Detox Diet

Detoxification (detox) diets are more popular than ever. These diets aim to clean your blood and eliminate harmful toxins from your body. However, it is not entirely clear how they do this, what specific compounds they’re supposed to eliminate, and if they even work.

WHAT IS A DETOX?

Detox diets are generally short-term dietary interventions designed to eliminate toxins from your body. A typical detox diet involves a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, teas, supplements, and colon cleanses or enemas. This is claimed to:

  • Rest your organs by fasting
  • Stimulate your liver to get rid of toxins
  • Promote toxin elimination through faeces, urine, and sweat
  • Improve circulation
  • Provide your body with healthy nutrients

Detox therapies are often recommended because of potential exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment or in your diet.
These diets claim to also help with various health problems, including obesity, digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, allergies, bloating, and chronic fatigue.

However, research on detox diets is lacking, and the handful of studies that exist are significantly flawed.

THE MOST COMMON WAYS TO DETOX

There are many ways to do a detox diet — ranging from total starvation fasts to simpler food modifications.
Most detox diets involve at least one of the following:

  • Fasting for 1–3 days
  • Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water, and tea
  • Drinking only specific liquids, such as salted water or lemon juice
  • Eliminating foods high in heavy metals, contaminants, and allergens
  • Taking supplements or herbs
  • Avoiding all allergenic foods, then slowly reintroducing them
  • Using laxatives, colon cleanses, or enemas
  • Exercising regularly
  • Completely eliminating alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, and refined sugar

Detox diets vary in intensity and duration.

WHICH TOXINS ARE ELIMINATED?

Detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove. The mechanisms by which they work are also unclear. In fact, there is little to no evidence that detox diets remove any toxins from your body.
What’s more, your body can cleanse itself through the liver, faeces, urine, and sweat. Your liver makes toxic substances harmless, then ensures that they’re released from your body.

However, there are a few chemicals that may not be as easily removed by these processes, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs), phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and heavy metals.

These tend to accumulate in fat tissue or blood and can take a very long time — even years — for your body to flush. These compounds generally are removed from or limited in commercial products today.
Overall, there is little evidence that detox diets help eliminate any of these compounds.

HOW EFFECTIVE ARE THESE DIETS?

Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. However, this improved well-being may simply be due to eliminating processed foods, alcohol, and other unhealthy substances from your diet. You may also be getting vitamins and minerals that were lacking before. Some people also report feeling unwell during the detox period.

EFFECTS ON WEIGHT LOSS

Very few scientific studies have investigated how detox diets impact weight loss. While some people may lose a lot of weight quickly, this is often due to loss of fluid and carb stores rather than fat. This weight is usually regained quickly once you go off the cleanse.
One study in overweight Korean women examined the lemon detox diet, which limits you to a mixture of organic maple or palm syrups and lemon juice for seven days. This diet significantly reduced body weight, BMI, body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, markers of inflammation, insulin resistance, and circulating leptin levels.

If a detox diet or any diet involves severe calorie restriction, it will most certainly cause weight loss and improvements in metabolic health — but it’s unlikely to help you keep weight off in the long term.

DETOX DIETS, SHORT-TERM FASTING, AND STRESS

Several varieties of detox diets may have effects like those of short-term or intermittent fasting.
Short-term fasting may improve various disease markers in some people, including improved leptin and insulin sensitivity.
However, these effects do not apply to everyone. Studies in women show that both a 48-hour fast and a 3-week period of reduced calorie intake may increase your stress hormone levels.

On top of that, crash diets can be a stressful experience, as they involve resisting temptations and feeling extreme hunger.

POTENTIAL BENEFITS

A few aspects of detox diets may have health benefits:

  • Avoiding dietary sources of heavy metals and POPs
  • Losing excessive fat
  • Exercising and sweating regularly
  • Eating whole, nutritious, healthy foods
  • Avoiding processed foods
  • Drinking water and green tea.
  • Limiting stress, relaxing, and getting good sleep.

But note, following these guidelines is generally linked to improved health — regardless of whether or not you’re on a detox diet.

SAFETY AND SIDE EFFECTS

Before doing any sort of detox, it is important to consider possible side effects.

SEVERE CALORIE RESTRICTION

Several detox diets recommend fasting or severe calorie restriction. Short-term fasting and limited calorie intake can result in fatigue, irritability, and bad breath.

Long-term fasting can result in energy, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies, as well as electrolyte imbalance and even death.

Furthermore, colon cleansing methods, which are sometimes recommended during detoxes, can cause dehydration, cramping, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.

OVERDOSING

Some detox diets may pose the risk of overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics, and even water. There is a lack of regulation and monitoring in the detox industry, and many detox foods and supplements may not have any scientific basis.

In the worst cases, the ingredient labels of detox products may be inaccurate. This can increase your risk of overdosing, potentially resulting in serious — and even fatal — effects.

AT-RISK POPULATIONS

Certain people should not start any detox or calorie- restricting regimens without consulting a doctor first.
At-risk populations include children, adolescents, older adults, those who are malnourished, pregnant, or lactating women, and people who have blood sugar issues, such as diabetes or an eating disorder.

YOUR BODY’S BUILT-IN DETOX

Many of these extreme dietary shifts can do more harm than good. One example is the turmeric cleanse. While turmeric is good in small doses, larger doses can cause symptoms such as increased anxiety or sleeping difficulties.

The human body has many processes to eliminate so- called toxins from the body. These include sweating and urinating as the body’s own means of ridding itself of things it doesn’t need.

The best way to support the organs that detoxify the body, and their respected processes, experts say, is eating a healthy diet, getting an average of 30 minutes of exercise a day, getting plenty of rest at night, and drinking enough water to stay hydrated.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Your body is frequently exposed to toxic substances. However, most of the time, it can remove them without additional help.
While detox diets may seem tempting, their benefits likely have nothing to do with vanquishing toxins, but rather with eliminating various unhealthy foods.

A much smarter approach is to eat healthier and improve your lifestyle rather than go on a potentially dangerous detox cleanse.

Vegan Diet

WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET?

The vegan diet is an eating plan that eliminates all animal products, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey.

People decide to adopt veganism for different reasons, such as ethical concerns, health reasons or religious principles.

Others may decide to become vegan to improve the environment as plant-based diets are thought to generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions and use fewer natural resources noting that the environmental impact of any diet depends on multiple factors, including the way that foods are produced, packaged, and transported.

For those who decide to follow a vegan diet for health reasons, as veganism is associated with a multitude of benefits and may help prevent certain chronic diseases. Vegan diets have been shown to improve heart health, increase weight loss, and support blood sugar control.

 

DIFFERENT TYPES OF VEGAN DIETS

There are different varieties of vegan diets. The most common include:

  • WHOLE-FOOD VEGAN DIET: A diet based on a wide variety of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • RAW-FOOD VEGAN DIET: A vegan diet based on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or plant foods cooked at temperatures below 118°F (48°C).
  • 80/10/10: The 80/10/10 diet is a raw-food vegan diet that limits fat-rich plants such as nuts and avocados and relies mainly on raw fruits and soft
    greens instead. Also referred to as the low-fat, raw-food vegan diet or fruitarian diet.
  • THE STARCH SOLUTION: A low-fat, high-carb vegan diet like the 80/10/10 but that focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of fruit.
  • RAW TILL 4: A low-fat vegan diet inspired by the 80/10/10 and starch solution. Raw foods are consumed until 4 p.m., with the option of a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
  • THE THRIVE DIET: The thrive diet is a raw-food vegan diet. Followers eat plant-based, whole foods that are raw or minimally cooked at low temperatures.
  • JUNK-FOOD VEGAN DIET: A vegan diet lacking in whole plant foods that relies heavily on mock meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts, and other heavily processed vegan foods.
    Although several variations of the vegan diet exist, most scientific research rarely differentiates between these different types of vegan diets.

 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF VEGANISM

VEGAN DIETS CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT

Vegans tend to be thinner and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegans. This might explain why an increasing number of people turn to vegan diets to lose excess weight. Part of the weight-related benefits vegans experience may be explained by factors other than diet. These may include healthier lifestyle choices, such as physical activity, and other health-related behaviours.

 

VEGAN DIETS, BLOOD SUGAR AND TYPE 2 DIABETES

Adopting a vegan diet may help keep your blood sugar in check and type 2 diabetes at bay.
Several studies show that vegans benefit from lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and up to a 78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-vegans. Part of the advantage could be explained by the higher fibre intake, which may blunt the blood sugar response. A vegan diet’s weight loss effects may further contribute to its ability to lower blood sugar levels.

 

A VEGAN DIET MAY HELP KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY

Observational studies report vegans may have up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease. These effects could be especially beneficial since reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar may reduce heart disease risk by up to 46%.

 

OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS OF VEGAN DIETS

Vegan diets are linked to an array of other health benefits, including:

  • CANCER RISK: Vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer.
  • ARTHRITIS: Vegan diets seem particularly effective at reducing symptoms of arthritis such as pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness.
  • KIDNEY FUNCTION: Diabetics who substitute meat for plant protein may reduce their risk of poor kidney function.
  • ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: Observational studies show that aspects of the vegan diet may help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

 

A VEGAN SHOPPING LIST

A healthy vegan diet should contain a variety of whole grains, proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables.
Foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, soy products, and nutritional yeast can all help boost your protein intake throughout the day.

Meanwhile, avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil are nutritious, vegan-friendly choices for healthy fats.
Here is a sample vegan shopping list to help get you started:

 

FRESH PRODUCE

  • VEGETABLES: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, kale, onions, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.
  • FRUITS: apples, bananas, blueberries, grapes, grapefruit, lemons, limes, kiwis, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranates, strawberries, etc.

 

FROZEN PRODUCE

  • VEGETABLES: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, corn, green beans, peas, vegetable medley, etc.
  • FRUITS: blackberries, blueberries, cherries, mangoes, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries, etc.

 

WHOLE GRAINS

Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, oats, quinoa, sorghum, teff.

 

BREADS AND PASTAS

Brown rice and pasta, Whole-wheat pasta, sprouted bread such as Ezekiel bread, brown rice wraps.

 

PROTEIN SOURCES

  • NUTS: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, etc.
  • SEEDS: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
  • LEGUMES: black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, etc.
  • SOY PRODUCTS: tempeh, tofu, etc.
  • PROTEIN POWDERS: pea protein powder, brown rice protein, hemp protein, etc.

 

DAIRY ALTERNATIVES

  • MILK SUBSTITUTES: almond, cashew, coconut, flax, oat, rice, and soy milks, etc.
  • YOGURT SUBSTITUTES: almond, cashew, coconut, flax, and soy yogurts, etc.
  • VEGAN CHEESE: vegan parmesan cheese, shredded and sliced varieties, etc.

 

EGG ALTERNATIVES

Aquafaba, arrowroot powder, chia seeds, corn-starch, flax meal, pre-packaged vegan egg substitute, silken tofu.

 

HEALTHY FATS

Avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil, flax oil, olive oil, unsweetened coconut, tahini.

 

SNACKS

  • Edamame
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit leather
  • Hummus
  • Nut butter
  • Pita chips
  • Popcorn
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Seaweed crisps
  • Trail mix

 

SWEETENER

  • Coconut sugar
  • Dates
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Monk fruit
  • Stevia

 

SPICES AND CONDIMENTS

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground ginger
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric

 

Note that many processed vegan products found at the store — such as vegan meat substitutes — are often loaded with sodium, fillers, additives, and other ingredients that may harm your health.

Try to stick to mostly whole, unprocessed foods — and steer clear of mock meats and other highly processed vegan ingredients and premade meals.

 

SAMPLE MEAL PLAN

Here is a sample one-week meal plan that features a few of the nutritious foods that can be enjoyed on a vegan diet:

 

MONDAY

BREAKFAST: tempeh bacon with sautéed mushrooms, avocado, and wilted arugula.

LUNCH: whole-grain pasta with lentil “meatballs” and a side salad.

DINNER: cauliflower and chickpea tacos with guacamole and Pico de Gallo.

SNACKS: air-popped popcorn, kale chips, and trail mix.

 

TUESDAY

BREAKFAST: coconut yogurt with berries, walnuts, and chia seeds.

LUNCH: baked tofu with sautéed red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and herbed couscous.

DINNER: mushroom lentil loaf with garlic cauliflower and Italian green beans.

SNACKS: bell peppers with guacamole, fruit leather, and seaweed crisps.

 

WEDNESDAY

BREAKFAST: sweet potato toast topped with peanut butter and banana.

LUNCH: tempeh taco salad with quinoa, avocados, tomatoes, onions, beans, and cilantro.

DINNER: oat risotto with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and butternut squash.

SNACKS: mixed berries, vegan protein shake, and walnuts.

 

THURSDAY

BREAKFAST: eggless quiche with silken tofu, broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach.

LUNCH: chickpea and spinach curry with brown rice.

DINNER: Mediterranean lentil salad with cucumbers, olives, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, kale, and parsley.

SNACKS: roasted edamame, sliced pear, and energy balls made from oats, chia seeds, nut butter, and dried fruit.

 

FRIDAY

BREAKFAST: overnight oats with apple slices, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and nut butter.

LUNCH: black bean veggie burger with steamed broccoli and sweet potato wedges.

DINNER: mac and “cheese” with nutritional yeast and collard greens.

SNACKS: pistachios, homemade granola, and coconut chia pudding.

 

SATURDAY

BREAKFAST: breakfast skillet with tempeh, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, and zucchini.

LUNCH: garlic-ginger tofu with stir-fried veggies and quinoa.

DINNER: bean salad with black-eyed peas, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, and onions.

SNACKS: roasted pumpkin seeds, frozen grapes, and celery with almond butter.

 

SUNDAY

BREAKFAST: whole-grain toast with avocado and nutritional yeast alongside a vegan protein shake.

LUNCH: lentil chili with grilled asparagus and baked potato.

DINNER: vegetable paella with brown rice, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, artichoke, and chickpeas.

SNACKS: almonds, fruit salad, and carrots with hummus.

 

POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES AND PRECAUTIONS

Although a well-rounded vegan diet can be healthy and nutritious, a vegan diet that is not properly planned can harm your health.

 

NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES

Vegan diets may be associated with an increased risk of several nutritional deficiencies. This is because meat, fish, and poultry are rich in several important nutrients that are mostly lacking in plant-based foods, including protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Animal products like eggs and dairy are also high in protein and micronutrients like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iodine, iron, and magnesium. Completely cutting these foods out of your diet can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Vegans may be at a higher risk of deficiency for vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron, and protein.

This can lead to an increased risk of issues like anaemia, weakened bones, and impaired immunity.

Low levels of vitamin B12 can be especially concerning during pregnancy, as a deficiency could potentially increase the risk of neural tube defects and impair your baby’s brain and nervous system.

Including a variety of nutrient-rich ingredients and fortified foods in your diet is necessary to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. Vitamin B12 and vitamin D can be found in fortified foods, such as plant-based milks, cereals, and nutritional yeast.

Meanwhile, protein, zinc, and iron are found in legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds. Including moderate amounts of iodized salt in your diet can also help you meet your needs for iodine.

 

SUPPLEMENTS

It can be challenging to meet your nutritional needs while following a vegan diet. Certain nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iodine, are found primarily in animal products and certain fortified foods. Plus, while non-heme iron occurs in a variety of plant foods, it may not be as well absorbed as the heme iron found in animal products.

 

SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER

Some vegans may find it difficult to eat enough of the nutrient-rich or fortified foods above to meet their daily requirements. In this case, the following supplements can be particularly beneficial:

  • VITAMIN B12: Vitamin B12 in cyanocobalamin form is the most studied and seems to work well for most people
  • VITAMIN D: Opt for D2 or vegan D3 forms
  • EPA AND DHA: Sourced from algae oil
  • IRON: Should only be supplemented in the case of a documented deficiency. Ingesting too much iron from supplements can cause health complications and prevent the absorption of other nutrients
  • IODINE: Take a supplement or add 1/2 teaspoon of iodized salt to your diet daily
  • CALCIUM: Calcium is best absorbed when taken in doses of 500mg or less at a time. Taking calcium at the same time as iron or zinc supplements may reduce their absorption
  • ZINC: Taken in zinc gluconate or zinc citrate forms. Not to be taken at the same time as calcium supplements

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Balanced vegan diets are healthy, nutritious, and associated with a variety of health benefits, including improved heart health, blood sugar, and body mass. Following a vegan meal plan can help you incorporate many nutrient-rich, whole foods into your diet to provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Keep in mind that supplements and proper planning are essential to avoid deficiencies in several critical nutrients.