An apple a day may be common advice, but make sure that's not all you're eating. Diets like the apple detox diet are based on the mistaken idea that your body is filled with toxins and you must take extra steps to get rid of them, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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"The truth is that your body is designed to detoxify itself — you don't need a special product to do it for you," says St. Louis-based Whitney Linsenmeyer, PhD, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and an assistant professor of nutrition at Saint Louis University.
Read more: 11 Reasons You Shouldn't Do That Detox or Cleanse
Restrictive Diets Are Risky
Furthermore, a detox diet that encourages you to eat only certain foods — whether for three days, seven days or longer — may be too restrictive. It will deprive your body of essential nutrients, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
"Human bodies are designed to use a variety of energy sources, specifically carbohydrates, proteins and fats," says Caroline Passerrello, RDN, LND, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Pittsburgh. "When a diet only provides one or two foods, even foods that have a variety of nutrients, the overall diet will not be sufficient and our bodies will not function as they are designed to, because no one food contains all of the nutrients our bodies need to survive."
If weight loss is the goal, a highly restrictive diet can even have a counterproductive effect by slowing your metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body burns, Linsenmeyer says.
Detox Diet Myths
Your body's natural detoxification system is constantly working to flush out the toxins you take in through the air you breathe or the food you eat. The kidneys and liver pull out toxins — including heavy metals like mercury and lead, or chemicals from alcohol, tobacco and drugs — and flush them out through urine, feces and sweat, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
It's possible for toxins to build up in your body, but the best way to avoid this is to limit your exposure to toxins and support your body's natural detox system. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests you can help your detox system do its job by staying hydrated and eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes:
- Whole grains.
- Lean protein.
Apples May Boost Weight Loss
Eating only apples as part of a detox diet isn't healthy, but when incorporated into a balanced diet, apples may encourage weight loss and have a wide range of positive impacts on your health, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
According to the USDA, one medium-sized apple consists of around 86 percent water. Water-rich foods like apples make you feel more full, allowing you to eat less while remaining satiated. And, because they're low in sugar, apples may lead to weight loss by reducing blood sugar spikes (which can leave you feeling hungry later), Harvard T.H. Chan says.
According to the USDA, apples also have:
- 95 calories.
- 0.3 g of fat.
- 0.5 g of protein.
- 25 g of carbohydrates.
- 19 g of natural sugar.
- 4 g fiber.
Apples pack in a lot of fiber. One apple with around 4 grams of fiber accounts for about 16 percent of the daily recommended fiber intake for women and around 10 percent for men under age 50 (and this fiber makes a bit more of a dent for the over 51 age group), according to the Mayo Clinic.
High-fiber foods promote weight loss by slowing down digestion and keeping you full and satiated for longer, according to Harvard T.H. Chan. To reap the full fiber benefits, keep the skin on your apples, because much of the fiber and other nutrients are concentrated there.
Bottom line: Eat your apple a day — but don't let the fruit be the only thing you eat. Eating only apples is unhealthy. Adding the fruit to a healthy, balanced diet is a much better option.
Is This an Emergency?
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “What’s the Deal With Detox Diets?”
- Whitney Linsenmeyer, PhD, RD, LD, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and assistant professor, nutrition, Saint Louis University, St. Louis
- Mayo Clinic: “Do Detox Diets Offer Any Health Benefits?”
- Harvard Health Publishng: “The Dubious Practice of Detox”
- Caroline Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, instructor, dietitian nutritionist program, University of Pittsburgh
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Apples”
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Apples Raw With Skin”
- Mayo Clinic: “Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet”