Doing a cleanse or detox has become a popular way for people to try to remove toxins and improve their health. Cleanses usually involve restricting your diet for a period of time. This leads many people to wonder – should you eat while doing a cleanse? Here is a comprehensive look at whether or not you should eat during a cleanse.
Types of Cleanses
There are many different types of cleanses out there. Some of the most common include:
- Juice cleanse – Drink only fresh fruit and vegetable juices for 3-5 days.
- Master cleanse – Drink a lemonade-like concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water for 10 or more days.
- Intermittent fasting – Alternate periods of fasting and eating in set intervals, usually daily.
- Detox diets – Restrict food to certain items like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds for a set period.
- Colon cleanse – Use laxatives, enemas or herbal supplements to empty the bowels.
The eating guidelines can vary dramatically between different cleanses. Some allow little or no food, while others permit some whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
Should You Eat on a Cleanse?
Whether or not you should eat while cleansing depends on the specific type of cleanse.
With juice cleanses, master cleanses and other liquid-only detoxes, no solid foods are allowed during the cleanse period. Consuming anything other than the prescribed liquids would go against the program.
This does not necessarily mean starvation or extreme calorie restriction though. Fresh vegetable and fruit juices can provide adequate calories and nutrients when consumed in large enough quantities.
For example, six 16-ounce bottles of fresh juices and herbal teas contain approximately 1,200 calories. While very low calorie, this can help sustain people safely for short cleanse periods of around three days.
Attempting to follow a juice-only regimen for longer than a few days may require supervision by a health professional to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
With fasting cleanses like intermittent fasting, you go extended periods without eating, then have time-restricted eating periods. Fasting allows your body’s natural detoxification process to operate more efficiently.
During the fasting periods you consume only zero or very low calorie liquids like water, herbal tea, coffee and bone broth. The length of the fasting window may range from 12-24 hours.
During eating periods, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats are permitted. Eating nourishing solid foods helps provide energy and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Restrictive Detox Diets
This category includes elimination diets and food-restricted cleanses. You eliminate certain foods like processed items, dairy or gluten. You may focus on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.
With this style cleanse, you do eat during the program. However, it is important to choose healthy, nutrient-dense foods within the guidelines of the cleanse. Getting adequate protein, fat, carbs, vitamins and minerals ensures you remain nourished.
Benefits of Eating During a Cleanse
Eating at least some solid foods during cleanse programs, even limited amounts, can offer benefits:
- Prevents hunger – Eating satisfying meals helps control hunger.
- Boosts energy – Carbs from whole grains and fruits supply energy.
- Supports muscle – Adequate protein intake helps retain muscle.
- Provides nutrition – Whole foods supply vitamins, minerals and more.
- Promotes safety – Eating helps prevent very low calorie risks.
Extreme calorie restriction can potentially lead to problems like fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, irregular periods and more. Consuming an adequate number of calories can help prevent these issues.
Sample Cleanse Meal Plan
Here is a sample one-day meal plan for a wholesome restrictive detox diet cleanse that includes eating:
|Breakfast||Oatmeal made with almond milk, topped with berries and ground flaxseed|
|Morning Snack||1 apple with 1 Tbsp. almond butter|
|Lunch||Lentil veggie soup, mixed greens salad with vinaigrette|
|Afternoon Snack||Carrots and celery with 2 Tbsp. hummus|
|Dinner||Tofu veggie stir fry over quinoa|
This provides a balanced mix of protein, carbs, fat and ample vitamins and minerals from whole plant foods. Similar healthy meals can be included during a cleanse while still restricting processed foods, dairy, etc.
If you do choose to eat solid foods during a cleanse, keep these safety recommendations in mind:
- Aim for at least 1,200 calories per day minimum to prevent extreme restriction.
- Include lean proteins like poultry, fish, beans, nuts or eggs.
- Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains as your carbohydrate sources.
- Include healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
- Stay well hydrated by drinking water, herbal tea and broth.
- Take a general multivitamin to help fill any nutritional gaps.
- Listen to your body and cease cleansing if you feel unwell.
- Consult your healthcare provider if you have any medical conditions.
The Bottom Line
To summarize, whether or not you should eat solid foods during a cleanse depends on the specific program. Very low calorie liquid cleanses may restrict solid foods completely. However, alternate day fasting, eliminating certain foods and other cleanse styles can incorporate whole nourishing foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and grains.
Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods throughout your cleanse can help boost energy, control hunger, retain muscle mass and prevent nutritional deficiencies. If you do choose to eat solid foods, make sure to follow a healthy, balanced diet within the rules of your cleanse.
Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new cleanse program, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.