We’ve denounced crash diets here at Byrdie HQ—the results just aren’t sustainable, and being too restrictive isn’t good for your body in the long run. That said, that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in the power of a good detox. After all, there are certain foods proven to cause inflammation, and cutting them out for a set period of time may be an opportunity to help our bodies to reset and start functioning optimally again. With that in mind, Byrdie’s senior editor Hallie Gould and I embarked on Sakara Life’s Level II Detox, a five-day detox that’s less about shedding pounds quickly and more about resetting your gut. “It’s not meant to be a crash diet or make you feel like you’re starved,” says Sakara Life co-founder Whitney Tingle. “It’s designed to help heal your gut because your gut is the center of your health—from how well you sleep to your hormones to your sex drive to how clear your skin is.”
With the help of the founders along with nutrition specialist and registered dietitian Divya Selvakumar, we're filling you in on how this sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free, and meat-free detox went.
Keep reading for our honest Sakara review.
What is Sakara?
The Sakara Life’s Level II Detox is an intensive five-day detox that eliminates meat, dairy, gluten, sugar (including fruit), nuts, soy, nightshades, pesticides, harmful chemicals, alcohol, and caffeine. The ethos behind the cleanse? Gut health first. "The Sakara program promotes organic, wholesome, plant-based living with a focus on improving the overall quality of life," says Selvakumar. "It's the second level of the nutrition program that encourages a person who has already been on a plant-based lifestyle to commit to a strict regimen for five days." So, what can cleansing the body of toxins, burning off unnecessary fat, and restoring beneficial bacteria to the body for five days do? The goal is to 'reset' the body for better sleep, reduced sugar dependence, and more energy.
How Does Saraka Work?
The detox comes with five days’ worth of meals, supplements, and broths delivered to your door so you don’t have to prepare anything yourself (score one for busy city dwellers with a Seamless habit). Tingle and her co-founder Danielle DuBoise worked with certified functional medicine doctor Aviva Romm to ensure every meal was created to eliminate dietary inflammation in your body. “Our bodies store toxins from tap water, the clothes we wear, and our fat tissues. Going through the detox process allows your body to release some of those toxins,” DuBoise says.
Breaking Down the Sakara Five-Day Detox
There are a lot of restrictions in the Sakara diet, after all, it is a detox. Selmakuvar explains that the diet for Level II eliminates meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, nuts, soy, and all types of sugar, including fruits from the diet. Nightshade vegetables such as white potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, and bell peppers are also eliminated. Throughout the five days, a whole food breakfast and whole food lunch are provided, and the plan sticks to the typical meal patterns: a light breakfast, heavy lunch, and light dinner.
For four days, a medical broth dinner is included. The fourth day, which is the most restrictive day of all, includes a greens detox blend for breakfast, soup for lunch, and medicinal broth for dinner. The fifth and final day includes a whole food dinner, mostly to help the body transition back into a regular diet. On all days, the snacks consist of coconut kefir. "The plan appears to be quite strict and must be followed right to the letter for the maximum results—it does not appear to include any room for substitutes," says Selvakumar. "But in following the plant-based whole food diets, the client will have an opportunity to appreciate the vast amount of variety and diversity with regards to fruits, vegetables, and grains."
What to Expect During the Sakara Detox
Though the convenience of having the meals prepared and set out for me each day was great, Day Three was when I suddenly found myself thinking obsessively about all the food I couldn’t have. I never realized how much I plan my days around food and how much I just think about food in general—this detox made it clear how much my food actions were dictated by my cravings. Hallie agreed: "I never really felt particularly starving throughout the entire first two days. I felt strong and excited to keep going, but the third day was a bit rough. I started feeling hungry, tired, and, frankly, over it."
It was incredibly helpful to have access to Sakara’s detox Facebook group. "I think that may be what ultimately sets this meal plan apart from other similar ones—the intimate, helpful, personalized attention we both got," notes Hallie. "That and the amount of time I was saving from not having to choose a meal and wait for it to be delivered."
Sakara Detox Risks
"A person who has a history of immunocompromised diseases (TB, HIV), an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, etc.), a digestive disorder (diverticulosis, Crohn's disease, etc.), or mental illness (e.g. moderate to severe anxiety, depression, bipolar, etc.) are not likely candidates, and should first consult their physician before enrollment," advises Selmakuvar. "Those who have histories of heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension should first obtain a medical clearance from their physician before participating."
Selmakuvar recommends getting a full physical evaluation from your doctor before embarking on this plan. "And, it is always better to start with the Signature Level 1 program before proceeding to Level 2, so that you can develop a sense of tolerance and familiarity with the program," she adds.
Is the Sakara Detox Worth it?
As with all detoxes, there are pros and cons. Selmakuvar notes that if you're in good health, exercise regularly, follow a holistic lifestyle, and eat a mostly plant-based diet, the Sakara detox program can be beneficial on a short-term basis. "It can help to clean out the toxins, restore energy, allow you to sleep better, and lose weight on an effective basis." Another pro? The meals are diverse, from zucchini and jicama noodles with superfood falafels for lunch to cabbage dumplings for dinner. Everything is delivered in recyclable packaging, plus, the meals are made of a variety of colors, textures, and consistencies to keep your tastebuds (and eyes) intrigued.
While for some it may be an adjustment to start your day off eating vegetables for breakfast, by the end of the detox my skin looked clear and bright, and I felt energetic and fueled. I also found that by the end of the five days I had lost five full pounds. My biggest issue has always been bloating, and I was amazed at how flat my stomach looked compared to its usual state. As for Hallie, she also lost five pounds by the end of the detox (though that isn't the goal of the detox or her goal in general), but it did feel like an accomplishment. She also felt no bloating or sluggishness, and felt entirely accomplished.
As for the cons, you may experience textbook detox symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and lightheadedness as a sign of your body detoxing on the cleanse (I felt all of this by Day Four). From a budgetary standpoint, it can get pricey. It costs $70 per day, $420 per week for a recurring subscription, or $440 as a one-time offer. Selmakuvar notes that it can also be difficult to sustain this diet on a long-term basis, as it is very challenging to maintain a very strict dietary regimen. She adds: "Potential allergic reactions to supplements and digestive teas must also be taken into consideration. As a level of commitment is expected, any client who is unmotivated, lacks discipline, or has a history of noncompliance should also not go on this diet plan."
The Final Takeaway
This detox was one of the hardest ones I’ve ever done, but the sense of accomplishment I felt at the end for not cheating (not even once!) and just the overall feeling of well-being I experienced made it worth it. If anything, it was just as much of a mental detox as it was a physical one. It made me hyper-aware of how much my cravings dictate my food decisions, which almost always leads to poor diet decisions and excessive snacking. I learned how to be much more mindful of what I put in my body and take a second to think about if I really need the bag of Cheez-Its that I instinctively reach for when my midafternoon snacking craving hits (the answer is no—unless it’s been an especially stressful day). And the changes in my body were undeniable. I felt more energetic than I had in weeks, and it really did get rid of any feelings of bloat; it also introduced me to some delicious veggies I hadn’t tried before, and by the end, I found myself craving nourishing, rainbow-colored foods instead of sugary snacks or packaged foods.
For Hallie, it felt like she'd pressed the reset button on her body and mind. "I’ve done a lot of experiments with dieting—a plan prescribed by Bella Hadid’s nutritionist, veganism, and a three-day de-bloating detox. Each one felt more difficult than this one and didn’t feel anywhere near as good. It’s definitely hard, don’t get me wrong, but there was something that kept me going the whole time. Part of it was having Faith to lean on, but there was another, less tangible factor. I think I genuinely felt like I was doing something good for my body, and as I age, that becomes more and more important. And I feel the effects of not treating myself well even more intensely."
Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Stress, food, and inflammation: psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition at the cutting edge. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2010;72(4):365-369. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181dbf489
Bolte LA, Vich Vila A, Imhann F, et al. Long-term dietary patterns are associated with pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory features of the gut microbiome. Gut 2021; 70:1287-1298.