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What About Detox Diets?


What About Detox Diets?

It’s early January. Chances are, you partied your face off this holiday season, and the holiDAYS (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, etc) turned in to one big holiMONTH. Your pants are a little snug, you feel tired all the time, and you keep trying to jumpstart a better diet…but your days seem to end with a glass of wine and leftover treats.

Bring on the magic word: detox! As a dietitian, the idea of a detox diet brings to mind a bunch of imbalanced approaches that end up doing more harm than good like juice cleanses, fasts, and colonic cleanses. Instead of ridding your body of harmful toxins, these approaches can actually trap the toxins in your body when they fail to provide the tools (fiber, probiotics, protein, and antioxidants) to help your body excrete the toxins.

Is it possible to follow a smart and safe detox that will help you feel better, lose fat, and get rid of toxins? The answer is yes!

Kathie Madonna Swift MS, RDN, LDN has established guidelines for a good detox diet as presented in her 2013 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo presentation: Nutritional Approaches to Detoxification: Separating Fact from Fiction. Kathie also is a leading expert the field of functional nutrition. Her book, “The Swift Diet: 4 Weeks to Mend the Belly, Lose the Weight, and Get Rid of the Bloat,” is a fantastic read for anyone interested in detailed guideline to a detox diet. (Sidenote – I rarely buy diet books, but this one is worth the purchase!)


A good detox should include:

Guidelines for avoiding environmental toxins. Avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals by eliminating contact with them in household products. When it comes to food, avoid plastic containers (and never heat them in the microwave!), choose organic produce when possible, avoid factory-farmed animal products, GMOs, and hydrogenated oils.

Guidelines for an elimination diet, if applicable. Common food allergens include gluten, dairy, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, corn, nuts, nightshades, oxalates, salicylates, and FODMAPS. Consider trying an elimination diet if you have inflammatory issues like inflammatory bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, pre-diabetes, arthritis, thyroid issues, or GI issues like chronic diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and gas. If you decide to go this route, I recommend discussing an elimination diet with your doctor or dietitian first!

More fiber and fluids to promote elimination of toxins and feed good gut bacteria. Fiber and fluid reduce the absorption of toxins and promote elimination of toxins. Fiber also is an important food for healthy gut bacteria.

Increase intake of antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants are key to removing free radicals in the body. Foods rich in glutathione, sulfur, B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium all reduce absorption of heavy metals. Bottom line: eat a variety of fruits and veggies of different colors, and include a leafy green in your diet every day.

Choose “clean” sources of macronutrients. Pick the least processed options available. When it comes to protein, opt for grass fed or organic meats, grass fed or organic dairy, and organic or free range eggs. Choose local, in-season, or organic fruits and veggies, and choose whole grains like brown rice, sprouted whole wheat bread, barley, and steel cut oats. If it comes in a bag, box or can, has a long list of ingredients, or is too convenient to be true, it is probably not a good choice.

Engage in stress-reducing activities most days of the week. Exercise, yoga, sauna detoxification, massage, physical therapy, etc – these all help reduce inflammation!

Looking for a quick-start guide to a detox diet? Check out the Two-Week Clean Eating Plan created by the RDs at C&J Nutrition!