Considering a five-day raw-food detox after a particularly rough month of unhealthy eating? Or a two-day juice cleanse to reset and reboot your body? Forget it all. Turns out that these seemingly healthy plans could be sabotaging your system.
Read on for the worst detox mistakes you can make, according to nutritionists who have seen (and watch people sipped!) it all. And then for healthy and natural ways to depuff and feel better, try these 25 Best Foods for Instant Detox instead!
Relying on Laxatives
Real talk: Steer clear of 'em. "Using laxatives to promote detoxification can be dangerous because they can cause habituation," says Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. "Using laxatives for more than a few days can promote dependency—and, worse, can lead to dehydration, irritable bowel syndrome, and kidney and liver problems."
Might as well, since the next few days will be so virtuous, right? Not exactly. "Detoxing does not have to be a painful process of sacrifice," says Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. "To prepare, many 'go out with a bang,' having a 'last meal' full of fried foods, refined sugars, and sometimes even foods they normally wouldn't ever eat. This type of behavior sets you up for failure, hunger, and hormonal changes. Instead, approach the detoxification as a treat, like a gift to your body to slow down and repair. No need to give it extra work." We recommend The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse because of the amazing benefits of tea (along with the soothing, zen vibes); Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
And then Splurging Afterward
Last supper-status feasts are bad news before you start—and the same goes for post-detox. "Instead of letting old habits creep back in, let the newly-formed habits take their place," advises Hayim. Focus on whole foods like grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables; this will help ease your system back into a healthy eating routine.
Giving it 80 Percent
Like your dedication to Biebs' new album, it's really an all-or-nothing mentality that gets you the gold here, folks. "Committing to a detoxification means you have made your body the priority. Therefore, having 'just one bite' or 'taking the weekends off' won't cut it," comments Hayim. "During your set time for the detoxification, prepare properly, and schedule social events accordingly!"
Going on a Starvation Cleanse
A starvation cleanse in which you basically give up eating or just drink juice entirely for days on end to "get healthy again" isn't a smart move. "This always backfires," say The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure. "It can make you feel exhausted, lead to dehydration, and can slow your metabolism by causing your body to eat its calorie-burning muscle for fuel, making it harder for you to lose weight in the future." Speaking of things that hurt your metabolism, check out these 31 Ways You Messed Up Your Metabolism Today!
Just. Don't. Go. There. "Diuretics are substances that promote urine output. Several different mechanisms are used for the various types of diuretics, most of which target the kidneys," says Hever. "Using these without a physician's guidance can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and heart arrhythmias."
Trying Weight Loss Supplements
"Weight loss supplements have ebbed and flowed over time with respect to ingredients," warns Hever. "Many key ingredients (and additives) used in these supplements have been associated with some serious side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart issues, and even death. Supplements targeting weight loss usually contain some sort of stimulant, which makes them very risky." Yeah, we'll pass.
Overdoing it with the Lemon Water
Don't get us wrong, we're all about infused detox waters to liven up the ol' H2O routine. "This is a great way to stay hydrated, drink more water, get some extra vitamin C and antioxidants. But if it's your main beverage and you drink it without a straw, you're putting your teeth in danger," say The Nutrition Twins. "Lemon makes the water acidic and can erode the enamel off your teeth." So if you drink lemon water, be sure to sip through a straw.
Launching into Total Deprivation Mode
Trust us, this is not the path toward success and skinny jeans. "Many believe that 'detoxing' is a time to eliminate so many types of food. In reality, what the body needs is nourishment to be put back into it," cautions Hayim. "Instead of neglecting all foods, load up on unprocessed fruits and veggies and foods that are easy to digest." Need a little help with what that means? Your Ultimate Guide for Eating Clean will answer so many of your questions!
Not Choosing Organic
The skin of an apple is loaded with nutrients but turns into a danger zone if it isn't organic (or if it was subject to pesticide drift). "If you're not choosing organic apples, peel them before you consume the skin," advise The Nutrition Twins. "Otherwise, you are getting a full list of harmful pesticide residues that remain mostly on the skin." Always wash your produce thoroughly (organic or not) before consuming.
Berries are another fruit that are often a big part of a detox (hello, smoothies!) but they'll also need to be organic. "If you eat strawberries every day, this is the fruit to invest in," say The Nutrition Twins. "It ranks at the top of the Environmental Working Group's most contaminated produce list, thanks to the pesticides that are used on them that are linked to cancer and reproductive damage." (These pesticides are so troublesome that they're banned in Europe!) If you feel like organic is too expensive, don't miss these 17 Cheap Organic Foods You Should Be Buying to change your mind!
Starting a Crazy Exercise Routine
You're eating super clean, so doesn't it make sense to boost your workout efforts? Even though those feel-good wheatgrass energy rushes may be sneaking in, you'll want to be very careful not to over-exercise while on a cleanse. "When our body detoxes, the major organs are working very hard," cautions Hayim. "It can lead to dehydration, headaches, and fatigue. The worst mistake occurs when people who are detoxing do anything more than a restorative workout like gentle yoga or stretching. This can be unsafe as the body is already under a lot of physical stress."
Consuming Impure Vitamins and Supplements
Scary, but true: "Unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate our supplements," warns Hayim. "This means we have to be extra careful and read actual ingredients. Many of them have GMOs, heavy metals, and even carcinogen." Need a vitamin refresher? Check out 21 things you didn't know about vitamins before you pop your next Flintstone bottle open.
Not Considering Your Other Meds
Speaking of popping pills…buyers, be aware: "Supplements may have synergistic effects with other supplements, foods, or medications that you may be taking when combined—so it is crucial to ask a healthcare practitioner before self-prescribing," advises Hever.
Keeping Ground Flaxseeds in Your Cabinet
Getting ready to toss those nutrient-dense superstars into your smoothie, salad or yogurt? Not so fast. "If ground flaxseeds are not refrigerated, chances are they've started to oxidize and will act as a pro-oxidant in your body and not as an antioxidant like you hoped. Store your ground flaxseeds in a dark, securely-tightened container in the refrigerator," advise the Nutrition Twins.
Experimenting with Colonics
"People who administer colonics—also known as colonic irrigation—glorify them and make colonics sound like they'll give you the detox that we all need to get healthy," say The Nutrition Twins. "The truth is that the body is very good and very efficient at detoxing itself because your bowel and digestive system already eliminate waste and bacteria. Colonics can be dangerous and cause dehydration, cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, bowel perforations, and can even lead to death." The smarter way to detox? You guessed it: Lots of water and a high-fiber whole foods plan with plenty of antioxidant-packed fruits and veggies.