If you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight, one of the worst things you can do is a cleanse. With a lack of variety, balance, and moderation in the diet, as well as hyper-focus on one food or food group, cleanses will always come up short. Here at FACTS, cleanses often come up in our “debunk” pile. Most of the time, we try to tackle a bunch all at once, but when we read about these three cleanses, we couldn’t stop laughing.
Last month, the FDA warned consumers not to use a hair care product due to a lead poisoning risk. The product’s main ingredient was bentonite clay, and it had multiple uses for hair and skin, but was also advertised for consumption for the purpose of detoxing. Clay for detoxing? I thought it was crazy, but advocates say that drinking clay provides the body with calcium, iron, and minerals, as well as removes metallic toxins from the body. Of course, none of that makes any sense. For one, the body is a well-oiled detox machine. That’s why you have a liver and kidneys. And secondly, actual foods like milk, meat (red meat, poultry, and seafood) and spinach are full of calcium, iron, and other important minerals, so consuming dirt is completely unnecessary. Plus, these foods actually taste good! Arsenic and lead occur naturally in the environment and in trace levels in plant based foods. The FDA provides limits on both; when those limits are exceeded, they release consumer warnings and safety alerts. Because the clay was listed for consumption, the FDA released a warning noting high levels of lead, and if consumed, it can cause serious health problems. It’s best to leave this cleanse for the worms.
I’ve discussed my love of green smoothies before; They’re a great way to get your recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables before 9 a.m. Of course, some have touted green smoothies as the ultimate way to cleanse. It goes like this: Unprocessed, fresh produce helps the body “detox” because of the vitamins, minerals and fiber, as well as lose weight. This sounds all well and good, but what about the variety? A diet focusing on a couple of food groups and eliminating others is problematic. A “detox” like this will leave you feeling exhausted, hungry, and malnourished, not to mention, once you start eating regularly again, you’re most likely to gain all the weight back. Fats help support heart health and can lower bad cholesterol. And the protein? If you’re trying to gain or maintain muscle, forget it. Protein helps to build muscle and supports the immune system. Looking for sustained energy? Then turn to carbohydrates in the form of enriched, refined, or whole grains. Remember, a healthy, sustainable diet consists of variety, balance, and moderation.
I can’t go a day without scrolling through Instagram posts and seeing tons of people praise “detox tea.” Don’t get me wrong. I love tea, and with antioxidants like flavonoids, it’s definitely a keeper. But the dream detox tea companies are selling you isn’t magically going to cure your problems. Proponents claim tea detoxes help drop the pounds, improve immunity, and even prevent cancer. And while some health benefits of tea have some basis in science (such as protecting against infection), relying on one food or beverage as a cure-all doesn’t. Regardless of the amount of tea you drink, overconsumption of calories and lack of physical activity are more of a risk when it comes to health and weight management. And while caffeinated beverages as a diuretic is a myth, caffeine should be consumed in moderation—300 to 400 mg, or four to five cups of coffee, a day. Instead of relying on one food or beverage to fix your health problems, focus on getting a variety of foods and burn more calories than you consume.
While cleanses may seem like the ultimate way to get healthy and lose weight, they only appeal to the emotions and aren’t based in research—not to mention that some are very dangerous and could lead to major health problems. Instead, stick to the principles of healthy eating—variety, balance, and moderation—and get physical activity, which is backed by science.