As much as I like to tell diets to go f*ck themselves, I can also admit that a detox would probably do me good. The thought of ridding my body of the bad stuff and feeling noticeably healthier sounds amazing, but I’ve struggled to find a plan that didn’t intimidate me.
I refuse to cut carbs for an entire week or limit my food intake to liquids. I want to continue living my life as it is, but maybe just a little healthier. So, I recruited the help of a registered dietitian and nutritionist, Lisa Mastela, MPH, RD, to help design a doable seven-day plan that didn’t require drastic measures.
Lisa made it clear right off the bat that she wasn’t an advocate of traditional detoxes (as most registered dietitians aren’t) for these reasons: detoxes can actually inhibit, not promote, weight loss; your liver already serves as a built-in detox system, making most detoxes redundant; and many detoxes involve juice, which are typically high in sugar and low in fiber (no fiber, equals no detox).
But if your goal is to feel energized or kickstart healthy habits, Lisa’s all for a solid detox. “Being in tune with your ‘why’ — specific to you — will help you avoid putting energy into unnecessary parts of a detox and allow you to focus on your end game and getting there,” she told POPSUGAR.
“For instance, if you want to feel more energized, detoxing on a juice cleanse but then staying up late on Instagram is not going to do anything to your energy levels. If you want to feel more balanced, spending your whole weekend meal prepping vegan detox meals till you’re blue in the face and doing nothing to adjust your work schedule is not going to get you there.”
Basically, hone in on your goals, in the beginning, to avoid undoing all your hard work in the process. Before we get into Lisa’s day-by-day breakdown, here are six things she says are absolutely necessary in a worthy detox.
Whole fruits and vegetables: Not only do fruits and veggies contain essential vitamins and minerals, but they also have soluble and insoluble fiber. You’ll find out which kind of fiber is best right below, but know that fiber is like a “scrub brush for your body,” as Lisa calls it. It’ll help cleanse your system more efficiently, while picking up the important parts that will aid your detox. She recommends eating fruits and vegetables at least eight to 10 times per day during a detox, either raw, steamed, lightly roasted (meaning cooked with minimal olive oil or avocado oil), or in a smoothie.
Soluble fiber from foods: The difference between soluble and insoluble fiber is whether or not a food is absorbent. For example, if you were to leave a stick of celery in a cup of water overnight, it’d remain in the same state the next morning.
But if you were to soak quinoa, chia seeds, 100-percent whole wheat bread, or steel-cut oats, you’d wake up to a soggy scene — that’s soluble fiber (the “sticky bristles”) and that’s what you want in a detox. Other soluble foods include barley, farro, softer vegetables, and crispbread (GG crackers).
Pro tip from Lisa: enjoy plenty of beans and legumes as they’re a good mix of insoluble and soluble fiber, and protein.
Intermittent fasting (done your way): According to Lisa, your body is capable of making its own antioxidants. “You can produce something called superoxide dismutase-2 (SOD2), which acts as a natural antioxidant, and let me tell you: it is a lot stronger than some blueberries,” she said. “The trouble is, it’s ‘turned off’ (in a sense) when you consume glucose.”
A way to activate your body’s antioxidant-producing powers is to fast. Before you stop reading any further, fasting can be done in your sleep! “While detoxing, try finishing dinner before seven p.m. and then have breakfast after seven a.m. — BAM. That’s a 12-hour fast.” Pausing food for about eight to 16 hours (which can include sleep time!) in a day can help your body produce more SOD2 and detox itself of free radicals. But remember, fasting doesn’t mean you should eliminate water, too. Always stay hydrated.
Room temperature or warm water: Fiber absolutely needs water in order to do its job, so increase your water intake when upping your fiber. Otherwise, you won’t have much fun in the bathroom. Start each day with a full cup of hot or room-temperature water (decaf tea counts). How much water you should drink depends on your weight, but Lisa says a good rule of thumb is eight to 12 glasses a day: one to two big ones in the morning, two to three bottles at work, and three large glasses in the evening.
Matching your lifestyle to your detox: You cannot successfully detox without making any other changes to your life outside of nutrition. The three major areas you should also focus on, according to Lisa, are activity, stress, and technology. If a 30- to 45-minute walk each day doesn’t sound appealing, try being more active throughout the day by taking desk breaks every hour, for example.
De-stressing is also crucial, so find ways to unwind whether it’s deep breathing or getting extra sleep. If you’re in desperate need of less screen time, install an app to limit usage, charge your phone in another room, etc. “Staring at the blue light emitted from screens before bed can negatively impact the quality of your sleep, and high-quality sleep is an essential part of a detox,” said Lisa.
Sweat: Whether its a jog, a hot yoga class, or a sauna, mix it up and get in a good sweat sesh. You’ll feel great and cleanse your body simultaneously. If you’re new to high-heat activities, be sure to ease yourself into it. Lisa recommends beginners start with 10 minutes of sauna max and if you’re trying hot yoga, snag a spot near the door and take plenty of breaks in between poses. And of course, remember to replenish yourself with at least one to two glasses of water.
Sleep: “Sleep is an essential piece of a detox and skimping on it can stand in the way of any benefits you might see detoxing,” Lisa said. Seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep per night will help your body recharge. To improve your quality of sleep, Lisa says to avoid screens one to two hours before bedtime, winding down with a nice hot shower or with some stretches, sleeping with zero lighting and sounds in the room, and maybe even moving your pet to a different spot so you’re left undisturbed.
Although the following list is not mandatory, Lisa recommends avoiding these foods during your detox if you truly want to go above and beyond.
Alcohol and any drugs or cigarettes
Artificial sweeteners (Splenda, stevia, etc.)
Refined, white carbohydrates and sugars (pastries, cookies, crackers, candy, sugary drinks, white pasta/bread, etc.)
Processed oils (stick to olive oil, avocado oil, and/or walnut oil during a detox)