If you’ve ever tried to break a plateau, beat the bloat, or get back on track after a little too much wine and cheese, someone has probably suggested doing a cleanse or detox diet to get things going again.
Cleansing and detoxing are getting a ton of hype right now — do a Google search for “detox” or “cleanse” and you’ll get millions of results. Turns out you can pretty much cleanse or detox almost every aspect of your life — end toxic relationships, block toxic trolls on social media, or do a “digital detox” to break your screen habit. (A noble idea, that last one, but you’ll have to pry my smartphone out of my cold, dead, Pinterest-addicted hands.)
When it comes to food cleanses and detoxes, the amount of info out there is overwhelming. But doing a cleanse or detox diet is more than just unfriending a bully or unplugging your iPad. It can affect your health and nutrition, so it’s important to dig deeper to figure out the truth behind the hype.
There are key differences between a cleanse and a detox diet, but people tend to use the two terms interchangeably, which makes things even more confusing.
So what’s the difference between a cleanse and a detox? Here’s what you need to know.
You’ve probably also heard that foods like gluten, dairy, and refined sugar are “toxic” — but unless you have an allergy or intolerance, you don’t have to swear off bread forever. While anything can be toxic if you consume too much of it, the occasional handful of cookies won’t turn you into a bio-hazard.
But especially in our modern world, many of us are constantly bombarded by toxins in the air, in food, in our cleaning products, everywhere — and those toxins can add up.
Newsflash: Your Body Detoxifies Itself
Assuming you don’t fall face first into a radioactive swamp, your body is equipped to deal with most toxins. When you inhale, ingest, or absorb toxins, your liver and kidneys work to flush many of them out — and they’ve been doing this long before cleanses and detoxes came about.
But if you’re constantly hammering yourself with environmental toxins and skimping on nutrients and proper hydration, your body’s natural detoxification system can be inhibited.
“Your body wants to get rid of the unhealthy stuff, but if you keep eating more junk, you’re not going to be able to get the other junk out,” says Denis Faye, Beachbody’s Senior Director of Nutrition Content. “It’s like clogging a drain.” It puts your liver and kidneys under a lot of pressure — and that’s where cleansing comes in.
Cleansing vs. Detoxing
Cleanses don’t just eliminate junk from your diet — they also focus on fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods that support your natural detoxification processes. Cleansing supports the body inside and out through healthy eating which provides the micronutrients, phytochemicals, and other nutrients your body needs to build, repair, and rejuvenate.
Detoxing on the other hand is usually done by taking a supplement, restricting something your diet, or taking some other temporal measure. It helps remove waste products such as chemicals and toxins which can cause harm while circulating in your body or being stored in tissues.
We can get behind eating healthy foods that help your body detoxify itself, but some of the detox diets out there sound like straight-up torture — do you really want to drink lemonade laced with cayenne pepper for 10 days straight or eat cabbage soup at every meal?
However, the results may be limited due to human nature. If we go back to our usual habits after a detox, we’ll return to an unhealthy build-up of waste products.
One way of looking at the difference between a cleanse and a detox is that detox diets usually focus on “out with the old” in the short term. But cleanse programs also address the “in with the new” aspect. Cleanses can help you form new eating habits that support your body and help you stay healthy (and non-toxic!) for the long haul.
Why Should I Cleanse?
Both cleansing and detoxing are important. Both can help alleviate poor energy levels, anger and irritability, excess fat storage, and insomnia as well as several other unpleasant conditions.
But again, the results of detoxing are short-lived without changes that support our wellness.
That’s where cleansing comes in.
It’s really about eating well and periodically putting our focus there. A good way to get started with cleansing your body is by supporting your body’s natural detoxification and immune systems by eating plenty of greens and drinking plenty of water. We thought you might enjoy this tasty and light spring recipe which to help you get started:
Ten Minute Mediterranean Salad
1 bunch mixed greens
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 cup cucumber, diced
½ red onion, chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled or sliced
¼ cup olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp vinegar (balsamic or red wine)
Add greens to a medium bowl. Top with remaining ingredients and toss. Add leftover chicken or salmon. (Or quickly broil chicken and add to salad).
(Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea talk to your doctor before you make any significant dietary changes, especially if you’re on any medications or have an ongoing medical condition.)
Bottom line, don’t just accept the latest buzzy trends at face value — the devil is in the details: Do your homework, find out what the hype is all about, and make sure it’s serving your goals of living a healthier life.
Still not sure what is right for you? Sign-up for a free nutrition consultation with me to find out how I can help you navigate your way to a healthy life!