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The myths of detox diets

Marilyn M

Can mixing cayenne pepper, lemon juice, syrup and water help flush out toxins from your body? Can detoxing help weight loss?

This week on “Take Care,” Susan Moores discusses the negative effects detox diets have on the body. Moores is a registered dietician and former national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Detox diets are most popular during January as people look to keep up with their New Year’s resolutions.

Moores says some science suggests environmental types of toxins live in the body’s fat tissue. However, with the liver, kidneys and digestive system, the body is well-equipped to move them out.

“But it certainly is true that depending on how we eat, sort of, makes a difference as to how things move out of our body and we can help that along,” Moores says.    

According to Moore, detox diets, like the cayenne pepper mix for example, do not challenge the digestive system

“None of it is really science-based,” Moores says. “The big question is ‘what toxins?’ Nobody ever says what toxins are being removed.”

Safety of detox diets also becomes a concern depending on how long a person has been on the diet, the nature of the diet and the health of the person.

“Older adults, pregnant women, kids are folks that should never approach this type of eating.” Moores says. 

According to Moores, it is easy to believe weight loss comes from the detox but that is not the case.

“Most of these diets are maybe 700 calories, at best,” Moores says. “The body needs 1,200, at least, to 1,500 calories to just go through its regular process. When you’re cutting that in half, you’re going to be losing weight but not the weight you wanted to lose.”

Moores recommends diets include food and not just be liquid-based, like detox diets are typically.

“Our body registers liquid calories different than it does the foods that we choose,” Moores says.

Moores says meat could be incorporated into the diet but the majority of your plate should be plant-based foods. Plant-based foods such as beans and whole grains, according to Moores, should occupy three-quarters of the plate. However, drinking water and adding good fats to your meal is also important in losing weight.

“You’re really going into a diet that is great forever versus just being super regimented and super restrictive for a handful of days and then going back to where you were before,” Moores says.