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Tricks, Trends or Truth?
Juicing, Detoxification Diets and Cleanses
By Emily Smith
More than half of Americans and Canadians are trying to lose weight. Over 25 billion dollars is spent on diet and weight loss products in the United States and Canada each year. Yet, two-thirds of Americans and Canadians are overweight or obese.
In the eternal quest to find the magic bullet for sustained weight loss, people have tried some interesting diets and behaviors. The latest craze consists of juicing, detoxification diets and cleanses. Each comes with its own unique practices and health claims, but caution is warranted. Talk to your health provider before changing your eating habits or taking part in a detoxification diet or cleanse.
Juicing is a process that removes the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables. The juice that is created contains a majority of the vital nutrients that existed in the solid form of the food, with the exception of fiber, which is removed as the fruit and vegetable is liquefied. Fiber is one valuable component of a healthy diet because it helps you feel fuller, longer and aids in digestion.
Juicing may be beneficial for one’s health when incorporated into an otherwise healthy diet. One downside to juicing is that it can become rather costly between the kitchen gadgets necessary to do at-home juicing (prices range from $100 to $300 on up) and purchasing the produce, ideally organic, to make the juice.
If you are interested in trying out juicing but do not want to commit to buying all of the products needed to do so at home, you can visit a juice bar. There has been a surge of juice bars opening around the country, and many are in close proximity to gyms and health clubs.
Detoxification Diets and Cleanses
Detoxification diets and cleanses are advertised as a way to rid the body of harmful toxins as well as to promote weight loss. Detoxification diets and cleanses are two terms used interchangeably. However, cleanses are meant to rid the stomach, small intestine and large intestine of food that accumulates over time, while detoxification diets focus on removing toxins from the body as whole.
Although detoxification diets and cleanses are getting attention in the media, little scientific evidence supports their implied or claimed long-lasting or beneficial health effects. In fact, according to an epidemiologist working at the Harvard School of Public Health, “there is no basis in human biology that indicates we need fasting or any other detox formula to detoxify the body because we have our own internal organs [kidneys, liver, colon] and immune system that takes care of excreting toxins.”
A variety of detoxification diets and cleanses are on the market today, but many follow the same formula: minimal calorie consumption, fruits and vegetables (in solid or liquid form), water and vitamin supplements.
Listed below are some of the more common detoxification diets and cleanses.
The Eat Clean Diet: Least Challenging
The Eat Clean Diet is more of a lifestyle shift and less of a short-lived fad diet.
Dr. Joshi’s Holistic Detox Plan: Challenging
The Cabbage Soup Diet: More Challenging
The Cabbage Soup Diet is a low-fat, high-fiber diet lasting for seven days.
The Master Cleanse: Most Challenging
The Master Cleanse is a liquid fast that consists of three phases: ease-in, the lemonade diet and ease-out.
One notable piece of information missing from the detoxification diet and cleanse websites is the potential side effects. The claims these diets boast as well as step-by-step guides in how to be successful are included – usually in bold, bright, flashy letters. Yet, the downsides and possible negative health effects are not mentioned.
Some of the potential short-term side effects include decreased energy (as opposed to the increased energy that the diets boast), dizziness, headaches, irritability, nausea, digestive irregularity (constipation or diarrhea) and the obvious: hunger. While that may seem bad, some of the potential long-term effects could be worse. These include muscle loss, dehydration, vital nutrient deficiency and gaining back the weight lost (and then some) after the diet is stopped and normal eating habits resume.
Make the Healthy Choice
Feeling overwhelmed? Not interested in juicing or doing a detoxification diet or cleanse? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Here are a few helpful tips and suggestions to keep in mind as you are navigating the complex web of media advertisements and diet trends while attempting to maintain a healthy diet.
- Pay attention to what foods you are putting in your body and what you are purchasing for your family.
- Go with your gut. If you think something may not be healthy for you, it probably isn’t.
- Be wary of marketing that lures you into buying products because of the character on the box or colors and design of the ad.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water each day.
- Engage in some kind of physical activity every day – either indoors or outside, by yourself or with your family. The goal is to have fun and enjoy yourself.
[Emily Smith is the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division's Wellness Coordinator.]