March is National Nutrition Month and this year we are celebrating healthy eating styles. Each year there is a theme such as eating at home or reducing food waste. This year we are getting back to the basics and celebrating food and how it nourishes our bodies. Every year I write articles the entire month of March to help educate the public on common nutrition trends. When people learn that I am a dietitian, they ask me all kinds of questions and my response is often “quit making eating so difficult”. There is lots of information, often conflicting, out there but much of it isn’t scientifically supported. Speaking of science. Science is hard, and this is the reason that messages can often times be difficult to understand. The science of nutrition is evolving each day. This year I am going to break down the science and debunk some of the common nutrition myths.
Drum-roll please. Myth #1 Detoxes and cleanses.
The market for detox or cleanse products has been growing rampant over the past several years claiming the body needs to be cleansed of its toxins. However, biology already thought of this need many moons ago and built in detoxing organs such as the liver, kidneys and intestines. Best yet, these organs are FREE, included with the price of admission to the world. In fact, these cleanses and detoxes could be harmful to the body because some insist on extreme calorie restrictions or don’t allow for proper nutritional balance. When you restrict calories and nutrition your body adjusts to starvation mode. Can anyone guess what happens when you return to your normal diet? Ding, Ding, Ding you guessed it --- weight gain.
Ok so I understand don’t buy products that cleanse our body, it’s a waste of money. But what about SWEAT? I go to the gym wearing sweats, no fan and sit in the sauna after a hard workout. I have cleansed my body of all toxins, flu’s and pollutants, right? Wrong again. Sweating is a body function that is used to regulate body temperature, not a method to excrete waste or remove toxins. We sweat for two main reasons, one because we are warm and need to cool off, like when we are exercising or sitting in a sauna. Or we sweat because we are nervous and our body is having a fight or flight reaction. Neither one of these situations results in removing toxins from our bodies. Again, a proper functioning liver and kidneys do a fantastic job of this.
The real problem here is the term “detox” is being used incorrectly. When you have been eating or drinking too much these diets do not expedite the functions that your liver does every day, all day, including right now while you are reading this article. However, the proper use of the word “detox” is appropriate when we talking about a behavior change such as in addiction therapy.
So if I can’t buy cleanse products and sweating doesn’t work, how can I detox my body of all the terrible toxins? The answer is simple, you don’t. The body is an amazing machine. Treat it that way. Follow a well-balanced diet filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and quality protein and exercise regularly and the feeling of needing a detox should be eliminated.
Monica Nagele MS/RD is the Purdue Extension Montgomery County Extension Director, Health and Human Science Educator. She can be reached at 364-6363 or