Cleanse Diets: How to Protect Yourself from Fad Diets

diet on chalkboardIt seems as though you can’t go on Facebook or pick up a magazine without reading about how a high school classmate or a famous actress lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time by going on a “cleanse diet.” Cleanse diets claim to be a natural way to remove toxins from the body through fasting followed by a strict vegetable- and fruit-only regimen. It often includes raw vegetables, fruit juices, fruit, and water. More extreme versions of a cleanse diet entail the use of herbs and other supplements that help cleanse the colon (e.g., enemas). There is no scientific evidence that cleanse diets work to detox the body. The kidneys and liver naturally remove most of the toxins we ingest. The benefits most associated with cleanse diets may actually result from the removal of processed foods, solid fats, and added sugars from the diet. There are many concerns regarding following a cleanse diet for an extended period of time, including fatigue due to limited protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and dehydration.

Fad diets are popular because they promise fast results, which is why it is a billion dollar industry. It is important to remember that if you’re overweight, you didn’t put that weight on overnight and it’s unrealistic to think it can be removed overnight or in 10–20 days.

Protect yourself from fad diets by avoiding diet plans, supplements, or products that make the following claims:

1. Promise of fast weight loss: Slow and gradual weight loss is more sustainable than plans that cause drastic weight changes. A healthy weight loss plan promotes ½ to 2 pounds weekly. If you lose weight too quickly, you can lose water, muscle, and bone!

2. Quantities and limitations: Avoid diets that eliminate or severely restrict food groups. Each food group provides essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that a multivitamin cannot replace.

3. Promotes specific food combinations: There is no scientific evidence to support that eating at specific times during the day or combining certain foods will cause foods to turn to fat.

4. No need to be physically active: Physical activity is essential for good health and weight management and should be part of your daily routine.
For more information about how to better manage your weight safely, use Iowa State University Human Sciences Extension publication “How Much Are You Eating?” (PM 3024), available at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/How-Much-Are-You-Eating.

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