The top five detox myths

Friday, December 28, 2012

Feeling flat from an exhausting year or had a little too much season cheer? A vast number of Aussies resolve to detox in the new year to compensate for the festive season and kick start a healthy new regime, but most of them get it very wrong.

Nutritionist and health scientist Kristen Beck, explains the most common detox myths and mixed messages that can ruin your good intentions for 2013.

You can do a quick detox

Popular cleanses are normally just a week long and don’t actually achieve as much as you expect.

“Your body needs a chance to detox and cleanse over time. You can’t ‘flush out’ your system with a couple of days of a fad diet. Extreme ‘diet cleanses’ can be potentially dangerous and a waste of money," Beck says.

"The weight-loss results are often just temporary, with potentially more negative effects like tiredness, diarrhoea, or even lean muscle loss. The best New Year boost is to include natural foods like fruits, veggies and wholegrains in your diet for an effective ‘detox’. If you struggle, having a small glass of fruit juice (125ml) can contribute to one serve of fruit."

Detox regimes are often promoted by the weight loss industry and are more fad than fact. A traditional balanced diet full of fruits and veggies is a better way to welcome in the New Year.

Related: Top 10 diet and food myths

Just eat fruit and veggies to cleanse

A popular detox method due to its restrictive calorie content, however Beck suggests a more rounded start to the new year.

"In an effort to get healthy, overloading on fruit and vegetables alone can leave you feeling bloated, low on energy and out of balance. Balance is the key."

"What you need to remember is that you need foods from all five food groups – including lean meat, fish and legumes, dairy products, breads, rice and cereals – in order to gain all of your nutritional requirements for important nutrients such as iron, protein, calcium and zinc. This will help get you get back on track for the New Year.”

So let fruit and veggies make up the bulk of your diet, but include other core food groups to stay healthy and functioning.

Late night eating causes weight gain

It’s a popular theory that ditching the snacks in the evening can combat weight gain because the metabolism slows at night.

Beck argues the total number of calories you consume in total is more important than the time of day they are eaten.

“We’ve all heard advice like don’t eat carbs after 3pm or don’t eat three hours before bed. Don’t be afraid to eat later at night, as long as throughout the day you are consuming the right amount of calories you need to maintain a healthy body weight.

"Studies have shown that day time and night time calories have the same effect on weight gain. The message in a healthy diet is moderation and looking at what you eat in the context of your entire energy consumption."

So eat when you like to keep the fuel stores up, especially if you are heavily restricting your intake, but don’t overeat.

Diet foods and health fads are always healthy

"From health shakes to diet bars packed with strange and exciting ingredients like chai spices or organic flax, it’s hard not to get confused with all the health ‘fix-it’ foods on the market," Beck says.

These fad foods can have healthy ingredients, but be sure to read the label for what is contained in the food you're eating, sometime they are packed full of other ingredients, like sweeteners or preservatives.

"The simplest way to keep healthy is to pack your diet full of whole, unpackaged foods, such as whole fruits, vegetables, grains and meats. Then consider foods that contain minimal processing from the original food, such a 100 percent fruit juice, milk, wholegrain breads, honey and others."

Drinking eight glasses of water a day detoxes your system

"How much fluid you need to drink every day depends on how active you are, how much you sweat and how much water is in your food," Beck says.

"Drinking eight glasses of water each day is great, but you can also include other healthy drinks in the mix. For example, a small glass of fruit juice can contribute to hydration and to a serve of fruit in the daily diet, and is full of essential vitamins and nutrients. Ensuring that you are well hydrated is also an important safeguard against not overeating."

Ensure your other fluids don’t contain added sugars or preservatives.

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