The Holiday Detox Diet
You know you probably are overdoing it during the holidays. Too much food. Too many parties. Not enough exercise. What can you do and eat to get back on track and help your body return to healthy? Should you fast or detox?
Yes, no, and maybe, depending on how healthy you are, how you go about it, and how long you detox. Fasts – that is, drinking only water, juice, or tea for one or more days – have been used for centuries in attempts to cleans the body, fight fatigue, lose weight, and cure debilitating diseases from lupus to arthritis. The theory is that a detox fast purges the body of accumulated contaminants and toxins. Sounds great. Hey, who wants icky “toxins” in their body?! But, venture beyond the spa or naturopath’s office and just about anyone credentialed in the nutrition or medical field will baulk at the idea that detoxing does anything more than give you a headache. It certainly won’t aid with long-term weight loss.
To be told you are a ‘toxic time bomb’ is alarming, but there is no definition of what that term means, let alone any scientific evidence that the body needs cleansing or the digestive tract needs a rest. The body already has an amazing system for breaking down and ridding itself of anything harmful. (For example, bacteria naturally present in the gut metabolize and detoxify substances in food, while the liver works 24/7 to neutralize anything making it through the gut and into the body.) Ironically, fasting itself generates toxins. For example, as protein is broken down for energy, levels of toxic nitrogen substances such as uric acid are formed, which tax the kidneys and increase risk for gout. Lead and pesticides stored in the body are released slowly with moderate weight loss, allowing the body to detoxify and eliminate them safely. However, these levels can rise too high when weight is lost too rapidly on any restrictive diet, such as a detox regimen, raising blood levels above safe ranges. You can “detox” sanely if you follow some simple guidelines.
There is nothing wrong with removing yourself from food for a few days, if for no other reason than to see what role food plays in your life. You may find that you’ve been stuffing yourself over the holidays as a way to destress or to sooth an emotion. Maybe you’ve been eating too much just because food was there and you were bored. Or, you ate the fruit cake, not because you liked it, but because you didn’t know how to say “no.” Taking a time out from eating for a day or two won’t hurt and may even help you plan a new relationship with food, while jump starting your New Year’s diet.
Just take it easy on those days, drink lots of fluids, and don’t expect to accomplish much or even drive. Medical clearance is warranted before beginning a lengthier fast and a person shouldn’t fast at all if pregnant, nursing, or has any health condition, including diabetes, cancer, compromised immunity, ulcers, or liver, kidney, heart, or lung disease. If a fast helps at all with cleansing, those benefits are sustained only if you follow it with a healthy diet and lifestyle. That’s because the real secret to managing your weight, and feeling and looking your best is healthy eating every day, not a quick-fix crash diet.
In short, there are no quick-fixes for permanent weight loss and a healthy body. The good news is that your body will repay you a 1000-fold for a little tender loving care, with increased energy, reduced risk for disease, longevity, increased passion…hey, you’ll even look up to 15 years younger! Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff via Compfight
Just Do This Today
1. If you aren’t up for a fast. Never fear. Your body will naturally detox if given the right foods that not only help cleanse, but also give the body the building blocks it needs to function at tip top shape. Antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory foods, such as colorful fruits and vegetables are the first place to start. Foods that are rich in the magic ingredients for weight loss: protein, water, and fiber, also help fill you up before they fill you out. Good examples of that are legumes, whole grains such as quinoa, nuts in moderation, antioxidant-rich berries, and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes. A few preliminary studies also suggest that adding healthy probiotics to your daily diet can help detox and even aid with weight loss. Just make sure to choose only nonfat, plain yogurt, not the flavored brands that have the sugar equivalent of a candy bar. Also, consider taking a moderate-dose vitamin/mineral supplement to fill in the gaps on the days when you don’t eat perfectly.
2. Most get-thin-quick diets sacrifice health for a waistline. Worse yet, they seldom, if ever, work long-term. If you are fully committed to get back on track, then follow these 3 commonsense, tried-and-true guidelines for losing weight, keeping it off, and fueling a healthy body:
a) Consume daily at least 1,200 calories (tall or very active people can eat even more). Increase exercise, not cut calories further, if you can’t lose weight on this low-calorie plan.
b) Emphasize colorful fruits & vegetables. At least half of every plate should be from the produce department. Eat raw or steamed, since even a tablespoon of oil or butter adds more calories than 2 cups of broccoli. Choose real foods, such as whole grains, then accent this low-fat fare with legumes, extra-lean meat, and nonfat dairy products to ensure you meet your daily needs for all nutrients (you’ll still need to take a multiple when calorie intake is this low).
c) Exercise daily. Include both aerobic activities, such as walking, jogging, or cycling, and strength training in your weekly routine, for a total of at least 30 minutes daily, five days a week (more is even better). Exercise is a natural cleanser. It increases circulation, boosts metabolism, reduces inflammation, and aids the body in ridding “toxins.” Photo credit: Justin Henry via Compfight
Hot Off the Diet Press
1. Dining Buddies: Be careful who you eat with! According to a study from Cornell University, the heavier that people who eat with you or near you are, the more food you are likely to eat and the less likely that food will be healthy. More than 80 college students were invited to eat a spaghetti and salad lunch on four separate occasions. On two occasions, an actress wore a fat suit and ate more salad than pasta. On the other time, she ate more pasta than salad. On the remaining two occasions, she did not wear the fat suit and again ate either more or less pasta versus salad. The researchers tracked what the students ate and found that people eat 32% more pasta and 43% less salad when dining with an overweight person, even when that overweight person eats more salad. The researchers stress that the message is not to avoid dining with overweight people, but to pay attention to subtle cues to overeat. Shimizu M, Johnson K, Wansink B: In good company. The effect of an eating companion’s appearance on food intake. Appetite 2014;September 16th.
2. The New Eczema Cure: Daily supplements of vitamin D might help kids with eczema, according to a study from Harvard Medical School in Boston. Vitamin D supplements (1,000IU/day) or placebos were given to 107 children (average age was 9-years-old) with atopic dermatitis that flared up in cold weather or during the transition from Fall to Winter. Symptoms were evaluated at the study’s start and one month later. Results showed that those children who supplemented with vitamin D had a significant 29% improvement in symptoms compared to placebos. There were no adverse effects from the supplements. A common treatment for eczema is the use of ultraviolet light that stimulates production of vitamin D in the skin. This study suggests that lack of the “sunshine vitamin” might explain why the skin condition worsens in the Fall and Winter.
Camargo C, Ganmaa D, Sidbury R, et al: Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation for winter-related atopic dermatitis in children. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2014;134:831-835.
3. The New Quit-Smoking Program: Taking supplements of the omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA, might help lower nicotine cravings and help smokers quit, according to a study from the University of Haifa in Israel. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 48 smokers between the ages of 18- and 45-years-old were given either placebos or supplements containing 950 milligrams of DHA and EPA. Nicotine cravings and number of cigarettes smoked each day were monitored. Results showed that no differences were noted between the two groups at the start of the study, but after one month, the smokers who had taken the omega-3 supplements had reduced their cigarette use by an average of two a day, an 11% reduction. This is despite the fact that they had not been asked to change their smoking habits and had no intention or interest in stopping at the study’s start. They also reported a significant reduction in nicotine cravings. After 30 days of not taking the supplements, their cravings increased, but remained lower than their initial level. Those taking placebos showed no change in cravings or cigarettes smoked. The researcher concludes that this, “….reinforces the assumption that taking omega-3s can help smokers regulate their addiction and reduce their smoking.”
Rabinovitz S: Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on tobacco craving in cigarette smokers. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2014;28(8): 804-809.
Photo credit: massimo ankor via Compfight
Food & Mood Tip –
Water and Fiber for Weight Loss
Ounce for ounce, foods weigh the most when they’re packed with water and fiber, which could be the reason why calorie-dilute, fiber-rich soups and stews fill us up on fewer calories, keep us feeling satisfied between meals, and help us lose weight, while calorie-dense foods high in fat and/or sugar spur us to eat more. Researchers at the University of Sydney created a “Satiety Index” by asking people to consume 38 common foods and then measuring their hunger/food intakes for the two hours following the meals. The researchers found that people consumed fewer calories, yet felt more satisfied, after eating fiber-rich, water-packed foods, such as cooked oatmeal or pasta, oranges, and beans, than when they ate high-fat, fiber-poor croissants, cake, doughnuts, or candy.
Photo credit: Steven Depolo via Compfight
Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month –
Red Hot Blood Cleanser
If you plan to juice fast, this detox smoothie is a great way to help you stay full. It’s loaded with fiber and water, two of the three magic ingredients for weight loss that fill you up before they fill you out. Watermelon also contains two compounds, arginine and citrulline, that improve blood flow, while beets boost nitric oxide in the blood, a compound that helps relax blood vessels so that blood flows more freely. Combined with the soluble fiber from the apples, the metabolism-boosting effect of cayenne, and the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric that help reduce damage to blood vessel walls, this drink has it all, and your circulation and heart with thank you for it! If you have a Vitamix and can blend instead of juice, all the better. The problem with juicers is that you leave so much of the phytonutrients and fiber behind when you toss the pulp.
2 cups watermelon chunks
1 small to medium beet, washed
1 apple, seeded and cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon apple juice concentrate
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on taste)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Place all ingredients in a blender, such as a Vitamix, with watermelon on the bottom. Turn blender on slow speed until watermelon has liquefied, then increase speed and blend for 1 minute or until liquefied. Makes 2 servings, approximately 1 cup each.
Nutritional Analysis per serving: 117 Calories; 7 percent fat (> 1 gram); 0 grams saturated fat; 5 percent protein; 88 percent carbohydrate; 2.7 grams fiber.
[PROPS: Vitamix with the ingredients around it and a finished “Cleanser” in a glass]
Answers to “Do you know?” from last issue:
1. No-calorie sweeteners increase our cravings for sweets and lead to weight gain.
While researchers and rumor have speculated that non-nutritive sweeteners, from aspartame to sucralose, increase cravings for sugar and, therefore, escalate weight gain, a study published this year from the University of Pennsylvania found no evidence to support that claim. In their study of about 400 people, there was no association between non-nutritive sweetener intake and increased cravings for sugar or an over-stimulating effect on sweet taste receptors. These sweeteners do not overpower people’s taste buds or lead them to crave sweeter foods. More likely the association is the reverse: not that these sweeteners cause weight gain but that already overweight people use non-nutritive sweeteners in an attempt to cut calories. (International Journal of Obesity 2014;June 10th)
2. Eating extra protein builds muscle.
Protein is the only essential nutrient that Americans already get enough or even too much of, according to every national nutrition survey dating back to the 1960s. While people in the active stage of serious body building require extra protein, even their protein needs decline once the muscle is built and they are only maintaining that extra muscle mass. In short, the only way to build muscle or slow muscle loss as you age is to do strength training exercises several times a week. A few studies suggest that older people might need slightly more protein to maintain normal muscle mass, but the evidence is unclear. That means shooting for 0.5 grams of protein for every pound of “healthy” body weight (excess body weight as fat does not require protein to maintain other than the muscle to carry around the extra weight). Protein does have a modest effect on satiety, at least in a few studies. However, when it comes to weight loss, it’s the total calories, not the amount of carbs, fat, or protein, that counts.
Do You Know?
1. Are raw vegetables more nutritious than cooked vegetables?
2. Does green tea help with weight loss?
Check next week for the answers….
Check Your Sources
Don’t be fooled by sales or size of products. Always check the unit prices, which are on shelf tags beneath the products. They are the only way to know for sure which product or package size is the best deal per sheet, ounce, tub, or quart. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper.
Food Finds/Food Fails:
1. Siggi’s Yogurt: I usually tell people to avoid flavored yogurts, since they typically have the added sugar equivalent of a candy bar. I make an exception with Siggi’s. These creamy yogurts from Iceland have very little sugar, contain at least 5 different probiotics, have no additives or extras, and taste great!
2. Pictsweet Frozen Deluxe Baby Leaf Spinach: You need at least 2 servings daily of dark greens to ensure you get ample folate (a B vitamin critical for heart, brain, and mood, as well as helping prevent birth defects), iron, calcium, and the two important compounds that lower the risk for vision loss – lutein and zeaxanthin. One cup of cooked spinach equates to two servings and is delicious sauteed with garlic and olive oil, whipped into mashed potatoes, or folded into a frittata. No salt or additives here, just Mother Nature’s spinach.
1. Lenny and Larry’s The Complete Cookie: The label says this cookie has no eggs (not sure why that’s a selling point?), no dairy, and it’s all natural. The first “all natural” ingredient is white flour, which of course, is highly processed and explains why there is no fiber. To whittle down the calories, they call this cookie two servings. Eat the whole thing and you’ve swallowed almost 400 calories, a third of your daily need for sodium (don’t be fooled by the ‘sea salt” since salt is sodium chloride wherever it comes from ), and almost 8 teaspoons of sugar (again, don’t be fooled by the use of “raw sugar,” which is still just sucrose). This “complete”cookie is complete junk.
2. Hot Pockets Pepperoni Pizza: Pizza can be a great place to pile on the vegetables, from tomato and red pepper slices to spinach leaves and asparagus. But this pizza just piles on the calories, fat and sodium. Almost 50% of the calories come from fat, with a teaspoon of artery-clogging saturated fat. You also just downed 42% of your total day’s healthy limit for sodium and a teaspoon of sugar. But hey, it’s made with “real cheese” (like you expected fake?). This product’s only claim to fame is it is a “good source of protein,” the one nutrient most Americans already get too much of. Do your heart, brain, and body a favor and get your protein somewhere else.
The Daily Menu
Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices. Throughout the holiday season and between parties keep the choices light and tasty. Don’t forget to add snacks, such as fresh fruit, baby carrots, nuts, or low-fat yogurt, to fill in extra calories and nutrients.
1 toasted whole wheat English Muffin topped with:
1 poached egg
1 slice low-fat cheese
1 cup orange juice
2 cups homemade turkey soup (made with defatted turkey stock,
turkey meat, carrots, onions, celery, noodles or barley, etc)
1 cup peach slices
1 cup nonfat lemon yogurt
1 serving of Red Hot Blood Cleanser
4 oz. salmon steak, grilled
1 cup steamed broccoli
1 cup instant brown rice
1 cup nonfat milk
Nutritional information: 1,515 calories, 17 percent fat (29 grams), 55 percent carbohydrates, 26 percent protein.
What has Elizabeth Been Up To?
November 20th: AMNorthWest (KATU, Channel 2 Portland, Oregon). Topic: Top 10 Holiday Diet Tips
December 8th: Pop Warner 2014 Super Bowl & National Cheer & Dance Championships at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walk Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Topic: “Eat Smart. Play Safe”
December 15th: San Diego Living (CW, Channel 6). Topic: The Holiday Detox Diet
December 22nd: AMNorthWest (KATU, Channel 2 Portland, Oregon)