But do they actually work? Well, there’s a hell of a lot of fluff out there, and every day seems to bring a new weight loss cleanse diet trend, so it can be hard to know what is worth trying IRL (and what’s actually safe!).
To cut through the clutter, we spoke to nutritionist, celebrity chef and author of the Falling in Love with Food cookbook, Zoe Bingley Pullin, to get some expert advice on the ins and outs of the beloved cleanse diet, including the benefits and which ones actually work.
What does a cleanse diet involve?
Before we get into it, just a bit of a background on what a detox diet involves: “In a nutshell, detoxification is a process whereby ‘harmful’ substances are changed by the liver to more friendly substances in preparation for their excretion from the body,” says Bingley Pullin.
Basically, cleanses involve short-term changes that you make to your diet in order to encourage the detoxification process to eliminate toxins from your body – these toxins include things like pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, and other harmful compounds in your regular diet. “Detoxes usually promote the flushing of toxins from your body, which will result in weight loss, vitality, better skin and energy,” says Bingley Pullin.
What you can and can’t eat will depend on which kind of diet you’re following (guys, there are HEAPS), but usually it’ll involve some kind of fasting, followed by a strict diet or meal-replacement drinks. “Most detox diets will involve a strict elimination of foods which have been marked as ‘liver burdens’ and may involve the removal of entire food groups or the sole reliance on a single food/drink for a period of weeks,” explains Bingley Pullin.
What are some signs your body needs a cleanse?
So how do you know when it’s time for a cleanse? Bingley Pullin notes there are a few common signs that may flag that you need to change your current routine and ‘detox’. These include:
- Lack of appetite and sluggish bowels
- Bloating or poor digestion
- Fatigue and just a general lack of vitality
- Increased skin breakouts and dull skin tones
- Poor tolerance to fatty foods, caffeine and alcohol
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
What are the benefits of a cleanse?
So, what are the benefits of getting rid of toxins from your body? Glowing skin? Flat tummy? Shiny hair? Well, according to Bingley Pullin, it depends on what kind of cleanse diet you’re on as there are a whole heap of different detox diets getting around, ranging from the liver cleanse diet to the colon cleanse diet and master cleanse diet (also known as the lemonade diet).
One of the most popular cleanses that you’ve likely heard of is the juice cleanse. Juicing companies are *everywhere* as of late, and while many of us may have added a cold-pressed veggie juice to our morning routine, juice-only cleanses lasting several days have become increasingly popular, too. These cleanses involve “consuming only or primarily fruit and vegetable juices as a way to ‘flush out toxins’,” says Bingley Pullin. But do they actually work? Well, while the idea of flushing out toxins may sound appealing – it’s not actually true, and these kinds of cleanses can actually have a negative impact your nutrition and health.
Bingley Pullin says diets that involve strict fasting and meal replacements (like juice cleanses and the popular bone broth cleanse) lack vitamins and minerals, which isn’t beneficial for your overall health. “A ‘detox diet’ which prescribes the elimination of solids or the reliance on just a single food/drink such as lemon juice aren’t beneficial nor necessary,” she says. Not only can they result in temporary side effects such as headaches, tiredness and poor concentration, but there can also be long-term side effects like nutrient deficiencies and poor gut health.
The same goes for the on-trend detox teas diet (just scroll through Instagram and you’ll probably find a heap of influencers or celebs endorsing them, including the Kardashian sisters). “Detox tea diets involve consuming teas that contain a mix of herbs and ingredients believed to regulate and support detox – most of which will cause diarrhoea and result in water and nutrient loss,” warns Bingley Pullin. Eek!
Fasting is a popular option that has a reputation for being an effective form of detoxification (it can range anywhere between a three-day cleanse to a seven-day cleanse), with some people taking it to the extreme and consuming no food for a period of days. However, while detox diets like this may be touted as the best cleanse for weight loss, this weight is often regained once the cleanse is over. If you’re looking to lose weight, Bingley Pullin says short-term detox diets aren’t the answer.
Rather than starving yourself, completely eliminating food groups, or drinking only specific liquids, Bingley Pullin says the best cleanser is one that adopts a wholefoods approach to eating – that is, a diet that focuses on eating minimally processed foods (think anything that grows out of the ground!) to naturally detoxify your body. This is the only type of cleanse that *actually* works long-term.
“The body has a natural ability to detox, but if someone feels the need to ‘detox’ the best thing to do is to provide your body with the necessary amino acids, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds, which the body uses to carry out the detoxification process,” she says. “Essentially, consume a wholefood diet rich in plant foods. In doing so, you will naturally be eating a more nutrient dense diet and this will benefit overall wellbeing and vitality.”
“For example, some foods that can be beneficial to include in your diet specifically to support your body’s natural ability to detox are:
- Protein e.g. legumes, fish, nuts/seeds – [these] supply the body with amino acids, which the liver uses to carry out part of the detoxification process.
- Fibre rich legumes, vegetables, fruit and wholegrains – a regular bowel motion is needed to remove ‘waste’ from the body.
- Turmeric, beetroot, spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, berries – all contain antioxidants that help to protect against oxidative damage and promote liver health.
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage – [they] contain sulforaphane, which helps to induce detoxification enzymes.
Looking for more different types of detox diets? Check out Miranda Kerr’s unusual eight-day cleanse.
What do you think of cleanses? Have you ever tried one before? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Main image credit: Getty
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.