It’s a dieting buzzword, but is it worth all the hassle? By Eulogi Rheeder
Cleansing diets – or detoxes – are all the rage lately: If it’s not Beyoncé’s cayenne pepper, lemon juice and maple syrup diet, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s weird juice cleanse that’s getting all the media attention.
‘These regimes, however, should only be undertaken under the supervision of a health expert,’ says dietitian Sarlene Zwarts. ‘People attempt detoxification on their own – they starve one day and binge the next. But this kind of behaviour is incredibly damaging to your health in the long run.’
To help us distinguish fads from facts, we asked Sarlene for help.
Intermittent fasting or The 5:2 Diet
This kilojoule-restrictive diet was an overnight sensation. It encouraged its followers to restrict their diet to between 2 100 and 2 500 kilojoules twice a week (the average, healthy female should take in around 8 100 kilojoules a day, while a man should consume about 9 600 kilojoules a day).
Sarlene says ‘This may seem like an easy detox, as followers get to eat “normally” for five days out of a week, but the restrictive days are hard. You won’t have much energy as you’re getting only a quarter of the energy your body requires.’
The verdict You’ll be pretty hungry and grumpy. ‘And in my experience, miserable people do not to stick to their diets. Not to mention that this detox could lead to bingeing and, therefore, fat gain and unhealthy habits,’ says Sarlene.
The Green Diet
This cleanse involves eating only food that’s green, mainly fruit and veggies and some nuts (pistachios), over a 40-day period.
Sarlene says ‘By following a strict mono-diet (eating only one type of food), you’re putting your body under stress, instead of cleansing it. During the 40-day period, your body will be deprived of valuable nutrients, especially water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B complex, which are found in food outside of the “green category”.’
The verdict Any weight loss during this time is almost certainly tempo-rary and not sustainable. In other words, you’re bound to gain weight once you start eating normally.
Liquid diet or juicing
This consists of freshly squeezed fruit (and sometimes vegetables) for any period of time, from three to 21 days.
Sarlene says ‘While your body may be getting important nutrients, the detox eliminates other crucial food groups, which can have damaging effects on your body. Many people also faint on this cleanse because their blood glucose reaches a rapid high shortly after drinking the juice, and then drops severely once their body has absorbed it.’
The verdict You may suffer from fatigue, headaches, constipation and irritability. The starvation form of detoxing will also result in muscle loss, and you will probably gain fat back as soon as you start including other food groups into your diet.
Try this at home
A detox does not equal deprivation, says Sarlene. ‘A detox that is healthy should always include a variety of food groups. But the focus should be on consuming mostly all natural, unprocessed food that does not contain preservatives or colourants, along with food that has plenty of antioxidants and fibre.’
Following a seven-day cleanse like this will kick-start healthy eating habits that will lead to a long-term, balanced eating plan.
Five reasons to follow Sarlene’s detox method
• Physical benefits It will help to clear away free radicals, which means your immune system will be stronger and you will have a lower risk of getting cancer.
• Increased energy Eating lots of fruit and vegetables will fight off free radicals and restore energy levels.
• Mental agility Toxins and free radicals that accumulate in your body can also affect your brain function. A detox may help achieve improved sleep and concentration.
• Healthy digestion The best way to improve digestion is to eat fibre, such as legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Eating these foods will result in higher nutrient absorption.
• Lifestyle changes By eating healthier, you will begin to feel better physically and mentally. This exhilarating and healthy feeling can have other positive knock-on effects, such as you eliminating other bad habits (smoking, for example) and incorporating good ones, such as exercising.