If “New Year, New You” is your January slogan, you may be drawn to detox diets and cleanses that promise big results fast. Some tell you to drink nothing but juice for a week, while others suggest a concoction of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup for 10 days.
The supposed payoff? More energy, a slim waistline, or a wellness boost. In the spirit of keeping everyone healthy and safe, we asked experts to debunk the biggest detox myths out there. Take the quiz below to see if everything you think you know about detox diets is actually true.
True or false: A detox diet will jump start your weight loss
The scale may say so, but it’s not the type of weight you’re trying to lose. Here’s what we mean: If your norm is burgers and pasta, then an all-liquid diet of juices or smoothies will help you drop a few kilos, but it’ll be mostly water weight, which is shed naturally when you cut out processed foods and carbs, says endocrinologist Rekha Kumar. You want to lose fat, not water. Plus, a super- restrictive diet is hard to maintain, so your weight will likely creep back up. And yo-yo dieting can send your body into a tailspin— research shows that it may slow metabolism and up your risk of heart attack and stroke.
True or false: Fruit and veggie juices aren't nutritious
Quite the opposite: The process of juicing removes many of the nutrients in fruit, particularly fibre, and leaves behind fructose, a type of sugar—so you’re essentially sipping sugar-laden water. All that fructose can increase levels of triglycerides (fat particles) in your blood, which may up your risk of heart disease, says Dr Kumar. And if you consume solely liquefied fruits and vegetables, you miss out on the fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals other healthy foods provide. Bottom line: Eat fruits and veggies and other whole foods, and skip the $9 juice. . . .
True of false: Detoxing reverses holiday over indulgence
Quick fixes that sound too good to be true usually are. No juice blend or shake will help you rebound from too many cocktails or cookies, nor will it get your gut, kidney, or liver function back on track. “People may believe detox diets can flush impurities from our bodies, but the body relies on the liver, lungs, kidneys, skin, and digestive system to remove toxins and wastes,” says dietitian Molly Gee. If you’re in good health, this natural detox system will work just fine.
True of false: Detoxing will help boost your energy
You may think that light-headed feeling you get three days into a juice cleanse means it’s working, but in reality, restrictive cleanses can leave you feeling worse than you did before. Depriving your body of the calories and nutrients it needs to function can trigger energy loss, dizziness, moodiness, and serious complications like electrolyte and blood sugar imbalances, says Gee. What’s more, when the body doesn’t have its normal capabilities, “it’s psychologically taxing,” says Dr Kumar. “People may feel defeated, which can lead to binging or going back to other bad eating habits.”
True of false: Detox diets may help you manage certain chronic conditions, like diabetes.
If you hear of a plan that claims to eliminate chronic pain, erase an autoimmune disorder, or cause high blood pressure to zoom down, don’t believe the hype. “I’ve had diabetic patients follow a juice diet that resulted in uncontrolled blood sugar spikes,” warns Gee. “This is dangerous.” Detox diets are a bad idea for even the healthiest people, so those with a chronic condition should definitely steer clear, as they can interfere with medications and may cause dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or muscle loss.