Myth Buster: Detox Diets

It’s time we stopped detoxing for good. Finally!


Hands up who decided to ‘detox’ after an indulgent Christmas and New Year? Hands up who also got a load of kale to juice and vowed to give up solid food for a bit in favour of green liquid? Hands up who brought a special detox tea last week? Ok, we’ve all been there. That desperate need to un-do the wine and beige food in a clean binge, to purify our system. And that’s great. Getting on a healthy track is exactly what we need but a detox diet is not the way forward and here’s why ladies.


In recent years scientists have got cross about the misuse of the word detox and the way it is flashed around to sell dramatic diets and extreme lifestyle changes. The medical use of the word ‘detox’ is for people with life-threatening medical conditions or drug addictions. The shop-brought definition is used everywhere. The key facts Sense about Science found to explain why it’s a load of nonsense are:


- No two companies seem to use the same definition of ‘detox’.

- Little, and in most cases no, evidence was offered to back up the detox claims.

- In the majority of cases, producers and retailers contacted by the young scientists were forced to admit that they are renaming mundane things, like cleaning or brushing, as ‘detox’.

The conclusion? It’s a marketing ploy.

So what should we be doing when we want to choose health and make it work? We spoke to Helen West, registered dietician and owner of the straight talking Food and Nonsense to find out more.

Why you don't need to juice for a week etc to get healthy in Jan?

She explained that while: ‘There is no harm in wanting to refocus on a healthy diet and lifestyle in the New Year’, but ‘the notion that you need to follow a special ‘detox’ diet or regimen to help your body to cleanse itself is a myth. Your body has all the equipment it needs to get rid of any ‘toxins’ and so simply cutting back on the booze, eating well and exercising is enough.’ Ok we are listening.  

We know by know that there is no quick fix to health but Helen suggests to following smart steps towards a healthier body and mind:

  • Find ways to fit healthy behaviours into my daily life that you enjoy. For example moving your body daily and finding tasty ways to eat vegetables, this way you’re more likely to see good habits forming over time.  so that they are sustainable.
  • Don’t exercise purely to burn calories - you’re unlikely to stick with it.  Find a way to make exercise fun.
  • Social Media can fuel insecurity and body dissatisfaction, which is bad for your health! Unfollow anyone on social media who makes you feel inadequate.  
  • Don’t try and ‘perfect’ health. Many people give moral value to foods, labelling them as ‘good’ or bad’.  They then feel like if they eat something they have labelled ‘bad’, that they have ‘ruined’ their healthy eating and give up.  Moderation is key - If you have cake at lunch, your health isn’t compromised!  Make your next meal a healthy one and keep going.

It all sounds so logical. Almost too simple…

Try making simple changes and see how you adjust. Then, if you get tempted by some kind of ‘lose a stone in a day’ promise, Helen tells us to:

  • Don’t be fooled into trying to find the next ‘best diet’ on the market - no matter how many testimonials you hear about how amazing it is, it’s always worth remembering that the best diet is one you can stick to long term. 
  • Despite short term weight loss ‘successful’ people have on fad diets, most people who go on a diet regain the weight they have lost, and many end up gaining even more than they lost in the first place.  Diets don’t work.
  • Focusing on single nutrients as the cause of disease isn’t useful for anyone. It’s much more helpful to think of your diet as a whole e.g. in terms of what it looks like over a week or a month. Occasionally eating things you love for no other reason than you enjoy them, is perfectly ok.  Everyone needs a bit of soul food.
  • It’s great to be conscious about your diet, to eat your vegetables and cut back on refined, energy dense sugary and fatty foods. No one nutrient will make you sick. The devil is in the dose.


Image: Getty

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