Every second patient who comes to me is either trying a fad diet or a starvation diet when a simple detox diet is a much safer way to get that healthy beach-ready body.
Detox works well if you want to quickly lose a few kilos. This not only motivates you to take control of your diet but also inspires you to continue eating well after the programme.
Why do we need a detox? Because consciously or subconsciously, we are exposed to toxins every day. Be it air pollution, junk food, additives in food, pesticides, alcohol, cigarette smoke, heavy metals, high stress levels, the list is endless. A build-up of these toxins can affect most of our systems—neurological, immune and endocrine.
Health issues arise when large amounts of toxins are consumed over a long period. A detox diet, which is essentially a way to remove toxins from the body, can reduce the toxic load and enable the body to function more efficiently. It can be done for three days, or one week if you want to do it for a longer period.
How often you need to detox depends on the goal. If it’s short-term weight loss, you can detox just before, say, a wedding or a holiday. If the goal is to improve your metabolism, you can go for one detox every couple of months.
How to plan a diet
I know from experience that if one does a relatively “difficult” programme—which involves eliminating foods that are part of the everyday diet like cereal, caffeine or sugar—in groups, the success rate is higher. A very recent three-day detox challenge that I had on my Instagram account @doctorvee had people inspiring each other with images of what they ate.
Detoxing requires a little discipline and a lot of planning. Make sure your refrigerator is stocked with nourishing foods that you can reach for when hungry, else you will most certainly be unable to stick to the diet.
A week before the “actual detox”, start weaning yourself off alcohol and caffeine in any form. For instance, if you drink two cups of coffee a day, reduce it to one every second day, then stick to one and no coffee every alternate day. This strategy helps reduce the potential withdrawal symptoms, which could include a headache, nausea and low energy levels.
Of course, you should speak to your doctor before starting a detox, for it may not be appropriate for people with diabetes or heart conditions.
What to avoid
Grains containing gluten: Oats, rye, wheat (white/wholemeal breads, wheat pasta, spelt or hulled wheat, couscous)
Animal protein: beef, pork, shellfish, bacon, sausages
Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter
Sugars: sweets, chocolate, jams
Processed items: canned, packaged and frozen foods, chips and breakfast cereals
Refined foods: white rice, white breads, biscuits, cakes and pastries
Beverages: alcohol, coffee, black tea, soft drinks, lime cordial and packaged juices, even herbal teas with caffeine.
Additionally, avoid extra table salt, commercial dressings and sauces, artificial colours, flavours, additives, flavour enhancers and hydrogenated fats.
What to include
Drink at least 2 litres of water each day, choose organic foods and exercise daily. Also try and include a steam and sauna, and an oil massage which helps remove toxins, once during the detox.
Think of alternatives
If you have a sweet tooth, have a frozen fruit or some cacao nibs (pure chocolate with no added sugars, and high on nutritional value), rather than processed chocolate.
If you’re desperate for coffee, try dandelion tea, which is also good for a liver detox.
If you’re craving carbs, try a cup of cinnamon tea. Cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar levels and therefore reduces the need for carbohydrates.
If you want a snack, try baked sweet potato, or zucchini or kale chips. Slice, bake in the oven or in an air fryer for 20 minutes. Season with olive oil and herbs.
A detox day diet
Warm water with half a lemon when you wake up, along with five almonds. An hour later, a glass of vegetable juice (include vegetables like ‘doodhi’, or gourd, tomato, cucumber) with lots of mint, ginger, lime and black pepper. Don’t add salt and don’t strain.
A fruit along with jasmine tea (or any caffeine-free tea).
A big bowl of salad with mostly greens. You can use rocket, baby spinach, iceberg, etc. Let leaves form at least 50% of the salad. Then add vegetables like zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, some seeds like pumpkin and flax for good fats, and toss with a little extra virgin olive oil.
A fruit or a tablespoon of sugar-free, organic or home-made almond or peanut butter with vegetable sticks, or an apple (or any fruit ) and a cup of herbal tea.
A big bowl of fresh green soup and a bowl of stir-fry or cooked vegetables.
ExerciseIt’s a must for at least 45 minutes a day.
Slice a cucumber and a lemon and put them in a bottle of water with a handful of mint leaves and a tablespoon of chia seeds. Drink this water through the day. It is quite refreshing and keeps you satiated.
Vishakha Shivdasani is a Mumbai-based medical doctor with a fellowship in nutrition. She specializes in controlling diabetes, cholesterol and obesity.