The common idea of a detox can be a detour away from your optimal eating habits, and a false quick fix. That’s why I recommend a reboot instead.
By “reboot” I mean a process that restores your energy and health through well-balanced nutrition. Rather than the deprivation of a quick detox, a reboot uses the powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals in nutrient-rich foods to support your entire body — cells, organs, immune system and mind. That sustains you for life, not just a few days.
It seems 'detoxes' are everywhere lately, with people subsisting just on juice or tea or something similar in order to flush the “impurities” out of their cells. But — how does that even work? To my knowledge, no one food or herb has ever been demonstrated to be able to "detox" the organs and I am not aware of any research that has been able to identify the “toxins.”
If we have functioning skin, liver and kidneys, we are detoxing every day. Even if a quick detox works for weight loss, the gains are short-term because you can't stay on it forever. While you might lose weight, that's only because you're not getting enough calories. A detox might briefly make you feel better, because you haven't eaten junk food for a few days, but does that really mean you've made long-term progress?
So for all these reasons I've developed the idea of a nutrition reboot. In my private practice I’ve helped hundreds of clients reboot their bodies through balanced nutrition. The results of that experience have led me to write my new book, Whole Body Reboot. The idea is simple, but revelatory. Rather than just cleaning up your eating for a few hungry days, a nutrition reboot is designed to get your eating habits on track, so that your whole body – your organs, your skin, your brain, your heart, your immune system, and your mind – are all feeling renewed.
Here's the idea: you fill your body full of nutrient-dense foods, rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. All of these nutrients help restore your entire body’s systems for optimal function. You feel better physically because you are consuming fulfilling, satisfying healthy food, not just junk. And you feel better psychologically because you know you're taking care of yourself with good and balanced nutrition and that is a prolonged detoxifying effect. It's a great way to start the New Year – or a new day.
Here are five steps for a successful nutrition reboot:
1. Make Smoothies: Some of the clients I see in my private practice feel overwhelmed by the challenge of incorporating into their daily eating all the fruits and vegetables I recommend. You can imagine what they say, because you might be thinking it yourself: “Oh my goodness, I have to eat all these vegetables? I don’t have time! I can’t cook!” Here’s what I say: We know eating whole fruits and vegetables is best. However, a good and simple way to start incorporating fruits and vegetables is by making healthy smoothies.
A healthy smoothie isn't some sugary drink full of just fruits with added sugars. It instead brings together a colorful variety of fruits and plenty vegetables. A rule of thumb for the fruit is to keep the proportions balanced by limiting them from 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup per serving. You also balance the fruits and vegetables by adding some healthy fats rich in monounsaturated and omega-3, which are known to be anti-inflammatory, such as avocado, chia seeds and flaxseeds, among others.
To make it a complete meal, I love to add protein powder. I do recommend that when making your smoothies you vary the colors, so you can benefit from an array of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are the substances in fruits and vegetables that give them their color, and can protect the human body from disease as well. While there is science behind phytochemicals, there is no single scientific way to make a smoothie. Still, that’s the pleasure of it – as long as you try to balance in the ingredients in the way I suggest, there is lots of room for creativity!
2. Eat up antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods: Free radicals are a real problem. A free radical is an unstable molecule that latches onto healthy cells making them unstable as well, creating a chain reaction. Their number one characteristic is their ability to contact our DNA and mutate the strains. As we know, mutated genes can lead to cancer or other chronic diseases, and the chronic inflammation caused by these free radicals is almost as bad.
The antioxidants in anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, and fats can help reduce the number and effect of free radicals by neutralizing free floating free radical throughout the body. Therefore, include these foods in your daily meals.
3. Be colorful: I can’t say this enough. The key to healthy nutrition is variety. Far from drinking just tea for days on end, the way to help your body repair and restore itself is through a full range of healthy foods. The simplest way to think about this concept is color. The colors in fruits and vegetables are caused by phytochemicals, which have been shown to have a range of healthy properties. So I recommend you eat blueberries, strawberries, purple potatoes, colored corn, black rice, yams, and all the other colors of the fruit and vegetable rainbow.
4. Get cooking: If there's one incredible thing you could do for your health it’s to cook your own meals. You can't really get control of your nutrition and your health until you know exactly what you're putting in your body – and restaurants and packaged foods are all about hiding that information from you. If you are preparing your own food you are in control of your own nutrition. Remember that cooking isn't just about dinner; prepare and pack your lunches as well. Once you get in the habit you won't believe you ever did it any other way (bonus: you'll save money, too!).
5. De-stress: You need to catch up on your sleep, and think about your breathing. Lack of sleep increases production of ghrelin, the hormone that creates the sensation of hunger. If you don’t sleep enough (at least six hours!) you will feel hungrier – and you’ll be less able to resist that hunger because you’re fatigued. Your stress starts to feed on itself, and to make you over-feed yourself. Sleep is key to breaking that cycle.
Even if you’re well rested, you can reduce stress further through conscious breathing. Take a couple of minutes during the day, maybe at lunchtime and again during an afternoon break, to breathe in deeply and slowly for a count of seven, and then out for a count of eight. Do this a few times in a row until you feel like you can let go of your stress. Committing to this practice plus a good night’s sleep every night will help your body restore itself more than any detox ever could.
Remember – the only true detox is rebooting your nutrition completely. These tips are just the beginning for making the next year your healthiest ever.
Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian in private practice, MV Nutrition, award winning nutrition and weight loss center in San Francisco. He is the founder and creator of Eating Free, an international weight management and wellness program and author of three books, Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes and his newest book, Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss.