Whether you've had a long weekend of overeating and drinking, a cheat week instead of a cheat day, or if you are looking for a healthy new start, detoxing can sound very appealing.
A detox is the process of ridding your body of toxic or unhealthy substances. Depending on the type you choose, it can last for short or long periods of time.
During the detox, your organs work together to help bind and eliminate the toxins in your body that may have come from food, as well as chemicals in your environment and the water supply.
However, many believe that detoxing can actually backfire and you can end up doing more harm to your body than good. Instead of depriving yourself, you might want to consider eating healthy and wholesome foods instead.
What foods should you be eating to naturally detox your body?
Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, joins Melanie Cole, MS, to discuss why you should focus more on nutrition than going on a deprivation-based detox.
RadioMD Presents: Health Radio | Original Air Date: June 1, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Andy Bellatti, MS, RD
It’s time for Health Radio with Melanie Cole.
MELANIE: If you’ve had a long weekend of overeating, drinking, you know, you cheat during the week or on a day and you’re looking for a healthy new start, you think about “I’m going to do a cleanse or I’m going to starve myself. I’m going to detox.” That can sound really appealing. But is that really the right way to go? My guest is Andy Vellati. He’s a Las Vegas based dietician with an interest in food politics, social justice and food industry deception. We are going talk to him on a future segment about that.
Welcome to the show. Andy, tell us a little bit about detoxing. There’s so much in the media – juice cleanse this, do a different kind of cleanse, colonics. There’s all these things. What should we be taking from all of these that we are hearing about?
ANDY: Well, thanks for having me on. You are absolutely right. The media is saturated with these thoughts that we can somehow magically lose weight and get healthy if did it for 3, 5, or 7 days. Basically, all of these juice cleanses are just ways to lower your calories and that’s why some people claim they lose weight. Well, of course, if there’s 5 or 7 days and you’re existing on 1000 calories, you will lose weight. The bigger picture here is that you don’t need to subsist on juice alone for a week to be healthy. That is not the accurate way to pursue health.
MELANIE: When we think about cleaning out our system are there foods that you want us to look to as opposed to a juice cleanse or products out there that we can take? I like having a colonoscopy because I do like that detox cleansing that a colposcopy gives. But that’s only once every 3-5 years so I’m not doing that kind of stuff too quickly.
ANDY: There are two things here. One is that you have to realize just by being alive our bodies are constantly detoxing. We have kidneys; we have the liver and we have the lungs. Breathing is actually a way that the body detoxes. If we truly had toxins sitting around in our bodies for days, weeks or years we would die. When we go to the bathroom, for example, that is the body detoxing. Of course, there are ways that you can eat to feel healthier and feel better and not feel bloated to make sure that your digestive system is on track. How do you do that? One of the main ways, and which most Americans fail to do, is by eating plenty of fiber. We are talking about at least 25 grams for women and at least 38 for men a day. The average American is eating about 14 or 15 grams. Why is that? Well, because the foods that have the most fiber are whole plant-based foods which the average American is not eating enough of. So, we are talking not just fruits and vegetables but also beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. The other issue, too, is that the average American is also eating way too much sodium. About 3800 mg a day when we should be capping it at around 2300. That’s important because when you eat a high sodium diet, your body does retain more water so you are going to have that heavier more bloated feeling.
MELANIE: So, fiber. As you say, people don’t get those whole plants and vegetables but, you know, there are things like Bran Flakes and oatmeal and such like that. Can we look to those things? Do they sort of help brush out our intestines and kind of detox us a little, too?
ANDY: Anything that has fiber absolutely would. That sort of reminds me. I’m a health coach in corporate wellness and a lot of times when I talk about this with my clients, they immediately go to things like Metamucil or fiber supplements. I like to tell them that there’s plenty of fiber in many different foods and one of the great things about plant foods and a plus from the fiber is that they also have a lot of vitamins and minerals. They have unique compounds called phytonutrients that have different health benefits. So, you really want to get them as much as possible from whole foods. A lot of people, for example, are surprised when I tell them that an avocado is a very high fiber food. So, it’s not necessarily just straight old fruits and vegetables. There’s a whole array of plant foods that can be introduced.
MELANIE: So, give us some that we might not have thought about.
ANDY: A lot of people don’t realize the extreme amount of fiber that is in beans, for example. Chick peas, black beans, lentils in particular are very, very high in fiber and also the pseudo grains which are things like buckwheat, millet, and amaranth. These are nice because when you introduce these newer foods, you kind of get away from the rut, especially when it comes to the grains. It’s not just about whole wheat pasta. There’s a lot of different grains so you could make an amaranth and buckwheat porridge or you can make your own quinoa pilaf or whatever it might be. Undoubtedly, we need to eat more plants and fewer animal products. One way that I tell my clients an easy way to remember is that whole plant foods have fiber and animal products do not.
MELANIE: Really? No animal products have fiber?
ANDY: Absolutely not. No fish, no poultry, no beef, no dairy, none of that.
MELANIE: You don’t tend to think of it like that. So now, foods that we should be staying away from if we want to detox a little bit would be, obviously, some of those lean proteins that can clog up the system. Especially like red meat, right? Those kinds of things can slow down the works little. How do we know if we are detoxing? I’ve heard people tell stories of things that came out of them when they did one of these detoxes. Oh, my god. Things that were in me for a month. But you are saying that our body naturally detoxes and if it didn’t we would die. So, we know that these things are not in our systems for that long but how would we know if we are really doing the right thing? Would our bowel movements tell us? Would our gut tell us? How would we know?
ANDY: That’s a great question. To answer the first part of your question, when a lot of people take either a bentonite clay or they do a gallbladder cleanse where you drink a bunch of olive oil and you drink orange juice and all these things come out. What’s coming out are not things that are sticking around in your gut. What’s coming out is what you consumed. If it’s the bentonite clay you are seeing the clay. There’s nothing that’s been hanging around for months that is suddenly going to come out. The way that you would know is basically how you feel. If you are constantly feeling fatigued or constipated, if you are just feeling not well. A lot of people have gotten so used to feeling tired, fatigued or having digestive issues that once they start cleaning up their eating and by that I mean more fiber, fewer animal products, less sodium and less sugar, after 3-5 weeks of that they suddenly realize that they are sleeping better. That going to the bathroom is not a 10 minute ordeal and it’s when they see the difference that that they realize before they weren’t feeding their bodies properly.
MELANIE: Well, you do feel the difference too. I agree with you there. When I know I’m going to have a blood test and for that week before, two weeks, I eat vegetarian, so many salads and things and I cut down on my wine drinking and I do feel the difference. I do. It’s so easy to jump back into that rut.
ANDY: One thing that I do tell clients is that the more you can cook at home from scratch, the better you will be. When you go out to restaurants you are going to get a lot more sodium, a lot more sugar, a lot more oil than you normally would. Usually, unless you are going to a particular kind of restaurant, you are going to be eating fewer vegetables and less fiber than you might if you cook at home.
MELANIE: Cooking at home can be a pain in the ass but it does certainly make you a healthier eater. Making salads is never that easy but it’s worth it if you cut those vegetables up in advance. You have about 20 seconds, Andy. Give us your best advice.
ANDY: Eat more plants, eat more home-cooked food and go easy on the sugar.
MELANIE: Go easy on the sugar. You can see more about Andy at andyvellati.com. You’re listening to Health Radio right here on RadioMD. We are your on demand go-to health network. Listen anytime at RadioMD.com. Share these shows with your friends because that’s how we are going to get these great words around. Spread them around. This is Melanie Cole. Brand new show here. We are so excited to be here. Thanks for listening. Stay well and stay tuned.