As a nutritionist, I get lots of questions about cleanses and detoxes. Are they safe? Do they work? What is the best program? In my professional opinion, some are effective, but for the most part, they lead to over eating or drinking too much sugar from fruit without getting the beneficial fibers, leave you hungry and cranky, and the day you come off, you are so sick of watered down mush, you will binge on the first thing in site. Also, many cleanses and detoxes can take you away from many social situations because you are so limited by what you can and cannot eat. If you are going to do a cleanse or a detox, may I suggest the unprocessed food cleanse. This “cleanse,” actually follows the way we really should be eating – whole fruits and vegetables, and nothing artificial, processed, or chemically enhanced. The basic principle is that you are allowed to eat any food, as long as it is not processed.
A processed food (or beverage) is defined as any food that is commercially prepared or processed for the ease of consumption – think of the foods that can sit in your pantry or fridge for weeks and not spoil. These foods are often laden with saturated fat, sodium, and refined sugars – all the major culprits of America’s most deadly diseases, not to mention mood suppressors. By going on a “diet” of all unprocessed foods, you are training your body, and your palate to not only get used to, but to crave, what it was intended to consume. Our bodies were never designed to consume or digest large amounts of sugar, fat, or sodium, and they most certainly were not designed to digest chemicals and preservatives foreign to this planet. If you have been eating processed foods, which I am going to assume most people have been, then your body has been working overtime in trying to digest them and most likely has traces of these hard-to-break-down foods rotting in your intestines. The amazing thing is, that everything our bodies need to function properly and fight disease, is found right in the earth. The further we get away from that, the more harm we are doing to not only our bodies, but to our planet.
I have compiled a list of the do’s and do not’s of this eating plan. It sounds basic, but you may be surprised as to how many foods you eat regularly are considered processed. I suggest trying this for at least 14 days. After that, I promise you, you will feel so good that you will not want to go back to your old ways of eating. I bet you that after two weeks of eating this way, that ice cream you used to love will taste way too sweet, and those potato chips way too salty. On this plan, you should work at or slightly under your daily caloric needs, and your diet should be approximately 70% vegetables, 15% fruit, and 15% other. If done properly, you will most likely see your body change, your skin clear up, headaches go away, and even your mood improve.
Even though I consider myself a “healthy eater,” after compiling this list, I too realized that there are many processed foods I have yet to eliminate from my diet. Therefore, I will be doing this diet plan for the next 14 days as well. My friend Alex, who is also a healthy eater, yet wanted to detox from any processed foods, will be doing this with me as well. Accountability is a great tool when sticking to any plan, whether it be nutrition or fitness, therefore I highly suggest finding a partner or two to do this with. I will be posting recipes and meal plans as the days go on that will hopefully assist with reaching your goals.
Also, to clarify, on this diet you are able to eat cooked food – just cooked food that has minimal ingredients that follow the guidelines – for example, steamed broccoli with lemon and garlic. If you are purchasing something from the store that has multiple ingredients, make sure they are in their whole form (may have altered consistency such as an avacado mashed to make guacamole), and that all the ingredients are on the acceptable list.
All of this to say, good luck! Feel free to email me with any questions, comments, or concerns. Let me know if this was easy, hard, or if it has had any permanent impact on your eating habits and lifestyle.
In Good Health,
Legal Definition of Processed Food
The United States Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Section 201, Chapter II, (gg) defines processed food as “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.” This definition establishes parameters for the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, to regulate quality and safety in the food processing industry.