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Spring cleansing: get your eating and health back on track.

Recharge, rejuvenate, renew, and jump-start your body for a more active and healthier life. These are all the benefits and promises people buy into when considering cleansing or a detox diet. Touted as a way to remove toxins from the body, detox or detoxification diets may be popular, but they're not scientifically proven. Detox regimes vary, but most require a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit, fruit juices, and tons of water. Plus, there are the pricey supplements and herbs that supposedly help empty the intestines. It can be debated that these products are just well-marketed enemas and laxatives, preying on people's desire to be healthier and feel better.

The appeal of these detox diets is sustained by the testimonies of everyday people who say they feel more focused and energetic during and after cleansing. There must be something to them with so much hype, right? As a registered dietitian and nutritionist, I know there is little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. In fact, healthy kidneys and liver effectively filter and eliminate most ingested contaminants; no over-the-counter supplements are necessary for nature to do its duty. I would challenge anyone's success story with the idea that the benefits from a detox diet actually came from the removal of highly processed foods that are high in fat and added sugar, not the removal of trapped internal pollutants. The good news is these are things we can and should do everyday.

Also, there is a big difference between fasting for religious purposes and for the purpose of slimmer thighs. Fasting is a time-honored spiritual tradition. Almost every religion has some type of fasting ritual--Jesus, Plato, Socrates, and Gandhi did it. Not to mention, there is Lent, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, and other traditions. Religious fasts have deep intentions, and we must separate spiritual gains of religious fasts from labeling fasting for weight loss as healthy.

If you feel "congested" from too much food or unhealthy foods, you may be tempted to detoxify. If your energy level is low, or if you are trying to prevent or manage a chronic disease, then take note. This spring, let's redefine the meaning of detox, and incorporate my top tips to get your diet and health back on track. Take time for "housekeeping" without the mop or dustpan and start spring cleansing--no fasting or bathroom breaks required.

Drink Up

Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can have adverse effects on mood and energy. Unpleasant breath, dry skin, or fatigue could all be signs that your body is running low on water. Plus, the goal of detoxing is to eliminate and sweat toxins out of your system, and water is essential for all of the above.

Tip: Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water or decaffeinated, unsweetened beverages, daily.

Veg Out

There's no question that eating three to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily will improve your health and digestion. Choose dark green and brightly colored produce for plenty of fiber and antioxidants that can help activate liver enzymes, which aid in the removal and disposal of harmful substances from the body.

Tip: Eat a fruit, vegetable, or both at every meal and snack, daily.

Less Bread

Notice I said "less" rather than "none." Regardless of if it is the nutritious 100% whole-wheat variety, breads, biscuits, bagels, rolls, pastas, and crackers contain significant amounts of sodium with subpar grams of fiber, and they are highly processed when purchased from a store. Southerners tend to eat a form of bread at every meal; it's time for a change.

Tip: Limit bread intake to one whole grain bread serving, daily.

Move More

Think of movement as a cleansing booster that helps food move more efficiently through and ultimately out of the body. Adults and children need 60 minutes each day of physical activity. Don't make it difficult; break exercise into 10-minute sessions and just get moving.

Tip: Achieving 10,000 steps each day will set the stage for good health.

If I still haven't convinced you to dodge detox diets, please consider consulting your doctor first. Finally, keep in mind that any fad diet isn't a good long-term health solution. For lasting results, try these simple strategies to eating the right foods, getting exercise, and allowing your body to naturally take care of the cleansing process for you.

Rebecca Turner is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and certified specialist in sports dietetics. Like her page at RebeccaTurnerNutrition. Tweet her @RebeccaTurnerRD.

by rebecca turner MS, RDN, CSSD, LD
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Title Annotation:HEALTH
Author:Turner, Rebecca
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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