The New Year is almost upon us, which means we’re all about to be inundated with reasons why we need to stock our fridges with kale, buy expensive juicers and Instagram pictures of salads labelled #cleanse.
But despite the barrage of health information letting us know that we should be ‘detoxing’ our bodies, the January health kick may not be as useful as lifestyle gurus such as Gwyneth Paltrow may have you think.
Before you sprint down to your local yoga studio for a green gunk smoothie and a colonic, here are a few detox debunkers.
1. Say no to the colonic
Colonic irrigation sounds like the worst way to spend an afternoon ever, but if it will help detox your body and put you on the pathway to health it must be worth a try, right? Wrong.
Though irrigation fans will argue that if your colon is particularly bunged up toxins will spread back into your body, doctors have little evidence to support the idea that irrigation can ‘cleanse toxins’ from your colon. They may even argue that the procedure poses a risk of bowel perforation.
Celebs and lifestyle bloggers have popularised green juices, by toting them about like the tiny dog craze of the 00’s.
They’re famed for their detoxifying powers and a great way to get your five-a-day. While the latter may be true, the former is certainly up for debate.
Emma Brown, a qualified nutritionist, told the Daily Express: "It's not possible to force a 'detox' of our bodies by cutting out specific foods and drinking fruit and veg based juices."
And on the matter of ‘toxins’, she added: "If we had a build up of 'toxins' in our bodies we would feel extremely unwell."
Detox teas have had a huge boost in popularity this year, in part thanks to vast swatches of reality TV stars plugging various tea brands on their Instagram accounts.
They claim to help you lose weight and again, feature the claim of being able to ‘detox’ your body. But there are questions as to whether the health brews actually work.
In an article for Health.com, dietician Cynthia Sass points out that many of the teas recommend that you use in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise – something we already know helps weight loss. Sass also highlights that “detox teas can also trigger a laxative effect, which causes your body to eliminate waste from your GI tract”, which can make your stomach appear flatter, while not actually contributing to fat loss.
Extreme Diets: The Eating Habits of the The A-list
Extreme Diets: The Eating Habits of the The A-list
1/14 The Grapefruit Diet
This golden oldie has been around since the 1930s and was a favourite among classic Hollywood stars, like Marilyn Monroe. It involves eating half a grapefruit before every meal and is based on the idea that grapefruits contain a fat-burning enzyme that boosts the metabolism.
2/14 The Air Diet
Based on the French concept of breatharianism, the idea that air alone can keep our bodies active, the air diet involves sitting in front of food, placing a piece onto a fork, holding it up to your mouth… But not eating it. Instead, you are to subsist on water and salt soup only. Madonna is apparently a fan of pretend eating.
3/14 The ‘Liquids Only’ Master Cleanse Diet
She did look good in Dream Girls, didn’t she? But the lengths Beyoncé went to to achieve her svelte frame were a tad extreme. Instead of solid foods, she survived on liquids – famously a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water – for 14 days. Apparently, this helps to detoxify the body (a process it actually does every day, naturally and unaided by weird diets) and stimulates tissue growth. The dieter is also encouraged to drink laxative tea twice a day. Glamorously.
4/14 The Ice Diet
Renee Zellweger apparently fills up on ice to stop her piling on the pounds from non-water based foods. Which is, of course, totally ridiculous.
5/14 The Watercress Soup Diet
Liz Hurley once revealed that she regularly subsists on a six-cup-a-day diet of watercress soup when she wants to lose weight for a role. The low-calorie leafy green is also a diuretic, helping to combat water retention. It’s also a completely mental thing to do.
6/14 Placenta Pill Diet
When January Jones gave birth to her son Xander, she had her placenta dried and crushed and stuffed into pills, that she then took as a supplement to lose weight. No idea if it worked or not, but it successfully made us feel queasy reading about it.
7/14 The Victoria’s Secret Angel Diet
If you’re crazy – and, you know, called Adriana Lima or something – then this diet, usually undertaken nine days before a runway show, is for you. It involves omitting all solid foods entirely and subsisting only on protein shakes, supplements and vitamins. You also have to work out twice a day, consult a nutritionist, and, 12 hours before a show, stop drinking liquids entirely to drain the excess fluids from your body and dehydrate as much as possible.
8/14 The Baby Food Diet
Yep. No real food. Just baby food. And 14 jars of the pap a day at that. Jennifer Aniston loves it. Allegedly. As (also allegedly) does Reese Witherspoon.
9/14 The Drunk Diet
This was invented by Lady Gaga, who once eschewed her evening meals for a swig of whiskey – but adhered to a strict exercise plan, even when hung over.
10/14 The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
Drinking apple cider before every meal seems like a terrible idea. But Megan Fox does it as a metabolism booster, which helps to rid the body of excess water weight and burn calories faster. Apparently.
11/14 The Seven-Day Colour Diet
This diet, apparently beloved by Christina Aguilera, at least has some nutritional merit. In order to get the correct balance of nutrients, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables across the colour spectrum is a wise idea. But the Seven-Day Colour Diet says you should only eat one colour of food per day of the week. Monday = white food. Tuesday = red food. Wednesday = green food and so forth. Bonkers.
12/14 The Cabbage Soup Diet
Does what it says on the tin. You can apparently consume unlimited supplies of cabbage soup (lucky you), as well as some low calorie fruit and vegetables. Sarah Michelle Gellar is apparently an advocate.
13/14 The Grapefruit Oil Diet
Not to be confused with The Grapefruit Diet, this involves sniffing grapefruit oil in the vain hope that the aroma alone might trigger liver enzymes into calorie-burning, detoxifying gear. Jennifer Lopez is rumoured to partake in this lunacy.
14/14 The Macrobiotic Diet
Gwyneth Paltrow’s love of all things Macrobiotic is well documented. It involves a strict, mostly vegetarian plan with grains as the staple food, avoiding highly processed or refined foods and most animal products. She also has a 21-day GOOP cleanse, that involves eating just one meal a day and chewing each mouthful at least 13 times.
4. Quinoa – a necessary evil?
The fashionable grain has been given superfood status and is often plugged as the healthy alternative to pastas and other stodgy carbs.
Its boost in popularity though is having an effect on the growers and while it may be good for your body it’s not good for the people who are harvesting it. The grain is usually grown in Bolivia, where it’s a staple part of the diet. Due to the quinoa boom and inflated price, it is now cheaper for Bolivians to eat imported food than their traditional dish.
Quinoa fiends are advised to try and source the grain from sustainable British sources if possible.
5. Coconut water
This drink would not look out of place on a tropical beach, but the healthy beverage has made its way into the mainstream and is now a staple in fridges everywhere.
It’s low in calories, low in fat and high in nutrients that the body needs. It’s also good for rehydrating – hence the popularity with gym goers.
But while it is low in calories, the calories it does contain are mainly sugars. In natural coconut water, there will be 1tsp of sugar for every 100ml of water, which if you’re a heavy ‘nut water drinker can stack up.
So – how do you actually detox?
Your body is already doing it for you. If we needed additional detoxing, we’d be given information from medical professionals rather than lifestyle gurus.
Healthy liver and kidneys detoxify the blood, removing any impurities and keeping the body clean. If everything is in working order, there should be no need to supplement this with faddy detox products. This tweet explains how.
How do you get healthy in the New Year?
If you want a health boost after a particularly heavy Christmas you just need to implement a healthy balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and exercise regularly. The NHS recommends that the average adult should undertake around 30mins of exercise five days a week.
If you smoke – quit, or at least cut down and cut down on alcohol intake.
That’s it – no teas, irrigations, super wonder foods, just healthy food and regular exercise.