What’s it like to do a detox?

As some of you know, I’m currently on the third week of the 21 Day Beachbody Ultimate Reset. It is a comprehensive whole food diet and supplement plan to support detoxification, promote healthy gut flora, and reset unhealthy habits that may have accumulated over time (or the holidays). I know a lot of people who have done this 21 day plan or other whole food detox programs and they (including myself) have nothing but good things to say about them.

Here are some of the things I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks:

  • skin is clear and bright
  • feel lighter and less bloated
  • have a lot more energy
  • sugar cravings have disappeared
  • craving leafy greens and colorful vegetables
  • grocery bill has decreased (!?!)

When your body has the macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients– plant compounds like lycopene and resveratrol) it needs to thrive, it does! Most Americans eat plenty (or excess quantities) of protein, carbs, and fat, and don’t get enough vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. A lot of these micronutrients come from plant-based foods like fresh vegetables and fruits. For the second week of the 21-day Ultimate Reset, this is what I purchased at the grocery store:

Fruits and VegetablesWhole food detoxes or cleanses are a great place to start if you are a detox newbie. Jumping straight into a juice cleanse or lemonade master cleanse can be traumatic on your mind and body. . . and may trigger a cleansing crisis. That is why I recommend starting with a whole food detox where you eliminate the junk food and incorporate loads of fresh vegetables and leafy greens. Even if you start with a whole food detox, you are likely to notice some cleansing symtoms like headache or tiredness in the first 1-3 days as your body gets used to a diet filled with nutrient-dense real food nutrition.

Kale with garlic and OnionsWill you feel hungry during a whole food detox? Unlikely. Real foods are full of nutrition, fiber, and water which fill you up and make you feel full and satisfied. You may have cravings for sweet and salty foods at first and these often go away entirely after the first few days.

One challenge with whole food detoxes is food preparation. Everthing in the photo above is a single ingredient– including the brown rice and edamame. Preparing food from scratch ingredients at home takes a bit longer than if Roasted beetsyou’re buying prepared foods, heating up pre-made foods, or using mixes, boxes, or cans. After a little bit of practice though, you will learn the shortcuts and tricks to making these scratch meals faster and easier. (These can be found in my book Real Food, Real Simple.) The benefits are absolutely worth taking a little extra time to prepare your meals and the skills and new recipes you learn in the process will help you transition into a real food diet after the detox is done.

If you’re new to detoxification or cleansing, I encourage you to start with a whole food detox like:

1. 21-day Beachbody Ultimate Reset

2. 7-day Whole Food Detox (outlined below)

Eat in abundance:Roasted and baked sweet potatoes

Vegetables: artichokes, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, kale, cucumber, cauliflower, pumpkin, spinach, tomato, watercress, bean and seed sprouts

Fruit: the most beneficial for cleansing are apricots (fresh), berries (all types), cantaloupe, citrus fruits, kiwi, papaya, mango, peaches, mango, melons, red grapes

Eat other fruits and veggies (except potatoes) as well, but focus on these

Eat in moderation:

Whole grains:  brown rice, quinoa, and millet (2x/day or less)

Beans and legumes: lentils, black beans, pinto beans, mung beans (2x/day or less)

Fish: salmon, mackeral, sardines (1x/day or less)

Oils: coconut oil for cooking, extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed seed oils for dressings

Nuts and seeds: almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds (1 handful/day total)

Other tips: walk at least 15 minutes every day, use a sauna or steam bath 1-2+ times per week if you can, drink 2 quarts of water per day (minimum) to flush out toxin

Eat what is on the list and nothing that is not including caffeine, alcohol, meat, eggs, dairy, sugar, salt, processed foods, and gluten grains for 7 full days

Note: Before starting any type of cleanse or detoxification program, always consult your health care provider, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions.  Also, do not cleanse if you are pregnant or nursing. 

Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

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