Can you eat anything during a cleanse?

Doing a cleanse or detox has become a popular way to jumpstart weight loss, improve health, and flush out toxins. Cleanses come in many forms, from juice fasts to elimination diets. No matter what type of cleanse you choose, it inevitably involves restricting certain foods. But with so many rules, you may wonder if you can eat anything at all during a cleanse.

What is a cleanse?

A cleanse is meant to give your body a break from processed foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and other potentially harmful substances. The goal is to nourish your body with wholesome, nutrient-dense foods that support detoxification. Cleanses typically last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Some popular types of cleanses include:

  • Juice cleanse: Only consuming vegetable and fruit juices.
  • Smoothie cleanse: Blending fruits, veggies, and superfoods into smoothies.
  • Elimination diet: Removing inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, and nightshades.
  • Intermittent fasting: Alternating periods of fasting and eating in a structured schedule.
  • Detox diet: Emphasizing foods that support liver function and elimination, like cruciferous veggies, leafy greens, lemon water, etc.

The key is to avoid processed and refined foods, added sugars, and other unhealthy substances while focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods. But can you eat anything during a cleanse as long as it’s healthy? Let’s take a closer look.

Cleanse Food Rules

Most cleanses come with specific guidelines about which foods are allowed and which should be avoided. Here are some typical cleanse food rules:

  • No processed foods
  • No added sugars
  • No alcohol
  • No caffeine
  • No gluten
  • No dairy
  • No meat
  • No eggs

Foods that are usually encouraged on a cleanse include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Plant-based proteins
  • Bone broth
  • Herbal tea
  • Water

So while cleanses allow many healthy foods, they do restrict entire food groups like grains, meat, and dairy. You can’t eat just anything on a cleanse – you have to follow the prescribed food rules.

Common Foods Allowed on a Cleanse

Although cleanse guidelines can vary, most tend to allow these wholesome foods:


Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients. They provide natural sweetness to satisfy cravings during a cleanse. Nearly all fruits can be enjoyed, including:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Kiwi
  • Cherries
  • Pomegranate

Fruit juices are common on juice cleanses as well. Focus on lower sugar fruits and avoid fruit juice blends that contain added sugars.


Vegetables are unlimited on cleanses. They provide antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that support detoxification and health:

  • Leafy greens – kale, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard
  • Cruciferous veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Ginger

You can eat these veggies raw, roasted, sauteed, juiced – get creative!

Legumes, Nuts & Seeds

Legumes, nuts, and seeds are fantastic cleanse foods, providing plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats:

Food Benefits
Lentils Fiber, protein, iron, folate
Chickpeas Fiber, protein, iron
Beans Fiber, protein, antioxidants
Almonds Protein, healthy fats, calcium, magnesium
Walnuts Omega-3s, healthy fats, antioxidants
Chia seeds Fiber, protein, omega-3s
Flaxseeds Fiber, healthy fats, lignans

Aim for 1-2 servings per day to stay full and satisfied. Look for raw, unsalted nuts and seeds without added oils or sugars.

Whole Grains

100% whole grains provide important nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. Good options include:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Barley
  • Whole grain pasta

Stick to 1-2 servings daily and stay away from refined grains and breads. Read labels to verify they are 100% whole grain.

Plant-Based Proteins

Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains all provide plant-based protein sources. Other options include:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Spirulina
  • Nutritional yeast

Aim for adequate protein at each meal to stay satisfied during your cleanse.

Healthy Fats

While heavy oils and saturated fats are restricted, you can enjoy healthy fats like:

  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Olives
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Nuts and nut butters

Healthy fats improve the absorption of antioxidants and give meals more flavor and satisfaction.

Herbal Tea

Stay hydrated with herbal teas like:

  • Peppermint
  • Ginger
  • Dandelion
  • Chamomile
  • Green tea
  • Rooibos
  • Turmeric
  • Hibiscus

Herbal teas provide antioxidants and phytonutrients that support detoxification and health.


Proper hydration is crucial on a cleanse. Drink at least 64 ounces of filtered water daily. Add lemon, lime, cucumber, or mint to boost flavor and detox effects.

Foods to Avoid on a Cleanse

While cleanses encourage nutrient-dense whole foods, there are many foods that should be avoided:

Processed Foods

Avoid anything packaged, canned, boxed, or bagged. Processed foods are high in sodium, preservatives, refined carbs, and inflammatory oils.


Skip table sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, soda, candy, desserts, and other sweets. Read labels and avoid products with added sugars.


All alcohol is off limits on cleanses as it stresses the liver and dehydrates the body.


Caffeine from coffee, energy drinks, and tea is avoided due to its stimulating effects. An exception is green tea which provides antioxidants.


Many cleanses remove inflammatory gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye products. Avoid bread, pasta, baked goods, and snacks made with these grains.

Dairy Products

Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter are restricted due to common intolerances. Opt for non-dairy milks like almond milk.

Meat & Eggs

Animal products including meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are eliminated on many cleanses. Focus instead on plant-based proteins.

Artificial Sweeteners

Say no to artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. They can negatively impact gut health.

Sample Cleanse Meal Plan

Here is an example one day meal plan to give you an idea of the types of foods you can enjoy during a cleanse:


  • Chia pudding made with chia seeds, almond milk, cinnamon
  • 1 cup green tea


  • Kale avocado salad with chickpeas
  • Apple with 1 Tbsp. almond butter
  • Herbal tea


  • Carrots and hummus
  • Handful of walnuts


  • Quinoa stir fry with veggies and ginger
  • Berry smoothie

The Bottom Line

While cleanses do restrict many common foods like sugar, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and gluten, you can still enjoy a wide variety of delicious whole foods. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated with herbal tea and water. Limit processed foods, refined carbs, and sweets. With balanced meals and snacks made from nutrient-dense ingredients, you can do a cleanse while still eating well and feeling satisfied.


In summary, cleanses and detoxes involve eliminating certain inflammatory foods and emphasizing wholesome, nourishing foods that support detoxification and health. While the exact guidelines vary, most cleanses restrict processed foods, added sugars, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy, meat, and eggs. However, you can still enjoy plenty of delicious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, plant-based proteins, healthy fats, herbal teas, and water. With some dietary restrictions and discipline, a cleanse allows you to flood your body with nutrients while avoiding potentially harmful substances. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods that energize your body and promote cleansing.

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