Thirty-day cleanses can differ, depending on the diet you choose. For instance, the Whole30 diet asks you to stop eating many different foods, including sugars, dairy, legumes, grains and alcohol. However, other 30-day detox diets may vary, based on what you're trying to cleanse from your body.
Read more: 12 Health Trends That Are Not Healthy
Different 30-Day Detox Diets
Full body detox diets and cleanses are increasingly popular ways to eliminate organic pollutants from the body. These diets are meant to enhance your body's ability to remove toxins — a function primarily performed by the kidneys and liver. Certain diets, like the popular Whole30 diet, make additional claims, as well. This diet is a 30-day cleanse that is meant to improve overall health.
The Whole30 diet is fairly strict. It mandates the removal of foods like added sugars, dairy products, legumes, grains, alcohol, junk foods, processed and prepared foods, as well as a variety of popular preservatives and flavor enhancers.
In theory, the removal of these foods for a 30-day period should positively influence digestion, mood stability, energy levels, athletic performance and other aspects of day-to-day life. However, according to a December 2014 study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, there are no randomized, controlled clinical trials validating the benefits of such diets.
That being said, a wide variety of foods can support the detoxification abilities of your kidneys and liver. For example, antioxidants are well-known for their detoxifying qualities. The study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics states that a variety of other foods, like coriander, nori and chlorella, can also help remove heavy metals and other organic pollutants from your body.
Other plant-based foods can also be useful in a full body detox. Foods with succinic acid, malic acid, citric acid and citric pectin can also help remove heavy metals, like aluminum, from the body. Foods rich in nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium and selenium can also reduce certain toxins, like mercury.
Integrating more of these foods or nutrients into your diet can certainly be beneficial to your health. However, these foods all remove different pollutants and toxins. While there's no harm in integrating healthy foods, like seaweed or coriander, into your diet, it's unlikely that these foods will have a major effect on your health.
If you're concerned about heavy metal poisoning or other pollutants in your body, you should consult your doctor or nutritionist before attempting a full body detox. However, if you're simply trying to eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet in order to improve your overall health, you may very well be fine trying out a 30-day detox like the Whole30 diet.
Benefits of the Whole30 Diet
The Whole30 diet recommends following the diet plan for 30 days — which means that it is more of an elimination diet. This diet is meant to help you identify foods that may be causing or increasing feelings of fatigue, bloating or stomach cramps, general malaise and other issues.
Elimination diets can certainly have their benefits. For instance, these diets are often used to identify allergies and intolerances. In the case of Whole30, you're removing foods that might negatively affect your gut and have the potential to trigger an inflammatory response.
For example, processed foods and junk foods are known to have a variety of negative effects on health. The American Heart Association states that most Americans consume too much sodium, which is bad for your heart. The vast majority of this sodium comes from prepared foods like these.
Similarly, refined grains (like white bread and rice) are very popular, but they aren't particularly healthy. These products lack important nutrients, particularly dietary fiber.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, most Americans are deficient in this nutrient, which is extremely important for the health of your gastrointestinal system. Removing refined foods from your diet in favor of more nutritious carbohydrates, like vegetables, can be a healthy part of a 30-day cleanse.
The added sugars in sweetened beverages, baked goods and candy are also known to be bad for you, especially when consumed in excess. According to the American Heart Association, large amounts of these sugars can contribute to weight gain and obesity, and negatively affect your cardiovascular health.
The Whole30 diet removes all of these added sugars. It even bans sugar alcohols, like erythritol and xylitol, which are known to cause gastrointestinal side effects. However, naturally sweet foods, like pineapple and mango, are considered to be a perfectly healthy choice. Removing added sugars and replacing them with natural ones is likely to have a positive effect on just about anyone's health.
If your ideal full body detox involves the elimination of products like these, detoxing with the Whole30 diet or another similar program can be a good idea. Removing unhealthy foods from your diet, even when it's only for short periods, can certainly benefit your health.
Read more: Top 10 Cleansing Foods
Downsides to the Whole30 Diet
Although the Whole30 diet and similar full body detox diets have their benefits, there are also downsides to these programs. While they may be healthy in certain ways, they may not actually be able to provide any medical benefits.
These diets also have the potential to be unhealthy, especially if you follow them long-term. This is primarily because of the elimination of various plant-based foods, as well as the restriction of most plant-based proteins and vegetable oils.
The Whole30 diet mandates the elimination of all grains (even whole grains), legumes and soy products. It also recommends that you limit the consumption of most nuts and seeds. These are all foods that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans consider to be healthy and rich in fiber. If you choose to follow a 30-day cleanse of this type, make sure that you're getting enough dietary fiber from other plant-based products.
These restrictions mean that people following this diet are also removing healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids from their diet. Because this diet encourages people to ingest nondairy animal products, you could end up replacing these healthy plant-based fats with unhealthy saturated fats, instead.
If your 30-day cleanse has this type of restriction, make sure you're consuming seafood and organic meats, which are more likely to contain healthy polyunsaturated fats. Excessive saturated fat consumption can raise your cholesterol levels and be bad for your heart.
Is This an Emergency?
- FDA: "Sugars"
- FDA: "Total Fat"
- Whole30: "Shopping List for Omnivores"
- Health.gov: "2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Fiber"
- American Heart Association: "9 out of 10 Americans Eat Too Much Sodium Infographic"
- Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: "Detox Diets for Toxin Elimination and Weight Management: A Critical Review of the Evidence"
- The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom