaner, and revitalized. Unclear about cleanses? Check out these eleven easy tips for a safe-and-sane detox.
1 Keep it simple—and short. You know those flashy programs that include hundreds of dollars of premade juices or complicated supplements, or the starvation diets where you drink nothing but lemon water with maple syrup and cayenne? You’re wasting your money and your time—and possibly harming your health.
Steer clear of any detox or cleanse that sounds extreme, says Serena Poon, nutritionist, detox expert, reiki master, and founder of Just Add Water super nutrient foods and supplements. And forget those two-week regimens.
They’re hard to follow and create a sense of deprivation, so when you go back to your regular diet, you’re more likely to binge. A three-day cleanse once a month or every other month is really all you need to hit the reset button and break a pattern of unhealthy habits—especially after vacations, holidays, and stressful periods at work.
2 Don’t starve yourself. Good news for those of us who like to eat: fasting isn’t necessary—and may not even be the best approach. Any extreme reduction in nutrients that lasts longer than a few days can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, and a starvation diet that leaves you feeling deprived makes it more likely you’ll fall off the detox wagon with a loaded pizza or a box of Krispy Kremes. Fasting also shifts your body into starvation mode, so when your cleanse ends, you may gain more weight from eating less food.
Instead of deprivation, focus on light, pure foods that support your body’s natural detox mechanisms, says Poon. Think greens and raw, fiber-rich vegetables to keep your digestive system moving, plus antioxidants to bolster your body’s natural detox mechanisms. Additionally, onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables, and cilantro support the body’s ability to remove heavy metals, and cilantro also speeds the excretion of certain toxic chemicals. [Editor’s note: For more on heavy metals, see p. 34.]
3 Go easy on the juice. “I usually tell my clients to avoid pure juice cleanses,” says Poon. “I love adding cold-pressed vegetable juice to almost any eating regimen, especially cleanses, but juice-only cleanses are problematic for a few reasons.” For one thing, they’re hard to complete. And they don’t include fiber, which is crucial for toxin elimination through the digestive system. “Fruit juices also contain a lot of sugar,” says Poon, which can cause inflammation.
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