How to Choose a Detox Diet for Weight Loss

Three Parts:Selecting a Safe Detox PlanAvoiding Unsafe Detox PlansLosing and Maintaining Weight Safely

Detox diets are a popular method for weight loss. Many claim to help you lose weight quickly, clean harmful toxins from your body, and make you feel better. Detox diet plans range from being very restrictive all liquid diets, to more inclusive and whole foods-based diets. The idea of resetting your body and starting fresh with a detox diet can be appealing (especially if you have been eating poorly or drinking a lot of alcohol). However, not all detox diets are safe and not all result in long-term sustainable weight loss. Carefully choose a safe and well-balanced detox plan to help you lose weight.

Part 1
Selecting a Safe Detox Plan

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    Talk to your doctor. Regardless of what type of diet you choose, make sure to talk to your doctor first. This is especially important if you are going to follow a detox diet. You'll need to make sure your detox diet of choice is safe and appropriate for you.
    • It'll be especially important to talk to your doctor regarding your detox diet. Because there is such a large variability in these diets, your doctor should know exactly what diet you're doing and why.
    • In addition, if you choose to do a detox that is very restrictive, low calorie or liquids only, you'll need to make sure these are safe for you. Some methods of dieting are not appropriate for everyone.
    • Also, talk to your doctor about weight loss. Ask if he or she has any advice or suggestions for you.
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    Go for a plan that suggests whole, unprocessed foods. You may find detox plans that suggest only eating unprocessed, whole foods. These are great plans to follow as they're generally not overly restrictive and get you to eat more nutritious foods.
    • This type of detox diet stresses eating a wide variety of nutrient dense, whole foods.
    • Nutrient dense foods are those that are minimally processed, moderately low in calories, but very high in a variety of nutrients (like fiber, protein or vitamins).[1]
    • Foods that fall into this category include: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, seafood and dairy products.
    • Sticking to the perimeter of the grocery is an easy way to find and stick to these whole foods.
    • Some minimally processed versions of these foods are appropriate as well. Frozen fruits and vegetables are minimally processed, but do not have additives. The same goes for canned beans, vegetables, or fruits that have no added salt or sugar.
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    Choose a detox plan that restricts additives. Many detox diets do limit certain types of foods - especially added sugars and processed foods. Eliminating these foods can help you feel a lot better and help you lose weight.[2]
    • Foods that are highly processed, have a lot of preservatives, or have added sugars may be a lot higher in calories and fat. If you're eating these foods on a regular basis, it can be difficult to lose weight.
    • Foods that fall into this group that are okay to avoid include the following: sweetened beverages, sugary cereals, cookies, chips, crackers, cakes/pies, breakfast pastries, frozen meals, canned meals, processed meats (like deli meat or sausage) and candy.
    • You can safely eliminate these foods without affecting your health or body in a negative way. In fact, many people report feeling much better after a few days without these types of foods.
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    Look for plans that focus on drinking adequate fluids. Many detox plans do promote the consumption of adequate fluid consumption. Drinking adequate water and other hydrating fluids prevents dehydration and can flush toxins from your body.[3]
    • Most health professionals suggest consuming a minimum of 64 oz or 8 glasses of clear fluids daily. However, detox diets may suggest drinking a lot more - close to 10-13 glasses daily.
    • Since many detox plans do limit additives like sugar or even artificial sweeteners, your choices for fluids may be limited. This is a good idea as you should get used to drinking regular water and limiting artificial flavorings, colors and sweeteners.
    • Items like water, sparkling water, infused waters or tea may be your only option when you're detoxing, as they do not have additives.
    • If you do get more of a choice, you can try decaf coffee or flavored waters as well.
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    Choose a detox diet that has a specified time period. Most diets, especially detox diets, will come with a time limit or specified time period. This is important to look for in your plan, as you may not be able to safely follow your detox diet for an extended period of time.
    • Long-term fasting by restricting multiple food groups or following a liquid diet can be dangerous and is generally not recommended. This can result in nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, and loss of muscle mass.[4]
    • If your detox plan does come with some fasting, that's okay, but should be limited to a few days for most people. Consult with your physician.
    • If your detox diet is more well-balanced and includes multiple food groups, you can most likely follow this for a more extended period of time since you're not overly restricting nutrients.

Part 2
Avoiding Unsafe Detox Plans

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    Look for quick fixes or fads. One common aspects of many detox diets is that they are advertised as quick fixes. This makes them a fad or trendy diet, which are not recommended by health professionals.
    • Detox plans that promise quick weight loss (like lose 21 pounds in 21 days) are never considered safe or effective.[5] In fact, if you see marketing like this, you should stay away from these detox plans.
    • These plans generally cannot actually produce those results to start with. In addition, the method they use to attempt to reach those results are generally unsafe and unfounded (like drinking water with lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup).
    • If you are scanning through different detox diets, stay far away from plans that seem like a quick fix, are too good to be true or are overly restrictive.
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    Avoid plans that suggest taking a lot of supplements. When researching detox diets, you'll notice that some diet plans suggest the use of multiple supplements. If you notice this, do not follow those detox plans.
    • One very common supplement you may see sold with a detox plan is a fiber supplement or a colon cleanse. These are not safe and should not be used. Do not follow a detox plan that suggests these.[6]
    • If a plan suggests taking a lot of vitamin or mineral supplements (like B12 supplements), avoid it. Most people do not need large doses of vitamins. If taken, they could be dangerous.
    • Also avoid herbal supplements (unless discussed with your physician). Some herbal supplements (like St. John's Wort) can interfere with other medications and some health conditions.
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    Don't follow diets that suggest only doing liquids. Many detox plans do have a few days worth or a longer period of time of all liquids. These could range from juice fasts or fasts that rely more or less on water only. It's never recommended to follow these programs.[7]
    • Detox plans that advise liquid fasts can be dangerous to your body. Many times, they lead to nutrient deficiencies and fatigue.[8]
    • In addition, the weight lost is usually water weight and is regained the minute you return to eating regular foods.
    • Liquid fasts are probably the least effective dieting system. Weight regain generally happens very quickly after stopping the diet.
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    Avoid detox diets that suggest limiting many foods or food groups. Although some detox plans restrict foods (like processed foods or sugar), they still include a large variety of foods in general. There are other plans that restrict much larger food groups and should be avoided.
    • If you're reading through your detox plan and notice that it suggest restricting wheat or gluten, dairy or protein, this is not an appropriate or safe program to follow.[9]
    • When you limit multiple food groups or large varieties of foods, you're limiting the amount of nutrients you're able to eat. Again, this could lead to nutrient deficiencies over time.
    • In addition, if your detox plan suggests only having fruits or vegetables, make sure it includes adequate protein intake (e.g., beans, legumes, peas, kale, broccoli rabe, mushrooms).[10]. Inadequate protein intake could result in loss of muscle mass instead of fat over time.

Part 3
Losing and Maintaining Weight Safely

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    Incorporate physical activity. After you've chosen a detox plan to follow, you'll want to maintain whatever weight you've lost. To do that, make sure you also include regular physical activity into your routine.
    • Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and can help you continue to lose weight.[11]
    • Health professionals recommend to include at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. This ends up being about 2 1/2 hours every week.[12]
    • Aerobic exercise should be moderate intensity. You can walk, jog, use the elliptical, take a spin class, or go hiking.
    • In addition to aerobic exercise, make sure to include 1-2 days of strength training as well. Yoga, weight lifting or pilates are great exercises to help build lean muscle mass.
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    Limit sweets and high fat and greasy foods. If your detox diet eliminated processed foods, like sweets or high fat foods, this is a good idea to continue long-term. Limiting these foods can help you maintain your weight loss.[13]
    • Many processed foods are higher in sugar, fat, sodium and calories. Limiting these foods long-term will most likely help you maintain your weight loss.
    • Foods that fall into this overly processed category include: sweetened beverages, candy, cookies, cake, breakfast pastries, sugary cereals, fried foods, fast foods and processed meats.
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    Follow appropriate portion sizes. One area where people do slip up and make mistakes is in regards to portion size. Even if you eat larger portions of healthier foods, you could still end up regaining some of your weight long-term.
    • For protein, you want to make sure to include a 3-4 oz serving at every meal or snack.[14] This will help ensure you're getting enough protein everyday, but still stay within an appropriate calorie level.
    • Fruits and vegetables should also make an appearance at each meal to make sure you eat the recommended 5-9 servings daily. Aim for 1/2 cup of fruit or 1 small piece, 1 cup of vegetables or 2 cups of leafy greens.[15][16]
    • Dairy does fall into the protein group, but has a separate portion size recommendation. Go for 1 cup of milk, yogurt or cottage cheese and 1-2 ounces of cheese.[17]
    • Grains should also be portion sized - especially since people tend to overeat on this group specifically. Measure out 1/2 cup of cooked grains or 1-2 ounces of grains.[18]


  • Do some research on various detox diets before starting on any. The library is a good source of information.
  • Consult friends and family members on what detox diets have or have not worked for them.


  • Transition gradually back to your regular diet once your detox diet is over. Your digestive system takes time to adjust to greater food load.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating | Diet & Lifestyle