System reboot

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Plain old dieting is passé, if you ask Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé. These celebs have moved on to cleanses, which claim to flush out the toxins in your body and help you lose weight. But are cleanses as healthy as they sound? Urvashi Pant tries to find out

Imagine sipping on nothing but a concoction of lime juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water through the day. Now imagine doing that for 10 days in a row. Feeling dizzy already? That’s what the Master Cleanse, one of the most popular cleanses in the world, advocates. Actor-singer Beyoncé made it famous when she followed the diet and lost 10 kg before her film debut.International celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker swear by other similar programmes that involve giving up on almost all solid foods.

Cleanses are supposed to give your digestive system a break and flush out toxins from your body. Many experts, however, warn that cleanses are nothing but a fad, and that the human body does a good enough job eliminating waste by itself.

Mumbai-based nutritionist and fitness expert Samreedhi Goel believes that a well-designed detox plan can be good for the body. “We have an excellent in-built cleansing system. Unfortunately, the food we consume these days is high on harmful ingredients like artificial flavours, colour and high sodium. Detox diets help you cut down on these ingredients from time to time and are a good way to develop a taste for healthier food.”


Intensity level:High
What it is:The programme has been around since 1940, and is also known as the Lemonade Diet. Although designed as a detox plan, it has become popular recently as a way to quick weight loss. For 10 days, all you can have is a mixture of fresh lemon or lime juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. You’re allowed to have only 650 calories a day, so straying is not an option.
Duration:10 days
Celebrity endorsers:Beyoncé, Ashton Kutcher
Red flags:This diet may cause extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and irritability.

Expert take
“A liquid diet like this does more harm than good,” says Samreedhi.  “Starving your body will lead to muscle breakdown. The scale may show you’re lighter but what you’d lose is mostly muscle mass. It can also cause
dizziness and weakness.”

Intensity level:Medium
What it is:The programme claims to restore the body’s natural ability to heal itself. It consists of a protein shake for breakfast, lunch from a set list of approved foods like stir-fried chicken and veggies, brown rice and lentils, followed by another protein shake for dinner. In addition to the special diet, the programme also recommends supplements, yoga and breathing exercises and a shot of olive oil to keep the liver in good shape.
Duration:21 days
Celebrity endorsers:Gwyneth Paltrow, Debra Messing
Red flags:If you’re used to three square meals a day, this 21-day diet can be tough to follow. Plus, the weight loss is temporary.

Expert take
Mumbai-based nutritionist Naini Setalvad says, “Replacing meals with shakes will only leave you dissatisfied and will lead to hunger pangs. You also should not take supplements without first getting some basic health check-ups done.”

Intensity level:High
What it is:Designed with the aim to bounce back from over-indulgence, Blue Print Cleanse has organic juices obtained using a high-pressure, heatless procedure that doesn’t kill nutrients like a blender does. The juice mixes are made up of various combinations of healthy fruits and veggies including spinach, cucumber, lemon, pineapple, apple and mint.
Duration:One to three days
Celebrity endorsers:Blake Lively, Sarah Jessica Parker
Red flags:Those prone to diabetes should stay away from this cleanse. Having only juices through the day can spike your sugar levels.

Expert take
Samreedhi says a juice cleanse can be beneficial but only if it’s restricted to one day and is on the
recommendation of a dietician. “Juices don’t have much nutrition because they don’t contain the fibre and antioxidants found in whole fruits and vegetables. If you want to give your digestive tract a break, it’s a better idea to stick to simple and light, home-cooked food.”

Intensity levels:Low
What it is:This programme not only promises to make you feel better but is also good for you if you believe in karma. The diet is free of all animal products like meat, eggs and milk, and shuns sugar, alcohol, caffeine and gluten.
Duration:Anywhere between 3 to 21 days
Celebrity endorsers:Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Silverstone
Red flags:The weight loss will be temporary.

Expert take
“Since this diet introduces only natural foods into your body, the digestive system gets a chance to reset,”says Naini. “Following this diet can lower cholesterol and blood pressure. By including wholesomefoods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, there is an increased intake of antioxidants, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. But you have to transition gradually to vegan eating so that your body can adapt to it. A radical change in diet can interfere with existing medical conditions such as osteoporosis and diabetes.”


Ease into a cleanse gradually. Giving up on your regular diet suddenly can actually harm you.

It should include food high in fibre, like whole grain cereal, fruits and vegetable.

Include plenty of liquids like water, lemonade, coconut water and buttermilk

You should eat something every two or three hours from the food recommended in your diet.