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The truth about detox & juice diets: fad diets that don’t last

Detoxes & juice diets are popular dieting strategies that are advocated to cleanse, detoxify, recharge, or “fat-flush” your body by eliminating dangerous toxins and impurities from the body. This is an attractive solution for individuals looking for a quick fix to improve body composition and health by rapidly burning unwanted body fat. However, the reason for notable reductions in body weight is misleading.

Companies and promoters of such diets & products suggest that in order for you to lose weight you must be on a diet that involves nothing but glasses of green juice drinks, packed with as many ‘superfood’ fruits & vegetables as possible, along with powdered supplements & multivitamin capsules. This will help you shed fat by cleansing your body of all toxins.

Yes, you will lose weight if glasses of green mush are staples in your diet and replace whole foods.

So there are some questions that need to be answered…

Does this diet work? Is it healthy? Can you sustain this long-term?

Let’s see if the good outweigh the bad…

 

Weight loss

I’ve admitted that you will lose weight on this diet, so this must be a good idea if you need to lose weight? Not necessarily.

In any diet, if you consume less energy (calories) than what you expend causing a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. And in the case of a typical juice and detox diet you are chronically energy restricted, hence the rapid weight loss.

Switching from a regular daily routine of eating 3-4 meals consisting of 2,000-2,500 kcal, to a juice diet where you’re drinking 3-4 glasses of fruit & veg that are naturally low in calories, providing approx. 150-200 kcal each… surely it’s obvious that you’re going to lose weight?!

This will be a huge shock to your body and it will compensate for the drastic reduction in energy availability, by sourcing the energy it needs by utilising stored body fat, but also lean tissue e.g. muscle & bone. This is where the long-term negative health implications can occur.

This is not sustainable. Your body will be telling your brain that it’s starving (hunger pangs). You need to listen to your body. The juice or ‘detox’ isn’t the cure for the fat loss…it’s the calorie deficit.

Now think about when you come off this diet and start to eat properly again. Switching from drinking just 600 kcal back to eating 2,000-2,500 kcal regularly, what do you think the short-term effects will be?

Eat good nutritious foods and also a bit of the foods you enjoy, just control portion sizes and eat less over all, as part of a balanced & active lifestyle. This is the sustainable, healthy & realistic way to lose body fat.

 

Is it healthy?

You’re getting a week’s supply of vitamins and minerals from colourful fruit and vegetables every day. Surely that’s the key to a successful diet?!

That is probably the only benefit to going on a juice diet. However there are many other nutrients that are missing and are critical for health.

Firstly and as previously mentioned is the significant lack of calories. Energy restricted diets can have negative implications, whether it is 300 kcal or 1,300 kcal. Obviously the greater the deficit, the greater the implications, and in juice diets severe calorie restriction is common. Fatigue, nausea, constipation and diarrhoea, illness, weakness & injury are all associated with very low calorie diets.

Only drinking fruit & veg will result in nutrient deficiencies. Not only are you avoiding valuable micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) found in other foods, but protein & fats are vital for many physiological functions. Protein is essential for growth and repair, and fats for hormone production and transporting vitamins A, D, E & K.

Juice diets are also low in fibre, which the body needs to properly aid digestion. The fibre is found in the skin and pulp of fruits and veg which is often discarded when juicing. A study has shown a positive association for increased risk of type II diabetes when consuming fruit juices compared to whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes & apples (Muraki et al., 2013). This may be attributed to the removal of the fibre and other phytonutrients in the juicing process.

So what’s the best solution?

It’s simple, really. Eat WHOLE foods including fruits and vegetables to obtain ALL their nutrients.

 

The body can already “detox” itself!

The body maintains its homeostasis by eliminating the toxins all by itself. The liver & kidneys are far superior to any concocted, green fruit and veg mush.

There is no scientific evidence to support juice diets or any other diets that can “cleanse” the body of toxins and impurities that have built up from excessive weight-gain and unhealthy binges.

 

Take-home message

I think it’s clear to say that the negatives outweigh the positives.

Juice diets are not a practical dietary strategy for healthy weight loss, and it is the reduction in calories that drives weight loss, not a detox!

If you are not lover of fruit & vegetables, especially dark, leafy green veggies, blending them together into a smoothie that you can enjoy is a practical method of getting the essential nutrients your body needs. Just make sure you leave the skins on them to get the fibre, and don’t replace this for actual food!

Toxins are not hazardous and you can trust your body to do its job in removing anything that it doesn’t like. Excessive consumption of fruit juices will not do this. 

Most importantly enjoy your food, focus on portion control, exercise regularly, and work out a nutritional strategy that suits your goals & lifestyle.

I advocate an 80/20 attitude to help you enjoy your food, meaning you can eat well 80% of the time and you can afford to treat yourself the other 20%. All plans and strategies are tailored to your needs, helping you to achieve your goals the easy way. Get in touch via the contact page if you’re interested in my personalised support services.

 

References

Halton, T.L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23, 373–385. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15466943

Muraki, L., et al. (2013). Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies. British Medical Journal, 28, 347 – 360. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23990623

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