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Written by Holly Brown

Detox is a shortened version of the word “detoxification,” which is a term that means the elimination of toxins from the body. A detox diet simply means that you’re removing toxins from your bloodstream, liver, kidneys and intestines by means of a strict diet (typically low-calorie and primarily liquid based). The goal of the detox diet is to help get the body back to a healthful, fresh state and is believed to purify the body and help it function better. 

Today, most commercial detox diets tout an unhealthy formula of minimal calories and nutrients along with some key, unusual ingredient that has supposed fat-melting power (like cayenne pepper or vinegar). No science backs the idea that following a specific diet for a week or eating only one food will get rid of “toxins.” Your body has the power to do that all on its own, that’s why you have a liver, kidneys, and a digestive system.

Most supplements and diets on the market aren’t regulated by the FDA and are potentially harmful, especially if they’re very low-caloric or contain diuretics that flush your body of potassium and other crucial nutrients. Much of what you’re losing on this kind of extreme diet is water weight, which lasts only until you refill on fluids. If you see a more permanent drop on the scale, chances are it’s muscle that’s missing, not fat. Without adequate protein, your body takes it from its most available source: your own muscle tissue.

Muscle is your built-in calorie furnace and burns fat even when you’re not moving. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, which is why dramatically slashing calories can actually slow your metabolism in just a few days. Your body thinks you’re starving and panics. Your metabolism also slows way down to preserve your muscle and basic bodily functions. So when you go back to eating normally, you gain weight faster and from fewer calories.

Not every cleanse is bad. Done in a safe and moderate way, detoxing can feel like a fresh beginning. Most people eat way more food than necessary, which taxes the liver and kidneys. Not only does a healthy detox give your digestive system a break, but by eliminating added sugar, saturated fats, caffeine and alcohol, it also rids your diet of things that can exacerbate health issues and you’ll likely cut calories in the process.

By eating a healthy diet of fresh veggies, low fat proteins and some seasonal fresh fruits at least every four hours, and drinking as much water and decaffeinated tea or coffee as you want, you’ll beat bloat while keeping your blood sugar steady and your energy high. This means you’ll be able to cut back without feeling cranky, exhausted, or hungry.

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