Should You Do A Cleanse?

First, it depends on your definition of a cleanse or detox. If you’re conjuring up images of jugs of water, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and lemon juice or another juice fast, probably not. These cleanses, which often drastically limit calories and solid food and may include enemas, laxatives, or colonics, can be dangerous: they can result in muscle loss, low energy, low blood sugar, nausea, electrolyte imbalances, acidosis, a compromised immune system, and heart wave abnormalities – among other problems. Many people believe that the human body occasionally needs cleansing, but we already have organs (the liver, the kidneys, and the gastrointestinal tract) in place that eliminate toxins thoroughly. There’s also no evidence or scientific literature supporting the benefits of a cleanse, including weight loss. A cleanse may lead you to lose weight, but most of it is water weight; and what you do lose, you’ll gain back when you resort back to your typical diet.

However, if you view a cleanse more as a jumpstart to eating more nutritiously, it may be perfectly healthy. Cutting out processed foods and excess sugar, alcohol, trans fats, sodium, and refined carbohydrates and replacing them with nutritious, whole foods has many long-term benefits. But unlike The Master Cleanse or Blueprint Cleanse, this healthy eating jumpstart isn’t a short-term fix. Ideally, it should “reset” your taste buds so that after a while, you’ll naturally gravitate towards healthier foods. Depending on your goals – more energy, a slimmer middle, better skin – try these jumpstart diets.

I want more energy:
Balancing protein, carbs, and fat, eaten throughout the day, will keep your motor running, your blood sugar stable, and your mood elevated. Start your day with a breakfast high in fiber and protein (like eggs with a whole wheat English muffin): both will keep you full and suppress appetite for longer, says research from the University of Missouri. Avoid fatty and fried foods at lunch and dinner, which can make you feel lethargic. Instead, pick lean proteins (an open-faced turkey sandwich, lentil soup, or a black bean burger), which will boost levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that stimulate metabolism, circulation, and motivation. Eat lightly at dinner: your body doesn’t need the calories to push you through work, workouts, and errands. Snacking between meals will help keep energy up and rev your metabolism. Aim for around 150 calories, and try to include foods with either high fiber, high protein, or healthy fats; processed, refined foods will leave you sluggish and hungry for more.

Energy-boosting snacks:
Greek yogurt and high fiber cereal
Apple with almond butter
Hummus and red pepper strips/carrots
Blueberries and pistachios
Small baked sweet potato
Tuna and white beans on whole wheat baguette

I want a slimmer middle:
Celebrities often claim their slimmer waists are due to cleanses, detoxes, and juice fasts, but these quick fixes don’t lead to real weight loss. Most of the weight lost is water weight (which can help you look slimmer by reducing bloat), and any real pounds that are lost will be gained back when you return to your regular diet. There’s no quick fix for weight loss, but to appear slimmer in a short amount of time, reducing bloat is key. Avoid processed foods, which are often pumped full of sodium and empty carbs. Sodium attracts water, so if you’re eating foods high in sodium, you’ll automatically retain more water weight and look heavier. Excess carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen (glycogen is the fuel that marathoners and other endurance athletes use during a long race); each gram of glycogen is stored with 3 grams of water, which will also give you a puffier look. Other foods to cut out: sugar-free foods or those with sugar alcohols, carbonated drinks, and chewing gum, which can cause gas. If you’re sensitive to cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli), enjoy them in moderation.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, snacking on foods high in water will actually help reduce bloat. When you’re dehydrated, your body hangs on to water; drinking water will boost hydration levels and decrease water retention. Many fruits and vegetables are full of water. Lettuce, for example, is 95% water; watermelon is 92% water, and grapefruits are 91% water. Fiber is also important; it adds bulk and improves digestion, allowing food to move through the intestines more quickly. Get your fiber from whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and barley, as well as fruits and vegetables.

In addition to helping you cut down on refined carbs and excess sodium, avoiding processed foods may help you lose pounds, as well. Processed foods are high in calories, fats, and added sugars, which eventually lead to weight gain. Trading fries, muffins, and chips for “clean” foods will boost satiety and reduce hunger, ultimately leading to a lower calorie consumption.

Foods to beat bloat:
Yogurt (probiotics will help improve digestion)
Whole grains
Homemade, broth-based soup (homemade soups contain a fraction of the sodium of store-bought varieties)
Peppermint and ginger
Pineapple (it contains an enzyme called bromelain, while helps break down proteins for better digestion)

I want a better complexion:
It’s a myth that chocolate causes zits, but certain foods can exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea. If you have acne-prone skin, cut out high-glycemic foods like white bread, cookies, chips, and those with refined sugars. These foods result in a quick spike in blood glucose levels, which is accompanied by an increase in insulin. Insulin promotes inflammation and excess oil production; it also depresses the immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight acne-causing bacteria. In fact, a study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that the incidence of acne vulgaris is essentially zero in non-Western cultures, like Pacific Islanders and hunter-gatherers in Paraguay. Researchers attribute this finding to the fact that these cultures consume little to no refined sugars and starches.

Dairy may also cause acne, although the jury is still out. Several studies have linked high dairy consumption with the incidence and severity of acne; researchers believe that milk spikes male sex hormones and insulin, both of which contribute to acne.

To beat acne, doctors recommend eating foods rich in zinc: it helps calm the inflammatory process and reduces sebum production. Top sources include oysters, beans, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds. Foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins not only protect against acne, but also wrinkles and aging. Vitamin E-rich foods, like olive oil and nuts, help keep skin hydrated. Foods high in niacin, like beef and tuna, and vitamin C (kiwis, bell peppers, strawberries) bump up collagen production and protect skin from UV damage. Vitamin A is the superstar when it comes to improving your complexion: it offers potent antioxidant activity, encourages cell turnover, and reduces inflammation. Since vitamin A is fat-soluble, pair its sources with healthy fats to boost absorption and efficacy.

Don’t skimp on fat: although foods high in saturated and trans fat are bad for the skin, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy skin. Essential fatty acids are the foundation for healthy cell membranes; they also keep it hydrated and younger looking. Load up on fish like salmon and mackerel, walnuts, flaxseeds, and fortified eggs.

Supplement this diet with dark chocolate and green tea, both of which contain antioxidants and flavonoids that protect against UV damage and improve texture.

Complexion-boosting foods:
Foods high in carotenoids: sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach
Salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines
Walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds
Oysters, pumpkin seeds, beans, chickpeas
Dark chocolate
Green tea


One response to “Should You Do A Cleanse?

  1. Great Info! Thanks for sharing!

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