November 26, 2014
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Digestive Health

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Detox diet: do or don't?

News items about the health effects of many popular foods inspire us to think in new ways about what we eat, what we shouldn't eat, and what it's doing to our body. If you're ready to put down the bag of Doritos, large Frappuccino, or box of Oreos and commit to eating better, you might want to consider detoxing.

Here, registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Lisa Dorfman discusses detoxing and whether it's right for you.

What is detoxing?

Detoxing boosts your body's nutritional intake and sheds toxins such as processed food chemicals and environmental pollutants, Dorfman says. This weeklong process involves eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and clear fluids, and getting enough rest. You can also include light-to-moderate exercises in your routine.

Who should detox?

Detoxing is a good choice for people with diets consistently low in one or more essential nutrients, such as certain vitamins or minerals, fibre, probiotics or antioxidants, Dorfman says. "A dietitian can help you analyze what you're missing and what you need more of."

Who shouldn't detox?

Dorfman says individuals should avoid detoxing, or talk to their doctor or dietitian first, if they:

  • are under 18
  • are pregnant or lactating
  • have a gastrointestinal disorder such as Crohn's disease or gastritis
  • have an autoimmune disease such as lupus or arthritis
  • are training for an endurance event
  • have any other serious health condition not listed here

Which foods should I eat?

Divine detox foods that Dorfman says should make up a balanced diet include:

  • whole-grain cereals, pastas, and breads: high in vitamin B, fibre, and minerals
  • probiotic yogurt: rich in calcium and protein, and the live cultures aid in digestion
  • whole fruits, especially acidic fruits such as orange, grapefruit, lemon, pineapple, and tangerine - if you are taking any medications, check with your pharmacist to see if it's safe for you to have grapefruit or grapefruit juice
  • cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and arugula: high in vital vitamins and minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and isothiocyanates, which help your body break down potential carcinogens
  • salmon: low in saturated fat and calories, high in protein, and a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health
  • water and clear natural juices: digest most easily and keep you hydrated

When should I detox?

Consider scheduling your detox around the new year - a time of renewal for many - or during spring cleaning, since you're already in an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new mentality, Dorfman says. Detoxing a few times a year is beneficial, she says: like your car, your body also requires regular maintenance. Ideally, you might begin incorporating some or all elements of your detox diet into your regular diet.

What are the benefits?

Eating better is your body's ticket to improving your energy, preventing long-term health problems, and achieving a general sense of wellness. "When you're healthy and confident in your body, it affects your whole life," Dorfman explains. "You feel better, you're more productive at work, you feel more inspired to liven up your marriage, run a marathon - anything you put your mind to."


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