Detox Diets: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Detox Diets: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

You’ve likely heard about detox diets. They may be trendy, but there isn’t much proof that detox diets rid the body of toxins.

How do detox diets leaving site icon work?

Most include a period of fasting (not eating). Afterward, individuals follow a strict diet of raw veggies, fruit, fruit juices and water. Some detox diets call for the use of herbs and other supplements – along with a colon cleanse (enema) to clear the intestines.

Some medical experts are skeptical of their effectiveness.  If your goal is weight loss, leaving site icon a detox diet leaving site icon might help you drop a few pounds, but you’re likely just gain it back.

A review in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics leaving site icon reported there is very little clinical evidence that they can deliver on their promises.

So why are these diets so popular? What are the pros and cons of a detox diet versus other diets?

The Good

Many of us eat too much junk food, so if some of the healthier eating habits in a “detox food plan” helps you choose healthier food, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with healthy shakes or juicing as part of your daily diet. You’ll get more vitamins and less junk in a healthy smoothie or shake than a drive-thru breakfast.

The Bad

Most health experts argue there is no need to detox. Your liver, kidneys and lymphatic system are made for the job. Also, if you’re doing a “juice cleanse” you’re drinking all your calories, which actually slows your metabolism. You might lose weight in the beginning, but are likely to gain it back when you go back to regular eating.

The Ugly

Very low-calorie diets (liquid or solid) can cause harm, especially in people with diabetes. Headaches, faintness, lack of energy and dangerously low blood sugar levels can all be caused by detox diets. Detoxing can also be a trigger for people prone to eating disorders.

Your best plan? Eat healthy, whole foods; drink pure, clean water; and lead an active lifestyle. Speak with your doctor or dietitian, and do some research on your own. You don’t want to end up less healthy than when you started.

Have you done any type of cleanse? Share your story in the comments.

Sources: Detox Diets & Cleanses: What Science Really Says, leaving site icon Live Science, 2022;  Detox Diets for Toxin Elimination and Weight Management: A Critical Review of the Evidence, Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, leaving site icon 2014; The Truth about Detox Diets, leaving site icon WebMD, 2022; Do Detox Diets Offer Any Health Benefits?, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2022

Originally published 10/8/2015; Revised 2020, 2023