Everything you Need to Know about the Detox Diet

fruits and vegetables

A detox diet helps you rid your body of toxins by eating healthier. A detox focuses on nutrition and fresh, whole foods, not calories or losing weight. Most people choose a seven-day detox, and give up fried, greasy and processed foods in favor of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and organically raised meats.

We’re subject to toxins all day from the air we breathe to the cleaning solutions we use – and even the food we eat. If you're used to eating food on the go or picking up what's on sale at the supermarket, you may find yourself gaining weight, feeling sluggish and calling in sick from work more often.

A seven-day detox with whole, fresh foods can help you feel better without committing to a sudden, permanent change. Here’s how to do it.

Rules to Make a Seven-Day Detox Easier

  1. Ease into your seven-day detox by eating less sugar, salt, and packaged foods in the days before you start your cleanse. Substitute green tea or black tea for coffee, and replace your morning doughnut with whole wheat toast or a bran muffin.
  2. Construct your week-long detox diet by combining your choice of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, seeds, beans, lean meats, and poultry. Drink water, herbal or low to no caffeine tea, and a limited amount of fruit juice.
  3. Add any fresh, unprocessed food to your list of detox goodies. If you’re used to eating greasy and fried foods with a high-sugar or high-salt content, you may think that fresh foods are bland, but you’d be surprised how many tasty meals you can prepare with veggies, fruits, organically raised beef and poultry, fresh-caught fish and spices.
  4. Avoid packaged foods, excess sugar, caffeine and sodium during your detox. If you must eat in a restaurant or order take-out, stick to vegetarian eateries or establishments with at least a few healthy choices. (SweetGreen and Veggie Grill are two veggie chains that have locations across the country.)
  5. It’s best to start your detox on a Friday if you work a convention 9 to 5 schedule. It will give you more free time to get used to your new diet.

Detoxing Means Improving Your Health

woman raising her hand
  • Don’t think of a detox diet as something negative. You're not giving up fun foods. You're learning to love other foods that are better for you. Detox is part of an overall self-improvement routine that should include exercise, restful sleep, and meditation.
  • A detox is designed to rid your body of toxins from processed foods, alcohol, smoking, and a sedentary and or stressful lifestyle.
  • Try to rearrange your life to alleviate as much stress as you can. Avoid toxic people and situations. If you must deal with work stress, learn deep breathing techniques, meditation, yoga or have a relaxing massage to release toxins.
  • Exercise more during your detox week. You don’t need to suddenly run a marathon if you’re used to sitting at a computer all day. Simply walk more or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Do a few jumping jacks or jump rope every day, or go to the gym for half-an-hour.
  • You may feel a bit lethargic during the first day or so of your detox, so exercise in 5 or 10-minute segments. Do just enough to get your body moving. As the days go by, you'll find yourself exercising more and more without planning to – it's the endorphins that are making you feel so good!

No Nightcaps

Don’t drink beer, wine or hard liquor during your detox. Abstaining from alcohol will give your liver a rest. Your liver metabolizes alcohol. Any alcoholic beverage you drink breaks down into the chemical acetaldehyde before it's completely removed from the body. Acetaldehyde can damage your liver and tissues in your body.

Giving up alcohol for your detox week will prevent any liver damage and make it easier for you to avoid alcohol (or drink it sparingly) when you return to your regular diet.

Eat Foods with Essential Amino Acids


Amino acids help make protein. You get essential amino acids from the food you eat; your body can’t make them. Your body can produce non-essential amino acids. There are 20 essential amino acids and three non-essential amino acids.

Amino acids perform hundreds of function in your body, including tissue repair, energy production and the break down of the food you eat. The proteins in your body are produced by amino acids.

Your detox diet should include plenty of amino acids from both plant and animal sources.

The foods highest in essential amino acids are

  • Chicken, turkey and red meat
  • Eggs
  • Quinoa
  • Soy

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you can choose from spinach, cranberries, kale, avocados, peanuts, chia seeds, legumes, broccoli, apples, seaweed (or spirulina supplements), rice and cantaloupes.

Spice Up Your Meals for a Better Detox


Instead of using salt, choose from a variety of spices to flavor your food. Cayenne pepper can reduce blood pressure, relieve pain (it’s used in topical arthritis medication) and dull your appetite. This pepper ranges from mildly spicy to hot, and is often used in fajitas, tacos, burritos and other Mexican dishes.

Garlic lowers blood pressure and adds flavor to Italian food and many other cuisines. Cinnamon and ginger make desserts taste sweet without sugar. Bright orange turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and is one of the main spices used in Indian food.

Drink Plenty of Water


Drinking filtered or bottled water helps flush out toxins in your body. The long-held notion of drinking eight glasses of water a day works for most people, although others may need slightly more or slightly less. For detox purposes, you should drink a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning, using juice from a fresh lemon.

Don’t use reconstituted lemon juice in your morning lemon water. It contains sodium benzoate, a preservative and known carcinogen that’s also found in soda.

Water fills you up and prevents you from overeating. It also helps keep your skin smooth and youthful-looking and aids your digestion system.

Make Herbal Tea and Green Tea Part of Your Routine


If you can’t exist on water alone, add low or no-caffeine tea to you beverage list.

Black tea, herbal tea, and green tea have inflammation-fighting antioxidants, with much less caffeine than coffee.

Green tea has long been touted as an excellent tea for overall well being. The antioxidants in green tea include catechins to keep cells healthy. EGCG, one of the most powerful catechins, helps protect you against free radicals. Green tea can also help you lose weight by curbing your appetite and increasing your metabolism.

This tea also has L-theanine, which reduces stress and helps you focus better

Although green tea has some caffeine, L-theanine and other antioxidants counteract its effect.

Cleansing ginger tea has a sharp, sweet taste, and it improves digestion and circulation. It contains the antioxidant gingerol, which rids the body of harmful chemicals caused by stress. Use chopped ginger, hot water and a lemon slice for quick anxiety relief.

Cut Down on Sugar


Consuming too much sugar puts excess pressure on your pancreas. It makes your body produce more insulin. You can develop diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or become tired more easily when you eat more than the recommended daily value of sugar (six teaspoons for women, nine teaspoons for men) regularly.

Consuming lots of sugar has been linked to atherosclerosis, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome –namely all the factors that lead to heart disease.

Replace cakes, pies, candy and other sugary treats with fruits or nuts during your detox. You will curb weight gain, and you may kick the excess sugar habit for good.

Add More Fiber to Your Diet

bread and some fruits

Add more legumes, beans, nuts, whole wheat bread and seeds to your diet. Eliminate white bread, croissants, doughnuts, muffins, and other foods made with refined flour.

You'll still have plenty of choices when it comes to bread, crackers, and muffins. You can substitute bran, quinoa, spelt, millet, coconut, oat or almond flour for white flour. Gluten-free flours include pumpkin seed, sesame seed, and flax seed meal.

It may take a few days to get used to eating a fiber-heavy diet, but drinking herbal tea may keep your digestive system working at peak efficiency.

Have a Smoothie for Breakfast


Save time and calories in the morning by making a smoothie with yogurt and your choice of fresh fruit. Make a strawberry-banana smoothie or opt for the more exotic papaya or passion fruit smoothies. If you’d rather have a hot breakfast, try steel-cut oats with blueberries and chopped nuts as a topping.

Making a smoothie at home only takes a few minutes, and you have complete control over the ingredients. Smoothies made at restaurants may have added sugar or preservatives, and the machines that dispense them may not be cleaned regularly.

Get Creative at Dinner

meal on the table

It’s easy to eat a high-fat, high-sodium dinner - all you need to do is buy something pre-packaged out of the freezer section in your supermarket or order a fast food meal.

A healthy detox meal requires more creativity in the kitchen than your standard dinner, but your body will thank you for it later. Here's a list of some tasty, low-calorie meals you can prepare in minutes during your detox week.

Carrot, Ginger and Orange Soup

Salmon with Citrus, Fennel, and Chiles

  • Spicy Kimchi Stew with Tofu
  • Turkey and Cabbage Salad with Spices
  • Red Snapper with Salsa Verde

Don't those recipes sound a lot more interesting than having another cheeseburger or spaghetti with bottled sauce?

You may not feel any difference in your mental or physical health until the fifth day of your detox diet, but the results will be worth it. You’ll feel refreshed and energetic, and you may have no desire to go back to your old, high-calorie, high-fat diet.

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