The dangers of ‘detox diets’

Thinking of embarking on a detox diet to boost your health or lose a few pounds? Before you do, it’s time to cleanse yourself of the intriguing concept that we need to be periodically detoxified through our diet.

What is dLiver-detox-smoothie-copy.pngetoxification?

Strict diets might claim to rid your system of toxins, but in actual fact your body does that job for you; working to break down what goes in, absorb the good and excrete the not so good.

Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in your liver, which works to modifies their chemical structure and enable them to be excreted by the kidneys (which filter them from the blood into the urine). This is a constant process, meaning you’re actually detoxing all day long. If you’re not detoxing- you’re dead!

Why detox diets are counterproductive

Many detox diets suggest fasting or existing on ftumblr_mfks50fRHX1ryp4qio1_1280ruit and vegetables alone to help aid good health. Whilst it’s true that you are likely to see rapid weight loss from this approach, any weight loss will be from water, glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate stores) and muscle loss, rather than fat.

Restricting your food consumption to this extent also limits your intake of energy and important nutrients needed for good health. When you starve your body of calories in this way, you will ultimately start to build up chemicals called ketones. These chemicals can result in nausea, dehydration, weakness, light-headedness and irritability.

Furthermore, a prolonged lack of protein can cause your body to break down its own muscle stores which will eventually compromise your immune system. Proof that whilst fruit and vegetables provide vital vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, they are not so good for you in isolation!

And finally, if you are depriving your body of nutrients in this way, you won’t have adequate fuel available to help you carry out sustained exercise and activity – an important aspect of any health and wellbeing plan.

What is a healthy alternative?

So now you know that traditional detox diets are marketing myths rather than nutritional reality, what can you try instead?bodybuilder  velvettangerine 3084405810

It is quite simple; if you want to maintain optimal health then the best approach is a balanced diet containing a variety of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, plenty of wholegrain cereals, protein in the form of lean meat and fish (or vegetarian alternatives such as beans and pules) plus low-fat dairy products.

And why not add in some exercise while you’re at it? The skin is the body’s largest organ and plays a large part in helping the body stay healthy through perspiration. Working up a sweat helps your internal organs stay cool by lowering your overall body temperature and aids with the removal of toxins from the body through the skin. So if you want a quick ‘detox’ fix, try eating a balanced meal and sweating it out at the gym instead.

Nutritious, anti-detox meal suggestions:


  • Homemade oat and nut granola served with fresh fruit and live yogurt
  • Scrambled or poached eggs on wholemeal toast
  • No added sugar muesli with nuts and seeds


  • Lentil and vegetable soup with wholegrain rye bread
  • Mixed salad with avocado, beetroot, pepper, tomato plus chicken pieces/ mozzarella pearls and a reduced fat Caesar dressing
  • Vegetable omelette served with salad


  • Lentil ragu served with wholemeal spaghetti and reduced fat cheese
  • Smoked salmon in a reduced fat crème fraiche sauce, served with steamed green beans and broccoli
  • Homemade prawn and cauliflower curry with wild or brown rice

© Sarah West Nutrition


Stay positive


What are your goals? If you don’t know why you want to achieve something, it won’t be as important for you to get it.

By focusing on positive goals (such as “I want to look great in my bikini on holiday” rather than “I don’t want to be this big and fat”) it will be easier to visualise them and you’ll be more inclined to work towards them.


The ultimate cure for lack of motivation is results. If you can maintain a positive attitude and keep up your exercise programme on a regular basis, you will soon be spurred on by the changes you see and feel.

Leading a happier, healthier life and watching the body you have always wanted develop right before your eyes can be incredibly motivational and empowering.


When a lot of the foods you love are prohibited, you are likely to feel unhappy and deprived. This is a diet disaster as it’s by far the easiest way to fall off the wagon.

To help avoid this trap, allow yourself a little of what you fancy each day but do so in moderation. Savour each bite and feel good about it; you are then better equipped to get back to your healthy eating plan without feeling guilty or resentful about it.

© Sarah West Nutrition