In a conversation before Christmas I was asking what others were doing in the New Year. One individual said to me “Oh, after Christmas we are going to do a detox cleanse, I think it’s a good way to start the year.” I hope my inside voice didn’t betray itself with any outward look of “how stupid”.

I really don’t understand how people buy into fads and crazes, maybe it’s just that I was brought up with a healthy dose of skepticism towards pretty much everything, and years of existence in a University setting where the name of the game was question everything and investigate what you can with all the means at your disposal. I’ve been openly criticized for my skepticism and disbelief on more topics than I can possibly remember, but it’s not that I think anyone is an idiot for thinking outside the box, it’s a case of challenging any new assumption since I think every new idea ‘should’ be challenged. If an idea is sound, if a thought is solid, it will stand up to a challenge. If it’s not a good idea, it won’t stand up to challenge.

It’s really that simple.

Question, justify, rationalize, pass the test of scrutiny.

Don’t get angry that your ideas are being questioned, clearly explain them to yourself and others, based on defensible evidence, and the challenge ends. If you can’t do that, then the idea simply isn’t sound and shouldn’t be spread.

Like the detox craze; it’s pure hype, complete bollocks, and can be downright harmful. If you think you are eating poison, then head to the hospital right now. Otherwise, assuming you are eating normal food you cooked or purchased at the grocery store, be judicious, eat as healthily as you can, and let the elegant systems in your body do their thing.

And then this article showed up in my Vancouver Sun this morning, and it’s worth a repost.

I still chuckle at the tweet put out years ago by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who suggested use of the word toxin correlates “with how much chemistry the person does not know.” No doubt we’ll be pummelled by that word and its cousin “detox” as the diet industry aims to profit from resolution-makers. But is there anything true or helpful about detoxing? Ellie Krieger asks Rebecca Katz, author and founder of the Healing Kitchens Institute. As a consultant, teacher and chef, Katz helps medical professionals incorporate flavour and nutrition into their work.


Q Have our bodies actually built up toxins during holiday partying? Do we need to do something about it ASAP, as many marketers would have us believe?

A A toxin is a substance considered poisonous, so unless those cookies you’ve been eating are laced with arsenic, I don’t think you have to “detox” on Jan. 1. Besides, our bodies are designed to detox 24/7. If they didn’t do this, we wouldn’t survive.

Q So we don’t need to do something drastic to correct for all the sugar and alcohol we consumed?

A You can engage in the occasional feast if you take care of yourself throughout the year. Cutting back on sugar and highly processed foods and adding ample vegetables to your plate year-round will enhance your body’s ability to do its own selfcleaning.

Q How do you think the word “detox” has been misused? Why is this a problem?

A The word has been so overused in the marketing of products that it’s lost all meaning. As a result, people tend to either recoil or think they have to go on some severe, punishing cleanse. Marketers who peddle goods that promise to detox your body, especially in a limited amount of time, are usually fearmongering and playing on our vulnerabilities to sell products. The best products I know for enhancing our bodies’ ability to detox don’t have fancy packaging or labels. They are the fruits and vegetables hanging in the produce section.

Q You say a short-term “detox” cleanse is not how it works. How does detoxification actually work in our bodies?

A The liver breaks down harmful compounds — everything from pesticides to alcohol — and converts them into water-soluble molecules so they can be flushed from your system. If the detox process is efficient — and if you are generally healthy and eat well, it will be — ordinary toxins roll merrily along through the body’s waterways, exiting most often as either urine or bile.

Q How can we optimize our bodies’ natural detoxification?

A There are plenty of nutrients that keep the liver and the rest of the body happy, including one you may not expect: fibre. Some of the final products of detoxification are heavy metals that mostly come from the environment. If everything is working right, those heavy metals hitch a ride out of the body with dietary fibre. Another way we can optimize the body’s natural detox system is by staying well hydrated. Studies show that the more water, broths and herbal teas we drink, the better the kidneys flush numerous metabolic byproducts. Also, adding colourful plants rich in phytonutrients will go a long way to strengthening your immune system and vacuuming out unwanted compounds.

Q What are some of the top detoxifying foods?

A Artichokes, avocados, asparagus, beets, cilantro, mint, parsley, broccoli (and particularly broccoli sprouts), cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, wasabi, horseradish, radishes, turnips, kale, cabbage, arugula, garlic, onions and lemons will all help our bodies haul out the liver’s metabolic trash.

Q How can we harness detoxification to reach long-term health goals?

A Falling in love with vegetables, herbs and spices — nature’s best cleaning crew — will help you boost your body’s ability to rid itself of internal debris.
That might mean adding freshly chopped herbs to your plate or a spritz of lemon in your tea, roasting some broccoli, or sautéing garlic and onions as the base of a soup or sauce. Every little shift counts. We have this tendency after the holidays to put ourselves on a long, non-stop guilt trip. We splurge and purge and beat ourselves up over it.

I have a better idea: Find a way that works for you to relax and enjoy life throughout the year. Now that the new year is upon us, it would be more productive and fun to look at all the nourishing foods we can incorporate into our lives with joy instead of dread.

Ellie Krieger – Washington Post