You Don’t Actually Need a Juice Cleanse to Detox

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Now that the new year is in full swing, chances are half the people you know are trying to “detox” in one form or another — and they might be shelling out serious cash for fancy juice cleanses to do it.

Detox cleanses come in many forms: $10-a-pop juice regimens, Instagram-approved teas, and the good old-fashioned lemonade-and-cayenne-pepper Master Cleanse (a.k.a. near starvation). They mainly consist of shunning solid food for three or more days, and subsisting only on liquids.

With their promises of weight loss and increased energy, cleanses can be pretty tempting — especially this time of year, when we’re all feeling puffy and sluggish. You might think the only thing that will cancel out your extended holiday hangover is an extreme, liquid-only diet like a juice cleanse.

But the truth is you don’t need to quit eating to detox your body. Health drinks can definitely give you added nutrients, but your body can detox on its own if you just make a few sensible, longer-lasting changes. We talked to Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, and author of “Belly Fat Diet For Dummies,” about what’s really going on with detoxes.

Why do people detox?

Most people consider a detox cleanse because they think it’ll help them get healthy — or, perhaps more commonly, lose weight.

“Detox can mean different things to different people,” Palinski-Wade told Galore, “but it essentially means removing toxins/additives from your diet to purge your body of anything that may be making it sick or may be causing you to hold onto excess weight.”

And who wouldn’t want to purge the toxins from their body? Anything that claims to help that process along can seem like a great idea.

But according to Palinski-Wade, these products won’t actually enhance your body’s ability to detox. Store-bought cleanses just aren’t necessary.

“Your kidneys and liver detox your body naturally,” Palinski-Wade told Galore.

Of course, if you’re shoveling pizza and Fireball shots down your gullet as some of us might have over the last days/weeks/months of 2015, that process starts to get a little sluggish — but a $60-per-day diet of exclusively lawn water isn’t a magic bullet that will make it all go away.

Can you detox naturally?

Palinski-Wade says the only surefire way to detox your body is to stop eating crap and improve your actual diet. This includes “filling up on whole foods and limiting additives and excess sugars,” she said, which “will allow you to feel full on fewer calories and reduce cravings, promoting weight loss.”

Nobody wants to hear the truth: that you have to make a permanent, full-scale change instead of going from one extreme to another for a brief period of time. But according to Palinski-Wade, that’s just the way it is.

“In order to boost health, increase energy, and shed pounds, focus on removing excessive sugar, saturated fats, and additives from your diet and boost your intake of plant-based whole foods,” she said. “Drink plenty of water and your body will know what to do.”

The best detox plan is not an expensive, spartan regime of special teas and elixirs, but a steady diet made up of good meals. Palinski-Wade says the optimum plate is filled with 50% vegetables and fruit, 25% lean protein, and 25% whole grains — and don’t forget 64 ounces of cold water a day.

Hmm… sound familiar? Palinski-Wade basically described the mega-healthy diet Gisele Bündchen’s chef said he cooks for the supermodel. She and husband Tom Brady know a thing or two about keeping their bodies in peak condition.

It’s hard, but stick to eating healthy food and plenty of vegetables, and you’ll see way better results over time than a cleanse would give you.

Are there any benefits to detox drinks?

There is one possible plus when it comes to a hardcore liquid detox plan: it could help you fight your cravings and break that brand new habit of eating nine leftover Christmas cookies a day. A cleanse can help you in the zone to make a major diet change.

“If done for only a few days as a ‘jumpstart’ to increase motivation to eat healthy, [a cleanse] can be done safely ONLY if the person is otherwise healthy,” Palinski-Wade said. “For the healthy individual who just wants to feel lighter/less bloated quickly, a brief 1-3 days would be fine.”

Don’t expect any weight to stay off permanently if you go back to your old tricks after the cleanse is over, though. Like Palinsk-Wade said, the only thing that will actually help you feel better in the long term is a permanent change.

Plus, if you cleanse for too long, you could mess with your metabolism and cause nutrient deficiencies. Not to mention the cravings-be-gone strategy might not work for you — and you won’t exactly get a refund.

“If you are too restrictive, it can backfire and lead to more cravings,” Palinski-Wade said. “Focus on moderation. I like the 80/20 rule — if 80% of your foods are whole choices, you have a little wiggle room without deprivation.”

Again, even if you do decide to drop $180 on a three-day cleanse, remember: it might feel like you’re making a huge difference, but it’s not going to physically help you “detox” any more than eating healthier would.

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