As a Nutritionist, I see many clients who initially seek out my services with the end goal in mind of detoxing. Undergoing a detox has become hugely trendy these days, and there is certainly nothing inherently wrong with wanting to support our body through cleansing. However, it is hugely important that we take this on in the smartest and healthiest way possible. If not, we can actually do far more harm than good.
The fact of the matter is, before we decide to do anything drastic (fasting, for example), we first must focus our energies on a detoxifying diet plan. Fasting in the right way does have its time and place, but it should be under the supervision/guidance of a professional, and done in a very specific manner. However, beginning with a cleansing diet is absolutely essential, and highly effective in supporting our bodies’ detoxification pathways, prevention and treatment of disease, or just simply boosting overall health (and weight loss is typically a nice side effect).
Here are some reasons you might consider a whole-foods based cleanse:
- Feeling like you are constantly or too-frequently craving starch and sugar.
- Feeling sluggish or tired throughout the day, or experiencing energy dips and spikes.
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
- High amounts of stress and wanting to support your body with food.
- Digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, acid reflux, pain, trouble digesting.
- Frequent allergic symptoms such as itchiness, hives, runny nose, redness.
- Foggy brain, inability to concentrate.
- Increased and/or unexplained irritability, anxiousness, moodiness.
- Inability to lose weight.
- Joint pain
- Headaches or migraines
The beauty with a food-based detox plan is that it is 100% safe. It is a process of learning about our bodies and how we connect and react to foods physically, emotionally, and mentally. Here, I have outlined the most important components of a detox diet:
Step #1: Breaking Sugar Addiction
Are you familiar with frequent energy dips and spikes throughout the day? Do you experience that all-too-familiar mid afternoon slump where you really need a pick-me-up? This is blood sugar dysregulation, meaning your blood sugar levels are out of whack. When a sweet sensation is introduced, this produces an insulin response in the body. Insulin is known as the “fat storage hormone,” because one of its primary roles is escorting nutrients into your cells. When we over-produce insulin, our body goes into storage-mode, and this can lead to weight gain or weight loss resistance.
The goal of a good detox diet should be to maintain healthy and stable blood sugar levels. This means breaking the cycle of eating a high carbohydrate (particularly simple carbohydrate) or sugar-based meal or snack that energizes you for a short time, and then leads to a sudden energy dip. Eating for blood sugar regulation should keep us satiated and ward off that feeling of being ravenous enough to reach for just about anything.
Always Remember About Sugar:
- Sugar is an “anti-nutrient,” meaning it offers no nutritional value and actually uses up our bodies’ nutrient stores.
- Sugar suppresses the immune system.
- Sugar is linked to diseases/conditions such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, hyperactivity, osteoporosis, hypoglycemia, candida overgrowth, heart disease, and more.
- ALL sweeteners, caloric and non-caloric, can contribute to weight gain and/or weight loss resistance.
- Sweeteners that come from nature are always better than those made in a factory or lab.
- Regardless of source, it is a good idea to minimize your exposure to sugar/sweeteners.
- Any sweet sensation causes an insulin spike in our bodies, which promotes fat storage (especially around the mid-section).
- Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates are negatively linked with poor heart health.
- Artificial sweeteners can cause migraines/headaches, dizziness, seizures, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, change in mood, vision and heart rate, diarrhea, joint pain, memory loss, insomnia, hives, and more.
Avoid Completely (see more complete list in yes/no foods):
- Aspartame (equal)
- Saccharin (sweet n low)
- Stevia that is white (truvia)
- Sucralose (splenda)
- HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)
Okay To Use In Moderation:
- Raw honey
- Maple syrup (preferably grades b or c)
- Date, palm, and coconut sugar
- Fruit juice
- Green leaf stevia (best choice, can actually help stabilize blood sugar)
Fats: Friend or Foe?
This is always a confusing topic, but good quality fats are hugely important in our daily diet, including on any good cleanse.
What Are Good vs Bad Fats?
“Bad” fats mean hydrogenated (aka ‘trans’) fats
These types of fats/oils are unsaturated fatty acids that have been chemically hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in order for the final product to have a longer shelf life. The problem is, our bodies don’t recognize these compounds and have no idea how to digest and assimilate them. When eaten, these compounds permeate our cell walls causing malfunction and have been linked to many degenerative diseases rampant in western society.
“Good” fats are not only good, but necessary
Fats also protect our organs and cells, regulate body temperature, provide satiety, carries fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients, and are the most concentrated sources of energy. We need them to survive and thrive. If we are not getting enough, we are missing vital nutrients, not to mention are likely over-eating other, less nutrient dense foods.
Fats/Oils To Include
Saturated (best to cook with/heat as they do not oxidize at high temps)
- Coconut Oil
- Butter (grass fed or organic)
Unsaturated (should not be heated over low-medium heat)
- Olive Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Avocado Oil and Avocados
- Nuts and Seeds/Nut and Seed Butters (preferably raw/organic)
- Flax Seed Oil (best not to avoid heating)
Fats To Avoid
- Margarine or ‘buttery spreads”
- Canola, corn, vegetable, soybean, grapeseed, sunflower, safflower oils
Yes and no food list for a great detox plan:
Meat, Seafood & Eggs (including but not limited to)
Vegetables (including but not limited to)
- Artichokes,Fennel,Snap Peas
- Arugula,Green Beans,Summer Squash
- Bamboo Shoots,Jicama,Tomatillos
- Beets (limited amounts),Kale,Tomatoes
- Bok Choy,Leeks,Yams
- Broccoli,Lettuce,Sweet Potatoes
- Cabbage,Mushrooms,Winter Squash
- Carrots,Mustard Greens
- Collard GreensParsnips
- CucumbersPeppers (bell and hot)
- Dandelion GreensRutabagas
Fats and Oils
- Avocado OilDuck Fat
- Bacon Fat/lardGhee
- Butter Macadamia Oil
- Coconut MilkOlive Oil (cold pressed)
- Coconut Oil Palm Oil
- Sesame Oil Avocado
Nuts/Seeds and Butters
- Brazil NutsPumpkin Seeds
- ChestnutsSesame Seeds
- HazelnutsSunflower Seeds
- Macadamia Walnuts
- Pine nuts
Fruits of all kind
- Barley, Pinto Beans
- Black Beans,Quinoa
- Buckwheat, Red Beans
- Garbanzo Beans/chickpeasRice (brown, wild, jasmine, white, etc)
*If weight loss is your goal, you might want to consider omitting dairy.
- Raw or organic whole milk
- Raw cheese
- Cottage Cheese (whole fat)
- Yogurt (plain, whole fat)
- Almond Milk
- Coconut Milk
- Coconut Water
- Herbal Tea
- Mineral Water
- Water (preferably clean/filtered)
- Chips (potato, corn, any!)Rolls
- CouscousTortillas/Tortilla Chips
- ANY ‘DIET’ OR ‘SUGAR FREE’ FOOD OR BEVERAGE-
- White potatoes
ALL processed soy should be avoided
- Pre-made coffee “drinks” (think: shakes, Frappuccino’s, etc.)
- Fruit juice of any kind
- Non-fat or low-fat milk
- Energy drinks, sports drinks, etc.
I suggest committing to this cleanse for 4 weeks, as this will allow you to truly reap the benefits of your hard work.