What is a Cleanse Diet?

You only have to scour the magazine stand leading into Summer time to see a headline relating to the ever popular “cleanse diet”. There always seems to be a new version that guarantees purification, detoxification and weight loss.

So what exactly is a cleanse diet you ask? Well that is a hard one to answer because there are so many floating around in the health scene that it’s hard to keep up! You will find cleanse diets that start from the most extreme through to simply focusing on eating non-processed foods. These include juice cleanses, fasting, diets focused on lemons or other foods said to cleanse the body, along with various restrictive plans that cut certain food groups altogether (for example; dairy, meat, grains and so on). And then there are the less extreme clean eating type plans.

One common theme however, is that none of them advise you to follow them long term. The length at which you partake varies from plan to plan, some will go for 3 days and others 3 weeks.

But do our bodies actually need to be cleansed of toxins?

According to some scientific studies, the answer is no we don’t. The idea that your body needs help getting rid of toxins has “no basis in human biology,” says Frank Sacks, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health. Your organs and immune system handle those duties, no matter what you eat.

So I’m wondering why they seem so popular, and why they continue to surface year in and year out? I can only assume it’s because people feel better having completed a cleanse diet. I guess if you dedicate any length of time to eating better, then yes you will ultimately feel better.

And if you restrict your calorie intake (which most cleanse diets do), then you will also lose weight. But please don’t mistake weight loss for flushing toxins from your body. Your system is adept at doing this on it’s own – having said that, consuming clean unadulterated food, may help to ease the load on your toxin flushing organs.

Some cleansing plans will focus on clean eating and getting good amounts of fruit, vegetables and upping your hydration levels. This will result in clearer skin, weight loss and a general feeling of wellbeing. And this type of cleanse isn’t a bad thing – especially if you had previously been making poor nutritional choices. And perhaps this is something that you can continue to incorporate into a well balanced diet after the completion of the “cleanse”.

After all, improving your overall diet can only be a seen as a good thing. However, be wary of some cleanse diets that severely restrict calories to unhealthy levels and cut out important food groups. It’s these types of cleanse diets that can set you up for failure. Yes you will lose weight, because your calories are restricted. But what happens on the other side? You can’t live on that amount of calories forever, so inevitably you will go back to your old eating patterns – or worse, you’ll be so hungry from restricting your energy intake that you will eat additional calories and perhaps gain all the weight back that you had lost.

My advice would be to do your research, if the plan seems nutritionally balanced and doesn’t restrict you from eating good nutritious food then it would be a better bet than others which require you to purchase their products or eliminate specific (and important) food groups from your diet.

And if you are unsure about what constitutes “good” when it comes to nutrition, it’s best to speak with a dietician or nutritionist who can give you all the information. A health professional in this area will give you answers that are scientifically based and not based on selling a product.