08 January 2010

On detox

When Carine Visagie decided to go on a detox diet, she was in for a surprise. Read about her experience and find out how you could attempt a similar five-day diet.

When CARINE VISAGIE decided to go on a detox diet, she was in for a surprise. Read about her experience and find out how you could attempt a similar five-day diet.

I still suspect that I'm not the ideal candidate for a detox diet.

I don't drink coffee or Ceylon tea, I don't drink alcohol in a big way, I generally eat lots of fresh, healthy foods, and I don't smoke. In fact, I've always been quite proud of my healthy lifestyle.

Yes, I thought as I decided to give a detox diet a shot, this is going to be a picnic.

Boy, was I wrong.

Although the first D-day went relatively well (the only problem being that I couldn't share in the traditional three-o'-clock piece of chocolate cake with the rest of the office), I was hit by the reality of a restrictive diet the next morning.

Not the picnic I expected
I woke up at six with a blinding headache, which fortunately disappeared as soon as I had my breakfast of oats, honey and banana. As the day continued, it became clear that the diet demands a bit more effort than my usual approach to eating. I couldn't just eat off the food trolley at work and the oil-covered cuisine of the office cafeteria was a definite no-no.

And, yes, the diet proved to be quite expensive. Since you depend on fruit and veggies to get you through the day, I decided to spoil myself with out-of-season strawberries, paw paws, kiwis and other expensive delicacies. I also stocked up on salmon and 100% rye bread.

The grumpy party-pooper
In retrospect, I realise that I was grumpier than usual - at least for the first three days of the five-day cleansing diet. I also felt a bit lethargic. One must keep in mind, however, that other factors could have been to blame.

The worst part of the diet was the impact it had on my social life. Good food and drink are an essential part of my approach to life. And there I was, on Day 3, and I couldn't eat or drink a thing at our staff party. Neither could I have a glass of wine at the show I went to that evening.

Gradually, however, I started to feel the difference. Towards Day 4, I was beginning to get the hang of things. I got used to planning my life (and the food I eat) better, I started to feel less sorry for myself when everyone around me was bingeing on chocolates and cheese sandwiches, and slowly, but surely, I felt more energetic.

But I was still sceptic, even though I was committed to pull through.

The Big Surprise
Nothing prepared me for the real surprise though: life after detox. Here I must note that I was mad enough to enter the 30km Big Walk event after I knew that I would be detoxing the week before. But, I figured, it couldn't make that much of a difference.

On the first day after detox – also Big Walk day – I woke up refreshed and invigorated. And I walked the 30km in scorching heat feeling as if I'm on top of the world (a relief, considering the fact that I wasn't well-trained for the big race and that I'm not really fit). The next day I still felt great – a feeling that persisted throughout the whole week.

This sceptic can now recommend a detox diet with a clean conscience. If it worked for me, it can definitely work for you too.

And for those who'd like to shed a kilo or two, I have good news: I lost 2kg in four days (before I walked the 30km) and it couldn't have been water loss as I made a point of drinking lots of fluids throughout the diet.

It only goes to show that if you ditch the junk, you can bear the fruit.

The 5-day cleansing diet
The dietician who compiled the diet calls it a "cleansing diet" instead of a detox diet. She believes that the word "detox" has traditionally been associated with an extremely strict diet that cuts a large variety of food from the diet, although it essentially has the same purpose.

The aim of Annaret Gerber's meal plan is to make a significant difference in a short time. The idea is to continue to provide the body with the necessary nutrients, not to starve it, and to adopt a more natural way of eating. Fresh fruit and vegetables, and smaller, more frequent meals, form an integral part of the cleansing diet.

Foods to cut from the diet

  • Caffeine and alcohol, which includes coffee, Ceylon tea, hot chocolate and cola drinks
  • Milk products, like milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Refined sugars
  • Processed fats, like margarine, sunflower and canola oil
  • Wheat products, like bread, Provitas, pasta, All-Bran, muesli and Weet-Bix
  • Fatty protein of animal origin, like red and cured meat

All foods have to be as natural and fresh as possible and shouldn't contain any preservatives. Although dried fruit can be included in the diet, the fruit shouldn't contain preservatives such as sulphur dioxide. Fruit juice should also be preservative-free.

The diet
Pre-breakfast snack
Kick the day off with a fruit smoothie. Possible combinations include:

  • 100% cranberry juice (to combat bladder infections), strawberries (good source of vitamin C) and almonds (good source of poli-unsaturated fat)
  • 100% paw paw juice (good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene and digestive enzymes), pineapple (good source of digestive enzymes) and walnuts (good source of essential fatty acids)
  • 100% apple juice, kiwi (good source of vitamin C) and pumpkin seeds (good source of essential fatty acids)

Wheat-free food with a low glycaemic value (GI) forms the basis of this meal. Possible combinations include:

  • ½ a cup of cooked (preservative-free) oats with honey and half a banana. Oats has a low GI and is also a good source of fibre, which is beneficial to the digestive system. Banana is a good source of fructose (a natural type of sugar) and potassium.
  • One slice of 100% rye bread, Rye Crisps or Ryvita biscuits with avo and/or tomato slices and lemon juice. No butter or margarine. Wheat is cut from the diet since it is a common allergen. Avo is a good source of vitamin E and mono-unsaturated fats.

100% juice, diluted with water / Rooibos tea with honey and a lemon slice / mineral water / fresh fruit

Light lunch or supper

  • A low GI, wheat-free carbohydrate, like one small sweet potato, ½ a cup of cooked brown rice, ½ cup of cooked wild rice or one slice of rye bread
  • A combination of fresh fruit, vegetables or a salad, which may include lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red, green and yellow peppers, bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, baby marrows, celery, apple, roasted sunflower seeds and avo.
  • You can add a touch of olive oil and lemon juice to your meal.

100% juice, diluted with water / Rooibos tea with honey and a lemon slice / mineral water / fresh fruit

The main meal

  • 90g of low-fat protein, like a chicken fillet (without skin) or fish, which can be baked, stir-fried or steamed, but not fried.
  • A combination of veggies, which may include carrots, pumpkin, squashes, baby marrows, patty pans, fresh asparagus, mushrooms, leaks, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and butternut.
  • You can add a touch of olive oil if you choose to bake the vegetables in the oven. Add lemon juice, garlic and black pepper for flavour.

What to expect
If you're used to drinking fair amounts of coffee and tea, you might experience a headache during the first two days of the diet. In all other respects, you should start feeling better, more energetic and healthier.

- (Carine Visagie, Health24, updated September 2009)

DISCLAIMER: Please note that Health24 generally recommends long-term changes in eating and drinking habits - instead of quick fixes - to ensure a balanced diet and lifestyle all year round.


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