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What is safe to eat during a cleanse?

Doing a cleanse or detox has become increasingly popular as a way to reset your health, lose weight, and eliminate toxins. While the benefits of cleanses are debated, many people swear by doing periodic cleanses to feel their best. However, it’s important to choose foods wisely during a cleanse. Certain foods can exacerbate detox symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and nausea. The key is sticking to whole, nutrient-rich foods that will provide energy and keep you satisfied.

Choosing the Right Cleanse for You

There are many different types of cleanses out there, so it’s important to pick one that fits your goals and lifestyle. Short juice cleanses lasting 3-5 days are very restrictive, so they may not be realistic for most people to stick to. Gentler cleanses that allow whole foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins are much more sustainable over more days. Making sure you get enough calories and nutrients is crucial. Here is an overview of some popular cleanse approaches:

Cleanse Type Duration Allowed Foods Pros Cons
Juice cleanse 3-5 days Fruit/vegetable juices only -Quick, intense detox
-Easy to follow clear rules
-Very low calories
-Lacks protein
-Difficult to sustain
Smoothie cleanse 3-7 days Fruit/vegetable smoothies -More nutrients than juice
-Allows you to add nut butters, protein powder for calories and nutrients
-Can get boring quickly
Intermittent fasting Up to 16 hrs fasting/8 hrs eating per day Water, black coffee, tea during fast -Very flexible
-Can make it part of a lifestyle
-Potential for overeating in eating window
Whole food cleanse Up to 30 days Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds -Provides fiber and nutrients
-More calories help prevent cravings
-Gentle detox
-Requires cooking and more planning

The Best Foods to Eat During a Cleanse

Focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods that energize your body is key for a successful cleanse. Here are some of the best options:


Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that nourish your body. Stick to low sugar fruits like berries and pair fruits with healthy fats and proteins to balance blood sugar.

  • Berries – raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
  • Stone fruits – peaches, nectarines, plums
  • Citrus fruits – grapefruit, oranges, lemons
  • Melons – honeydew, watermelon, cantaloupe
  • Apples
  • Pears


Aim for a rainbow of vegetable colors to maximize the range of nutrients. Raw, roasted, sauteed, or blended – vegetables are your friend during a cleanse.

  • Leafy greens – spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuces
  • Cruciferous – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts
  • Root veggies – sweet potatoes, carrots, beets
  • Zucchini, summer squash
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Onions, garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes

Legumes and Whole Grains

For a more filling, long-lasting cleanse, incorporate whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats along with legumes like lentils, beans, and peas. Opt for organic to avoid GMO versions.

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Buckwheat
  • Lentils
  • Beans – chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans
  • Peas

Healthy Fats

Don’t be afraid of healthy fats! They are essential for keeping you satisfied. Choose plant-based, unsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Avocados
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Seeds – hemp, chia, flax
  • Coconut oil, olive oil
  • Olives

Herbs, Spices, Condiments

Use generous amounts of herbs, spices, vinegars, and lemon juice to add big flavor without calories, sugar, or salt.

  • Fresh herbs – cilantro, parsley, basil, mint, oregano, thyme
  • Spices – cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cumin, curry powder
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Low-sodium tamari


Staying hydrated is crucial when cleansing. Choose natural, sugar-free beverages like:

  • Water – flat or sparkling
  • Green tea
  • Herbal tea – peppermint, ginger, chamomile
  • Bone broth
  • Fresh vegetable juices

Foods to Avoid During a Cleanse

To get the most from your cleanse, there are certain foods best limited or avoided altogether. These include:


Any form of added sugars can trigger cravings and blood sugar spikes, so they are best eliminated during a cleanse. Avoid sugary foods like:

  • Candy
  • Desserts
  • Sodas
  • Fruit juice
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave

Processed Foods

Much of the toxic exposure we get comes from processed foods with chemical additives. It’s key to avoid processed snacks and packaged foods, such as:

  • Potato chips
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Cereal
  • Instant noodles
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Frozen meals
  • Fast food
  • Cured meats


Even whole grain sources of gluten like wheat, barley, and rye can trigger inflammation in some people. Minimizing gluten may help reduce bloating and digestive issues.


Dairy like milk, cheese, butter, and cream can accumulate in your body and contribute to mucus production. Those with lactose intolerance may want to avoid dairy during a cleanse.


All forms of alcohol create metabolic byproducts that need to be cleared by the liver. It’s best to completely abstain from alcohol while cleansing to maximize detox benefits.


High amounts of caffeine from coffee, energy drinks, and soda can overstimulate the adrenals. Focus on calm-promoting herbs like chamomile, peppermint, and lemon balm instead.

Sample 1-Day Cleanse Meal Plan

Here is an example of what a day of eating might look like during a more gentle, whole food cleanse:

Meal Foods
Breakfast – Chia pudding made with coconut milk and berries
– Green tea
Lunch – Large green salad with beets, carrots, sunflower seeds and lemon vinaigrette
– Lentil vegetable soup
Snack – Apple with almond butter
Dinner – Tofu veggie stir fry with cauliflower rice
– Herbal tea
Dessert – Raspberries with dark chocolate chips

Supplements to Support Detox

Certain supplements may help boost the detox process and make cleansing symptoms more tolerable. Some options include:

  • Milk thistle – Helps liver detoxification
  • Glutathione – Master antioxidant for neutralizing toxins
  • Fiber – Binds to toxins for elimination
  • Probiotics – Support healthy gut flora
  • Magnesium – Relieves headaches and muscle cramps
  • B-vitamins – Aid energy and metabolism
  • Vitamin C – Boosts immune function

It’s a good idea to check with a health professional before starting any supplements, especially if you have underlying health conditions.

Lifestyle Tips for an Effective Cleanse

Certain lifestyle habits can optimize detoxification during a cleanse. Try to incorporate these:

  • Drink hot lemon water – Stimulates digestion and flushes toxins
  • Dry brush skin – Improves circulation and lymphatic drainage
  • Sweat – Saunas, steam rooms, and exercise help eliminate toxins
  • Hydrate – Aim for at least 2 liters of fluids daily
  • Breathe deeply – Improves oxygenation and promotes lung detox
  • Get quality sleep – Allows body to rejuvenate and reset


Cleansing can help you reset your health and break dependence on sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. Paying attention to what foods you put into your body is key. Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods that nourish your body and avoid inflammatory triggers. Stay well-hydrated, get proper rest, and support your body’s natural detoxification systems. A more gentle, flexible cleanse is something you can maintain over a longer period without feeling deprived. With the right plan, a cleanse can be a great way to kickstart healthier eating habits.