Real Talk: Are Detox Diets Ever a Good Idea?

Updated 01/28/18

You’ve had one Aperol spritz too many, you’ve soaked it up with pizza and fries and forgot about the dreamy pain au chocolat you devoured at breakfast, and now you’ve got gut guilt. Cue a panic detox diet, because summer’s on its way, and that means fewer layers to cower under. But which detox diet to choose from? When we searched, there were so many (mail-order packages, juice cleanses, fasting regimens) we felt like kids in a sweet shop, just without the sweets. Which was confusing. And a little bit depressing.

So we turned to the pros, and we got a unanimous response when it came to the best detox tool there is—our bodies. Nothing else; nada.

Keep scrolling how to power up your body to detox effectively so you don’t have to.

You're detoxing already

Does detox work? Woman stretching

Turns out we don’t need to detox after all because that’s what our lovely livers are there for. “There is no scientific evidence to suggest the body needs to detox,” reveals Gabriela Peacock, a nutritionist at Grace Belgravia. “We have a liver that works efficiently at detoxing for us and eliminating waste products every day. Restricting the diet might actually impact on this and compromise the body and its natural detoxification pathways.”

It’s a bit like if you head off on a two-hour road trip without filling up the fuel tank first. You just wouldn’t, would you? Not unless you wanted to chug to a halt. Same for your body. Plus, a three-day detox won’t undo months of munching on “toxic” offenders anyway. “We can’t simply force our bodies to get rid of more toxins when it suits us,” says nutritionist Kim Pearson. “Your best bet is to change the focus of your elimination systems by consuming fewer ‘toxic’ foods in the first place.”

Edit; don't eliminate

Does detox work? empty plate

For starters, you can cross off that gruelling juice plan that was giving you palpations and threatening to leave your bank balance in disarray. Instead, focus on what you should be filling your fridge with because the fact that you’re thinking about a detox means you’re in assessment mode already. Which is never a bad thing, especially when it comes to food habits.

If you have been overdosing on processed foods and carb-loading with no gym plan in the pipeline, start incorporating more fruits and veg into your meals. Hold fire on the caffeine, fizz and booze, and try out some herbal teas instead—they naturally encourage and support your body’s digestive and detoxifying processes. It’s always worthwhile drinking more water, too. You know, to flush stuff out.

The F* word(s)

Does detox work? leafy greens

Remember what we said about not cutting things out? Well, we need fat for our body to detox (read: work properly). “The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are essential for the functioning of our body and brain,” says Jodie Brandman, a nutritional therapist. “Incorporating natural fats into your diet is essential, plus they have the extra benefit that they’ll keep you fuller for longer. Fibre is crucial, too, as this helps the digestion process and gets rid of toxins and waste.”

You’ll find other good natural detoxifiers in dark green leafy veg that are heavy on the sulphur compounds and aid liver function, while oats and flaxseeds act as clever internal cleansers, so you really can have your porridge and eat it, too. Which is good because we wouldn’t want anyone to give up Rude Health Hazelnut Butter and Cacao Porridge Pot (£3) without a fight.

Is fasting better than detoxing?

Does detox work? protein pancakes

In a way yes, because you’re still feeding your body rather than restricting yourself to high-sugar juices that are shy on protein and calories. Fasting is generally seen as more of a long-term way of eating rather than a quick fix. It also makes it more sustainable because unlike detox programmes that tell you what you can’t eat, it just encourages periods of time without eating. According to Peacock, it’s generally between eight and 24 hours, which is the optimum time to regulate appetite control if that’s something you struggle with.

Try the 5:2 diet or the 16:8 diet if you want to try fasting.

Another big advocate of the fasting movement is Max Lowery, trainer and author of The Two Meal Day plan “By restricting meal frequency, not calories, you allow your body to burn your stored fat for energy,” says Lowery. “Plus, it’s only when you’re in a fasted state that your body can perform natural processes like autophagy. This is when your cells recycle and repair damaged components in the body and reuse them as energy.” Think Brita water filter/inner cleanse.

Whether you fast or go full throttle clearing up your fridge is up to you, but at least you know your body’s got your back. Up next: Are detox teas a thing now?

Related Stories