A safe and effective spring detox plan!

A safe and effective spring detox plan

Winter is synonymous with poor eating, a lack of exercise, weight gain and lethargy. 

By Pedro van Gaalen

Unsurprisingly, detox diets are extremely popular in spring as people look for ways to lose weight, regain their vitality, and improve their digestion and general health.

Some people also see the changing season as an opportunity to detoxify their system from toxins and various other substances such as alcohol, caffeine or nicotine.

There are various detox diet plans available but most typically involve a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit, fruit juices, and water. 

Potential side effects

While a typical detox diet lasts from three days to two weeks, following a very restricted detox diet, especially those that severely limit protein or require fasting, can result in fatigue and may cause other issues such as headaches. 

Longer fasts may also result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can weaken your immune system and compromise your recovery from stress and exercise.

For those looking to lose weight, a prolonged restrictive detox diet generally slows down your metabolism as your body finds ways to conserve energy. This natural response to severe calorie restriction can actually make it harder to lose weight!

Any weight loss that detox dieters experience, at least initially, is generally temporary because it results from water loss rather than any meaningful reduction in body fat. People will often regain any lost weight (and more!) when the detox period ends, especially if they don’t maintain healthy eating habits. 

Detox tips:

  • Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day. 
  • Chew your food properly.
  • Combine your food correctly.
  • Get active for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Enhance detoxification through deep breathing with yoga or meditation.
  • Dry body brush every day to increase lymphatic function and circulation. 
  • Sleep 7-9 hours a night. 
  • Bathe regularly in Epsom Salts to support relaxation and detoxification. 

Detox diet no-nos:

Stay away from diets that:

  • Promise a quick fix.
  • Claim miraculous fat-loss effects from foods like grapefruit.
  • Avoid or severely limit an entire food group. 
  • Promote eating mainly one type of food like cabbage soup.
  • Suggest easy, rapid weight loss (more than 1 kg a week).
  • Recommend eating foods only in particular combinations.
  • Make claims that sound too good to be true.
  • Focus heavily on appearance rather than health benefits.

A healthier approach

A better approach to detox dieting is to support your body’s natural detoxification system with a healthy lifestyle, wholesome diet and regular exercise. 

“Eating a well-balanced diet and pursuing a healthy lifestyle will eliminate the need to detox – your detox organs such as your liver, gut, skin and kidneys should be in good shape at all times to ensure the body remains in a constant state of self-cleansing,” explains nutritional consultant, Vanessa De Ascencao.

“My philosophy is a way of life that improves and optimises the function of your body’s own built-in detoxification system.” 

De Ascencao explains that you can achieve this by decreasing the amount of toxins we put into our bodies while supporting our detoxification and elimination systems with the nutrients they need to function properly.

“The real work is what you do 90% of the time, day in and day out, not what you do for a week of every year. Ultimately, it is more effective to follow a lifestyle where you detox on a daily basis.” 

That’s not to say that you cannot benefit from a few short-term detox plans or supplements that can supercharge these natural processes.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle, De Ascencao recommends consuming natural foods such as fruit, vegetables and lean proteins. Limit or eliminate as far as possible processed foods, chemicals, artificial preservatives and sugar from your diet.

Supplement support

From a supplement perspective, De Ascencao says it is not always possible to get all the nutrients we need from food, especially when detoxing as we often need extra support. 

Products that contain powerful antioxidants called catechins, which are naturally found in green tea and certain legumes, help to support the body’s major detox organ, the liver. 

Probiotics are another helpful product that can support your body’s detoxification efforts by helping to resolve constipation and improve digestion. These products help to restore the natural flora in the digestive system. Using probiotics, together with a high-fibre diet and regular healthy meals will prevent constipation. 

Long-term benefits

Another potential benefit of following a mild detox diet is the lifestyle changes it prompts by introducing more healthy and unprocessed foods into your diet. A detox diet that focuses on quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake to recommended levels can also prove beneficial.

De Ascencao adds that it is also important to give your body a break from stimulants like caffeine and sugar, convenience foods and mindless eating.  

Ultimately, if you eat a healthy balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins most of the time, drink sufficient water and exercise regularly, you won’t need to follow fad detox diets.

Eating a well-balanced diet and pursuing a healthy lifestyle will eliminate the need to detox – your detox organs such as your liver, gut, skin and kidneys should be in good shape at all times to ensure the body remains in a constant state of self-cleansing.

Eating seasonal foods

Eating seasonal foods is ideal because:

  • In-season, locally grown produce is generally more nutrient dense.
  • Can be cheaper due to higher supply and the associated reduction in harvesting and distribution costs.
  • It helps you get a broader variety of foods in your diet.
  • Often tastes better as it is naturally ripened. 

Heading into a new season is the perfect opportunity to start experimenting with new recipes or working seasonal fruits and vegetables into old favourites.

The more common seasonal foods available in South Africa during September and October include:

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cape gooseberries
  • Coconuts
  • Dates
  • Grapefruit
  • Guavas
  • Lemons
  • Naartjies
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet melon
  • Strawberries 

Eating fruits and vegetables that are ‘in season’ is generally considered sound nutritional advice that benefits our health. 

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