Are smoothie cleanses all they’re cracked up to be?
Valentine’s day just passed and spring break is fast approaching. If you have a special someone, then they probably gifted you chocolates, of which you ate eight times the “recommended serving size”. If you spent everyone’s favourite corporately sponsored holiday alone, then you probably drank too much and woke up face down in a heart-shaped box filled with empty wrappers and regret. Either way, you’ve got to clean up your act, lest even Instagram filters fail to hide your shame.
Cleanses and detoxes are all the rage. Celebrities swear by them and food bloggers praise them. Rumours about the dangers of fat, salt, sugar, gluten, soy, dairy, and meat abound, with many (often self-proclaimed) health experts recommending the banishment of these substances from our diets. Detox cleanses promise improved energy, better digestion, better concentration, clearer skin and, most importantly: weight loss.
I decided to try out the Dr. Oz 3-Day Detox Cleanse.This one is doctor recommended (and presumably Oprah-approved). The detox calls for four massive smoothies per day composed of whole fruits, vegetables, and various add-ins – conveniently allowing this detox to meet my personal criteria of not starving to death. According to Dr. Oz’s website, the idea is to remove artificial flavours and chemical substances from your diet to give your body a better shot at optimal health. It’s also pretty convenient: all the ingredients are readily available at local stores.
See you on the other side, vodka and falafel.
Day 1: The first smoothie of the detox is pretty tasty—but the redness of the raspberries isn’t enough to overpower the almond butter and spinach, resulting in an unattractive, sludgy-looking colour. The second smoothie is a beautiful green colour, but is horrifying in taste. The flavour of the four stalks of celery, whole cucumber, and kale really cut through the tastier components. I sip the smoothie from about noon until 6 p.m., grimacing every time. I skip the “snack smoothie” (a repeat of your favourite drink). The dinner smoothie is delicious, despite the weird spiciness of the cayenne pepper. Evaluation: I don’t know if I can face the celery drink again. Maybe I can learn to love my acne and muffin-top.
Day 2: Got to pee. This is a constant theme throughout the day. The lunch drink goes down much easier today and my confidence is renewed. Alas, after the dinner drink I crack and make some kale chips. That’s not cheating—there’s kale in this diet, right? Evaluation: I skipped the snack smoothie again because I was just too full from the lunch smoothie. I feel pity toward the less evolved humans who still depend on solid food.
Day 3: The breakfast smoothie was excellent today. But disaster strikes when I’m too busy to drink the lunch smoothie (it still takes a lot of concentration to down). I go out to a social commitment around 9 p.m. with a headache, an empty stomach, and a now completely unappetizing, lukewarm kale/celery/cucumber smoothie in hand. I ceded defeat for the evening, going to bed hungry. Evaluation: Eating essentially nothing all day except for the breakfast smoothie is terrible. Urination remained an important theme throughout the day.
Final thoughts: I’m happy to be chewing food again. I didn’t lose any weight, but I do feel full of energy and the persistent patch of acne on my cheek has disappeared. I’m calling this a win.
“I think that we value health, even though in many ways it doesn’t play out in our life, but it’s something we know is innately important,” said Gabriella Szabo, a nurse and health promotion specialist at Concordia Health Services. “[Detox] seems to be the trend now, and purification has been part of human ritual for all of time. The idea of being cleansed and purified connects with us somehow.”
However, Szabo is quick to warn me of the false promises a detox holds: “A lot of detox cleanses—if they’re not dangerous—are expensive and a waste of funds. Or they’re very imbalanced when it comes to nutrients.”
Indeed, Szabo examined the Dr. Oz 3-Day Detox Cleanse and, although it did very well on vegetable and fruit servings, it lacked fat and protein. Any weight loss experienced during this diet is just water weight because of its low sodium content, Szabo explained. As for the notion that our bodies need to be “detoxed,” Szabo says that a well-functioning human body takes care of its own clean-up.
In reality, this detox probably made me feel so good because it forced me to consume foods that most of us don’t normally get enough of: fruits and vegetables. Szabo mentions that this is the first thing she suggests when students approach her for advice on eating a healthy balanced diet. She noted that a balanced diet is a special challenge for students when a piece of fruit costs a few dollars on campus, while a few steps away are nearly equally priced hamburgers.
In sum, Dr. Oz taught me the value of eating a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables on the regular. Szabo’s recommendation for optimal health is to consistently eat a diet that meets the standards outlined by Health Canada and to exercise regularly. Also, I had a revelation: the limiting factor to how many vegetables I can consume has been the amount I am willing to chew in a day. For this reason, I’ll continue blending veggies into my morning smoothies, but I’ll stick to solid food the rest of the day.
1 cup water
1 tbsp. flax seed (ground, unless you have a very powerful blender)
1 cup raspberries
1 banana (freeze this the night before, it will cool your smoothie)
¼ c spinach (stop lying to yourself and pack the spinach down)
1 tbsp. almond butter
2 tsp. lemon
4 celery stalks
1 cup kale leaves (pack it down, you pansy)
½ green apple
1 tbsp. coconut oil
½ cup almond milk
1 cup pineapple
Repeat favourite drink
½ cup mango
1 cup blueberries
1 ½ cups coconut water
1 cup kale
1 tbsp. lemon
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. flax seeds