Lose Weight with Detox Diets

The Best and Worst Detox Diets

Before you order a detox online, read up on the facts behind the numbered juice cleanses, raw food diets, and gimmicky fasts

Should You Cleanse?

The Best and Worst Detox Diets // blueprint cleanse bottles © BluePrintCleanse

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When you’re scrambling to slim down for swimsuit season, a crash course in cleansing seems a lot easier—not to mention sexier—than regular ole’ diet and exercise. After all, detox diets promise to help nix a few pounds, flush out toxins, give your digestive system a break, get rid of acne, boost energy, cure your coffee addiction—even improve your hair. But since when did fasting become such a cure-all?

Problem is, it’s not.

While there’s no one definition as to what constitutes a detox diet, nutritionists agree that they tend to be lower in calories; cut out refined sugars, packaged foods, sodium, alcohol, and anything cooked; and encourage lots of fruits, vegetables, water, and tea. Removing processed foods from your diet is good in and of itself, but take caution before you sign up for a detox in the name of slimming down and cleaning out your system. (If you're thinking about trying it, consider starting with these 25 Delicious and Clean Detox Dishes.)

“Do you need [to detox]?” asks Keri Glassman, RD, author of The O2 Diet. “No. That’s what your GI tract, liver, and kidneys do. They naturally detox your body on a daily basis.” Detoxes aren’t weight loss plans either, she adds, although you’ll probably see a dip in the scale from lost water weight. If you do experience some lasting weight loss, it’s because your body went into starvation mode and broke down muscle mass for energy. When your body loses lean muscle mass, your metabolism slows, so you’re more likely to gain weight in the future.

So then, are all detox diets harmful? It depends. The worst plans feed you less than 900 calories a day, last more than a week, and rely on laxatives and enemas. And because detox diets are trendy and often extreme, they can be misused. “Individuals with eating disorders tend to fall pretty to a potential ‘quick fix’—something that detoxes often promote,” notes Marjorie Nolan, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Set Your Table for Wellness

However, if you’re dead set on “cleansing” your diet, abide by the following rules to stay safe:

  1. Pick a plan that’s no longer than 3 days, at least 1,000 calories, and calls for real fruits and veggies (as opposed to plans that deliver nutrients from supplements), says Glassman. While you're better off shooting for a 1,200- to 1,400-calorie diet, eating 1,000 calories a day for such a short time won't throw off your metabolism, she notes.
  2. Resist the urge to rush and repeat the experience. At most, you can do one of these cleanses four times a year, with 3 months in between each, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The F Factor Diet.
  3. Make sure you also have a post-detox plan. Cleansing itself won’t lead to permanent weight loss, but it can give a psychological jump-start to implementing a healthy diet. Continue to eliminate processed food and added sugar after your cleanse. Aim for 5 or 6 small meals a day, and focus on eating fruit, veggies, a serving or two of whole grains, healthy fat, and lean protein.

To help you distinguish the difference between fancy fads and what’s plain dangerous, we’ve rounded up the deets behind some of the most popular detox programs, and asked dietitians to weigh in on which ones could be used as a part of a healthy weight loss plan.