Thursday, July 7, 2011

On Cleansing

There's been a lot of talk lately (among my circle of friends anyway) about food cleanses.  If you're not familiar with them, the most extreme version is the Master Cleanse, which involves drinking only a mixture of water, lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for something like 10-14 days (and no food!). Another version, less extreme, that some of our friends have done is just to eat only brown rice and plain vegetables and fruits for about a week.  And plenty of others abound: the raw food cleanse, the food lover's cleanse, Michelle Obama's cleanse.

The basic idea of all of these is to give your body a little time to recover from the heavy foods many of us eat during our regular lives. To intentionally take a break from the things we love but that leave us feeling too full or too heavy or uncomfortable.  I've heard that these cleanses will often change your palate--making you realize how salty or sugary many of the foods we eat actually are. 

But because one would hope that a temporary fix like this would actually lead to lifestyle change, rather than just a week break, I was particularly excited by this Food Lover's Cleanse from Bon Appetit.

This woman basically just ate really good, whole foods for two weeks, following recipes based on what's available in winter. Dishes like a Black-Eyed Pea Curry and a Celery Root and Apple Salad.  You can download her whole recipe plan here.

But isn't this just how we should be eating all of the time anyway?

What do you all think? To cleanse or not to cleanse?

5 comments:

  1. I'm never sure what the ultimate aim of cleansing is supposed to be, in particular whether it is supposed to be primarily psychological or primarily physiological. If the aim is psychological--to challenge yourself, to enhance your appreciation of the salt and sugar in your ordinary food, or just to feel a little less "heavy"--then it seems that consulting the feelings of those who have done the cleanse can provide good evidence of its efficacy. But if the aim is physiological--to "clean out your system" in a a way that is beneficial to your health in both the short and the long term--then I would want to see some non-anecdotal evidence of these effects before embarking on something so drastic as, say, the master cleanse. Do you know of any such evidence? (And do you have a sense of what most people take the aim of cleansing to be?)

    As an afterthought: the Bon Appetit recipes look good, but calling that plan a "cleanse" just seems to me like a classic case of appropriating a buzzword to make something more appealing to a certain audience. It's just two weeks worth of recipes for well-balanced, nourishing, seasonal meals! That seems like a totally different thing than cutting major nutrients out of your diet for a week or more.

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  2. JH just said basically everything I wanted to say. I'd only add that from everything I have heard and read, it is clear there is neither evidence nor a plausible mechanism for the claims of physiologically "cleaning out your system." (Too busy to get links now, but I will if anyone wants them.) If have functioning kidneys, they are already removing "toxins." If the claim is about cleaning out your intestines, all I have say is: they just don't work that way. They aren't like pipes! Given the pseudoscience around those extreme versions of cleansing, I'd rather not use that word at all in regards to diet. Nothing is getting cleansed in any of these versions. Just stick to a balanced, nourishing diet.

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  3. Whoa, just followed your Michelle Obama link. Really disappointed that she advocates colonic irrigation. Not just gross, but totally woo. I love her, but man, learn about your anatomy and how it works!

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  4. As someone who can't imagine not eating regular meals (and would not want to inflict the results on those around her!), I think all this stuff is just nuts. I'm willing to say it. Just eat, people! Eat well always, as well as you can.

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  5. As someone who can't imagine not eating regular meals (and would not want to inflict the results on those around her!), I think all this stuff is just nuts. I'm willing to say it. Just eat, people! Eat well always, as well as you can.

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