“Detox” and “cleansing” diets are common, but do we really need them? The simple answer is no. The human body has its own super filtration system, which rids it of toxins every minute of every day. The liver and kidneys break down and filter toxins (anything from copper to ammonia) out of the bloodstream and intestines and into your waste. So far, no “detox” diet has been scientifically proven to be able to beat the body’s own natural cleansing process.
Drastic “detox” dieting, whether it advocates drinking only a home-mixed drink or cutting out everything except cucumber for a week, is not going to make you healthier and could put you at risk for malnutrition, fatigue and other health problems, including a reduced metabolic rate and bad breath.
Rather follow these five simple steps to clean up your diet. They are easy to do and to maintain…
Step 1: Cut Down On Ultra-Processed Foods
These are foods and products made from processed substances that have been extracted or refined from whole foods. For example: hydrogenated oils and fats; flours and starches; variants of sugar and cheap parts or remnants of animal foods. Ultra-processed foods are typically energy-dense but low in fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients. They are also high in unhealthy types of dietary fat and free or added sugars as well as sodium – and have a high glycemic load.
Examples include: burgers; most fast food; frozen pizza; pasta dishes; nuggets; processed meat products; crisps; biscuits and confectionery; carbonated and other sugary drinks; and various snack products. Most of these products are very durable, palatable and ready to consume, which is an enormous commercial advantage over fresh and perishable whole or minimally processed foods.
When eaten in small amounts and with other healthy foods, ultra-processed products are harmless. But diets that consist mostly of these types of foods are unhealthy. It’s easy for people to eat more and more of these foods because they are tasty (due to their high content fat, sugar, salt, and cosmetic and other additives), convenient and often cheaper than fresh or minimally processed foods. Plus, they are distributed with sophisticated and aggressive marketing strategies.
Step 2: Go Fresh!
Replace the ultra-processed foods with fresh, whole and minimally processed foods – veggies, salad, fruit, whole grains, legumes and dairy.
Step 3: Get A Variety In
Variety keeps your diet interesting and gives you a better chance of getting enough of the different nutrients you need. Try a new vegetable every week, try new grains like quinoa or Bulgar wheat or add some interesting legumes to your menu.
Step 4: Moderation Is Key
Like most things in life, moderation is good rule of thumb. Avoid extremes – they’re hard to maintain and risky for long-term health. Cutting out entire food groups means you’re missing out on the nutrients in that food group and limits your choice. Rather use your common sense and make smart choices from each of the food groups every day.
Step 5: Stop The Sodium Assault!
Drop your salt intake by hiding your salt shaker and by making sensible food choices. Processed foods are generally higher in salt. So one way of cutting down on salt is by simply switching from processed foods to fresh foods.
Examples of processed foods include processed meats; canned soup; vegetables and beans; ready-meals; instant noodles and soups; frozen processed foods like pizza, sauces, marinades, dressings; and smoked or cured fish and meat as well as crackers and biscuits.
Now combine these five steps with healthy living. Up the ante when it comes to being active no matter how you do it – take the stairs, walk to lunch, get to the gym regularly, start yoga – whatever it is that you do, just move more. Stop smoking if you do. Keep your alcohol intake in check. Get enough sleep.
Consistent healthy eating and living is the best way – it doesn’t sound quick and exciting, but it works!