“I need to detox.”
It’s a statement we make all too often when justifying a run of “bad” eating days. But just how necessary is a juice cleanse? And does lemon and warm water really help with digestion?
“Certainly some foods and nutrients help with weight loss but at the end of the day it’s our kidney and liver that’s responsible for detoxing our body and no food or nutrient is going to compare to that,” Melanie McGrice, accredited dietitian and founder of Melanie Health & Wellbeing told The Huffington Post Australia.
For years, we’ve heard of strict “detox” regimes synonymous with weight loss but experts agree they are actually doing way more harm than good.
“A juice cleanse has absolutely no protein, which means it will break down muscle mass, leading to the slowing down of the metabolism and making it harder to lose or maintain a healthy weight in the long run,” McGrice said.
Due to the varying definitions of what people believe a detox entails, McGrice said it’s important that people understand cutting out whole food groups isn’t necessarily “healthy.”
“You can go on a detox which is a healthy diet including all of the core food groups, where all you cut out is junk food, soft drinks and alcohol for a couple of weeks -- and that's perfectly acceptable,” McGrice said.
Of course, two weeks eating healthily isn’t going to make up for two years of eating junk food.
“But it gives people an emotional sense of control. Sometimes when we have a defined period of time and focus on eating a bit healthier it can be motivating,” McGrice said.
While most of the foods associated with detoxing aren’t necessarily bad for us, McGrice’s key message is that they will not detoxify us.
“What concerns me is that people will go on a so called 'detox' diet of chlorophyll and apple cider vinegar -- where they deprive themselves of key nutrients. So they won’t be getting any dairy, meat, grains and other nutritious food groups which is a huge problem," McGrice said.
Instead, we should be focusing on consuming fresh, nutrient-dense foods and cutting out junk food. To set the record straight, McGrice weighs in the various buzz foods associated with detoxes.
Warm water with lemon
“It’s thought to alter the acidity and therefore your metabolic rate as well being a slight diuretic, but research doesn’t support either of these facts. It’s really just a nice citrus taste to your water. The other thing people have to remember is it can actually impact on dental health. Of course, it’s a better alternative to soft drink, but be mindful about how much lemon you are putting in and washing out your mouth with water or milk after consumption is a good idea.”
Apple cider vinegar
“It’s said to be rich in vitamins and minerals as a result of the fermentation of the apples. And much like the lemon water, it’s thought to balance pH levels and aid with digestion. While some animal studies have found that it helps to lower blood triglycerides, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is in any way detoxing.”
“While it is great for general health thanks to its high count of antioxidants and polyphenols, again that doesn’t necessarily mean it has detox properties. In fact, the liver and kidneys still needs to detoxify the caffeine.”
“It is a strong antioxidant and the claims tend to be about correcting pH levels. But as yet there’s very little evidence that what we consume is going to have any impact on our pH as our body has the ability to regulate these levels itself.”
“Because coconut oil is known as a medium chain fatty acid, which means it is processed by the liver more quickly, some people claim it helps with detoxing. There are also some suggestions that it can help with infection but it’s important to remember it is a saturated fat. This means it’s OK to have a little every now and again but consuming a spoonful on a daily basis will mean you’re probably having more than the recommended amount.”