Do you feel like your healthy habits were de-railed this holiday season? Perhaps you enjoyed more sweets and cocktails than veggies and workouts over the past few weeks? Don’t worry – it happens to the best of us.
As a dietitian, I commonly see clients who are looking to get back on track and may be considering a juice cleanse. And I get it! Who wouldn’t want to feel better and hit the “reset” button? But in reality, a juice cleanse isn’t the way to do it.
Cleanses typically don’t live up to their hype, and our bodies come equipped with multiple organs that work hard daily to help us detoxify, naturally.
THE DOWNSIDE OF JUICE CLEANSES
While a cleanse may sound promising – i.e. give your digestive system a break, cleanse impurities from your body, enjoy increased levels of energy – juice cleanses usually don’t deliver the right, or healthful, results.
Any restriction of caloric intake can result in weight loss, but from a nutritional point of view cleanses are problematic. Juice cleanses as a whole do not meet recommended nutrient requirements and tend to be low in two major dietary categories: protein and fibre.
First, juice cleanses are low in protein, as they are made up primarily of fruits and vegetables. Protein is needed for many reasons, such as fighting infections and building or repairing muscle tissue. Additionally, amino acids, commonly referred to as “the building blocks of protein” are actually needed by your liver in order for it to do its detox job and work effectively!
The second problem is a lack of fibre. Juicing removes the fibre found in fruits and vegetables. This is what helps to slow the absorption of the natural sugars found in these foods, thus making juice cleanses a blood-sugar nightmare. A lack of fibre can also cause other issues, such as constantly feeling hungry and changes in bathroom habits. As the adage says, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
As noted, our bodies already have systems and organs in place – primarily the lungs, kidneys, digestive tract and liver – that help us to detoxify naturally. By supporting these systems through nutrition-related strategies, we can help them function optimally.
LEND YOUR LIVER A HAND
The liver performs many functions; one of its main tasks is processing alcohol, hormones, environmental toxins and medications. Your liver uses certain nutrients to help drive detoxification through a two-phase process. Many of the nutrients found in cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower) have been shown to help in both phases of liver detox. Other key nutrients in the second phase include those from citrus foods (e.g., orange, lemon) and foods from the allium family (e.g., garlic, onion, leek).
Adding more of these fruits and vegetables to your diet can help your liver do the job it was intended to do! Aim to include produce in its whole form in order to take advantage of all its other benefits.
Of course, the other way to give your liver a hand is to reduce or eliminate alcohol. Less toxins going in means less for your body to have to process.
KEEP YOUR KIDNEYS CONTENT
Among the many jobs of the kidneys, one key part is removing waste products from the body via the formation of urine. Kidneys require water in order to create urine and excrete toxins. Daily fluid intake recommendations vary between individuals and within individuals in different circumstances.
Watching urine colour can be a good indicator of hydration. Pale to light yellow urine is typically a sign of good hydration, but keep in mind some supplements and foods can change your urine colour regardless of hydration status. When selecting a beverage to support your kidneys, think water first!
CHECK IN WITH YOUR GUT
The intestinal tract is designed to absorb nutrients from the foods that we eat as well as remove waste products. The end portion of the digestive tract, known as the colon or large intestine, is responsible for the reabsorption of some nutrients along with water. However, if stool stays in the colon for too long, there is the potential for your body to reabsorb some of the toxins that were intended to be eliminated. For this reason, increasing your fibre and water consumption to promote one to three bowel movements per day is a good idea.
Looking for advice on a healthful dietary approach, and/or other beneficial lifestyle factors to start the New Year off on the right foot? Reach out to your Medisys registered dietitian for more tips on how to detoxify the right way. Click here to learn more about our nutrition services and book a consultation.