Why I Wish Everyone Would Ditch the Detox, Wipe Away Their Thoughts of Cleansing

lemon cleanseI’ve been writing about the detox and cleansing trend for many years, including here, here and here.  It was even a topic of mine five years ago for NBC News:  Why You Shouldn’t Detox Like Demi (or eat like Gwyneth).   Beyond the famous juice cleanses, it looks like other foods and beverages are getting in on the trend, including tea, green smoothies, watermelon and soup.  In fact, soup cleanses are being called the new juice cleanses.

I wrote about the problem of cleanses in my latest post for U.S. News & World Report’s Eat + Run blog, posted below:

Cleansing has become a national obsession. Celebrities are praising cold-pressed or raw juice cleanses – and some have even started their own line of products. “Wellness warriors” are posting Instagram selfies sipping on detox smoothies. And you can’t escape all the books to get you started on a cleansing or detox regimen.

A search on Amazon reveals more than 3,000 books promoting some type of cleansing. The promises are lengthy: lose weight, burn fat, flush toxins, reset your system, heal your body and transform your life. You can find a range of cleansing books, including juice, green smoothies, fruit-infused water, watermelon, tea, soup and lemonade, which is also known as Master Cleanse.

Only CleanseOne book I hope will curtail the current fascination with cleansing is called “The Only Cleanse: A 14-Day Natural Detox Plan to Jump-Start a Lifetime of Health” by registered dietitian Samantha Heller.

This is not your basic cleansing book. In fact, it’s an anti-cleanse approach – or at least in the way we’ve all come to know detox and cleansing. Heller, who is a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, says she wrote the book because she saw so many of her patients, including those with cancer, spend a great deal of money on cleansing products and supplements. “It was making my head explode,” she says.

So Heller set out to redefine the notion of cleansing and show people the solution is in their own hands. Rather than relying on strict liquid diets and buying detox products, you have the ability to cleanse your own body, she says. “The best way to ‘cleanse’ your system is by supporting your body’s innate, amazing, complex, integrated detoxification systems.”

Nothing we sip is going to speed up our body’s ability to detoxify toxins. The body has a pretty good system of its own, but Heller says we can support our inner system by eating well, staying active, thinking positive thoughts and sleeping well.

The book outlines a 14-day cleanse plan that includes what to eat and what not to eat – including no deep-fried foods, desserts, sugary drinks and alcohol. While I’m not typically a fan of forbidding foods, for some people, a short-term, structured phase that takes out the junk can help kick-start a new healthy eating routine. I like that Heller recommends an “after-cleanse” plan since that’s where many people fail – transitioning to a lifestyle approach and making new habits stick.

Heller evolves the concept of cleansing to include “space cleanses.” These are actions to help detoxify and cleanse our relationships, thought processes and personal space. “We spend an awful lot of time focusing on what to eat, but we forget that our psychological and emotional well-being are deeply intertwined with our physical and environmental health,” Heller says. “Space cleanses help us identify toxic areas of our lives and offer strategies to help clean them up.”

For example, to prepare for the cleanse, Heller recommends a kitchen cleanse. “New habits demand a new environment,” she writes. One of the chapters outlines a plan for cleaning, rearranging your kitchen and stocking your pantry, cupboards, refrigerator and freezer to help guarantee success. She also suggests “mindful moments,” such as laughter, gratitude, counting blessings, being present and living fully.

After each day, Heller recommends preparing for the next day:

  • Pack your gym bag or lay out your workout clothes.
  • Prep or plan ahead for tomorrow’s lunch.
  • Organize your personal space. Clean out and organize your briefcase, backpack or purse. Assemble paperwork or other necessities for the following day.
  • Take a shower or bath.
  • Wash/cleanse your face.
  • Brush and floss your teeth.
  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Nighttime affirmation: I will sleep well. I will have pleasant dreams.
  • Lie in bed: Mentally prepare for your workout tomorrow, take a deep breath, exhale stress and negativity, and relax.

Maybe this book won’t put an end to all cleanses, but perhaps it will help people think twice before jumping on the juice-cleanse bandwagon. If you’re tempted to follow a detox diet, keep these points in mind:

  • Eat real food instead of drinking liquids only.
  • Avoid laxatives and detox supplements.
  • Eat consistently throughout the day, every three to five hours.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Be physically active.
  • Do not consume less than 1,000 calories a day.
  • Transition to a long-term approach after a temporary cleanse.


Starting a cleanse photo by Kennedy Goodkey on flickr

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10 Changes in Today’s Food Culture

The Hartman Group recently held its Food Culture Forecast 2015, and here are 10 takeaways describing how food culture is evolving:

7689144046_db7b0d476f_z1. Common food rituals are eroding and meal prep habits are changing

Half of all eating occasions are alone, and we’re no longer eating our three squares a day. Snacks are now nearly equal to the number of meal occasions, 49% vs. 51%. Despite the foodie movement, only 31% of dinners in 2014 were made from scratch, 6 in 10 dinners were planned within an hour of eating.

2. New symbols of food quality

Fresh, real and less processed are today’s cues for food quality; 28% of consumers look for foods that are minimally processed, 26% seek foods that contain only ingredients they recognize, and 25% say they watch for products that are local or have the shortest list of ingredients.

3. High-income “upmarket” consumers heavily influence food culture

The 9.5% of the population who live in households with incomes over $100K and who are college or higher educated are heavily influencing U.S. food culture, elevating the culinary and health awareness of other consumers.

4. New demands for healthy fare

High protein, fresh and less processed, “free-from” foods (e.g. dairy free), nutrient dense and easy-to-eat hand-to-mouth healthy snacks are among the new demands for healthy fare. Digestive superfoods, alternative slow carbs and lower-sugar content energy foods are other fast-emerging trends.


5. Consumers are channel hopping

Shoppers today are achieving “value” through multiple shopping trips and channels.  In 2014, 61% made 2-3 food shopping trips per week, visiting an average of three channels. Specialty/natural stores have the highest satisfaction and customer loyalty. Costco, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans are cited as offering a spontaneous and enjoyable experience.

6. Digital is redefining our interaction with food

Nearly half of smartphone users have recently used their device to order food delivery or to book or review a restaurant online. In 2014, 23% did some grocery shopping online, up from 18% in 2012. About 4 in 10 (39%) say they would trust a food website that has good photos, 70% used a recipe from a website or app.

7. Rise of millennials 

Millennials are focused on their health and care about the community, social issues and human treatment of animals more than their older counterparts. One-third of Millennials consider environmental concerns when buying food, 54% back companies that support the local community and 47% avoid buying foods from firms with poor labor practices.

8. Personalized eating ideologies

Consumers are experimenting with a new generation of eating behaviors, ranging from vegetable or plant-centric offerings to elimination, free-from, detox and food combination diets. There’s a growing interest in gut microbes and the soil in which food is grown.  FODMAP (fermentable oligiosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) is the latest culprit blamed for digestive disorders. Growing interest in new sources of protein, including insects.

9. Changing face of eating out

Breakfast, small bites, eliminating additives/preservatives, the casualization of organic (and its penetration into all levels of foodservice) as well as all-day snacking are high-potential opportunities.


10. Food-sophisticated shoppers

Over the next five years, mid-market consumers are projected to become more selective and continue to upgrade their culinary and healthy-eating skills. The move to fresh will continue, and more products will try to convey a health halo through choice of ingredients, label statements, minimal processing and new technologies.



images:  Guian Bolisa, tortillas by Michelle  and tapas by Ian on flickr

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The Dangerous Downside of the ‘Live Like Me, Look Like Me’ #Fitspo Bloggers

3716382579_233e6304b2_zI recently wrote about the problem of the “Eat Like Me, Look Like Me,” citing an excellent article in The Guardian.  Now there’s another tremendous article in a UK publication, the Daily Mail by Poppy Cross, a health and fitness blogger based in London.  Both articles point to a similar problem created by today’s “wellness warriors” who are attempting to inspire their audiences to live healthier lives.  As Poppy writes, some of these bloggers are battling a secret fitness addiction and suffer from eating disorders.

“Encouraging others to live a balanced, active lifestyle is a good thing….However, in the fitness-blog community, faked and photoshopped selfies are commonplace.  And I’m worried that they hide their eating disorders in plain sight, inadvertently encouraging their followers to do the same.”

Poppy writes about a 21-year-old fitness blogger named Celia Learmonth who has come clean about her own struggles:

“I look at other girls and think, why isn’t my life like that?  Why aren’t I on top form all the time?  That’s why I’m talking about this — because life isn’t a stream of perfect selfies.”

So true.

In the article, Poppy talks about a hashtag that followers look out for: #fitspo.  It’s similar to #thinspo — thin inspiration — which was banned by Instagram for being a signal used by girls with eating disorders who refuse to accept they are unwell.  She asks:

“Has fitness addiction become the new anorexia?”

I encourage you to read both articles and tell me what you think.


Image: courtesy of vgm8383 on flickr

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Friday Food News

Via Beverage Daily

Melon is one of this year’s hottest drink trends, with an array of exotic variations ready to tempt consumers, according to Treatt. Melon simultaneously fits the criteria of being both new and exotic, while still comfortable familiar to consumers, says the manufacturer and supplier of flavors. The idea of evoking positive emotions with beverages also continues to grow, with other popular flavors leaning towards nature and natural ingredients. Blossom, sophisticated ‘mocktails,’ and concepts evocative of home grown gardens are also trending in beverages.

Via AP

Starbucks and Panera are hyping reformulated versions of the popular drinks — which will include real pumpkin — in a fight to win over fans of the beverage in coming weeks. Starbucks Corp. is announcing a pumpkin spice latte that contains real pumpkin, one year after the company faced criticism for using artificial flavoring and caramel color in the popular drink. The company said this year’s version contains real pumpkin and no caramel coloring. A day after the Starbucks news, Panera said it had long used real pumpkin in its spice latte, but that it would remove artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives. And it is introducing “clean” bottled beverages that are free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives.

Via TechInsider

Over 6 billion pounds of fresh produce are left unharvested or unsold every year, and much of it is wasted simply for being blemished. A startup called Imperfect is trying to change the common perception of ugly produce by delivering it to your door. The service, which just launched fruit and veggie box deliveries in Oakland and Berkeley, California, charges about half of what you’d pay for comparable produce at the grocery store.

green smoothie

Via BevNet.com

A growing consumer trend toward bitter vegetables such as kale and chicory is driving beverage makers to add flavors such as matcha and herb extracts to juices, cocktail mixers and
sodas. Reflecting the mainstream appeal of bitter flavors, turmeric and Asian medicinal herbs and roots were named as the top natural and organic food trends of 2015 by Sterling Rice Group.

Via Food Manufacturing

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination and foodborne illness in spinach and other leafy greens, scientists ”are optimizing an inexpensive titanium dioxide (TiO2) photocatalyst that companies could add to the rinse water or use to coat equipment surfaces that come into contact with the leaves as they are processed. When TiO2 absorbs light, it produces a strong oxidant that kills bacteria,” according to the American Chemical Society. Greens are already commercially washed before heading to the grocery store. However, the chemicals meant to kill the bacteria are not always effective, because spinach leaves have grooves in them, which the chemicals do not always reach. Spinach or other leafy greens were linked to 18 food-poisoning outbreaks over the past 10 years, the American Chemical Society reported.

Via New York Times

New data collected by Stericycle, a company that handles recalls for businesses, shows a sharp jump in the number of recalls of organic food products. Organic food products accounted for 7 percent of all food units recalled so far this year, compared with 2 percent of those recalled last year, according to data from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture that Stericycle uses to compile its quarterly report on recalls. In 2012 and 2013, only 1 percent of total units of food recalled were organic.


A growing number of biofuel producers are teaming up with farms, meatpackers and waste management companies to tap gassy waste to meet new demand for renewable jet fuel and diesel for vehicles. Lots of different agricultural feedstocks – from sugarcane to sweet potatoes — can be used in renewable fuel. But there’s a bonus if you use organic waste. Methane, a super potent greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere as manure and food decompose. And that gas and that waste are increasingly a liability for farmers.

Via Eater

According to Fortune‘s list of 50 companies that are changing the world, here are nine that are revolutionizing the food game. Featured companies include Whole Foods, Unilever, Costco and Starbucks, among others.

Via Eater

From Subway to Kraft and Papa John’s, food companies are ditching artificial colorings left and right in an effort to appease consumers. However, replacing some of those vibrant colors in your cereal isn’t easy. The Chicago Tribune reports that companies like General Mills are having a hard time finding good, natural alternatives to traditional food coloring recipes. The full spectrum of natural hues takes time to develop and receive approval from federal regulators. Blue and green coloring didn’t become widely available until 2013, when the FDA finally approved the use of spirulina extract in gum and candy. Algae has also helped fill in the natural color gap.

images: melon drinks Hotel Gastronomico Casa Rosalia on flickr, green smoothie Breville USA on flickr

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A View From Abroad: 7 Ways Lebanon is a Step Ahead of U.S. on Food Trends

Greetings from Lebanon.

I’m here on vacation with my family.  It’s been three years since we’ve made the trip. We’re having a great time with my husband’s family — visiting the sites and eating tremendous food everywhere we go.

One thing that struck me during this year’s visit was how certain food trends in the U.S. are just a part of life here.  You think savory yogurt is big right now?  Well that’s how they’ve been eating lebneh in Lebanon for years.  It’s almost always combined with olives, mint and other savory ingredients than anything sweet.

You know how cauliflower is currently upstaging kale as the “it” vegetable?  Well, cauliflower has been a mainstay on Lebanese tables for many, many years — often fried until crisp and served with a tahini sauce.

Here’s a look at 7 popular food trends and some of the ways they’re translated here in Lebanon:


Greek yogurt is all the rage back home, but lebneh is a thick, strained yogurt that you need to get to know.  It’s a staple in Lebanese cuisine, especially at breakfast.  And just like savory yogurt is on trend in the U.S., that’s the only way lebneh is eaten in Lebanon.  It’s often combined with olives, mint, zaatar, olive oil and other savory ingredients (and eaten with bread).  You won’t find it combined with sugary fruits like we tend to eat yogurt in the U.S.  The photo below is the lebneh with olives that was served at a breakfast buffet at our hotel Dar Alma in the ancient southern city Tyre.  You’ll also find yogurt as an ingredient in many main dishes in Lebanon.



Pickling and fermentation are high on the list of 2015 U.S. food trends, and finally people are beginning to realize that “pickles” can be made with a lot more vegetables than the classic cucumber. These bright pink pickled turnips (colored by beet juice) have been on trend in Lebanon for hundreds of years.  A table filled with mezze isn’t complete without a plate of  pickled turnips, known as lift.



While the U.S. is now fascinated by plant-based meals, and legumes are getting lots of love (except for strict Paleo followers), Lebanon has long enjoyed falafel — perhaps the world’s first veggie burger made with ground chickpeas.  I just can’t get enough falafel here! Here’s a falafel sandwich I enjoyed this week in Byblos (with pickled turnips, parsley and tahini sauce), along with a video I took of falafel being fried in the old souks in the southern city of Saida.



We know cauliflower is enjoying its day in the sun in the U.S. — taking over some of the spotlight from kale.  They’ve always eaten a lot of cauliflower here in Lebanon. Here’s a dish of fried cauliflower we had in Saida, along with sliced eggplant.  Both were eaten with a squeeze of lemon or tahini sauce.



We’ve only recently gotten over our fear of fat in the U.S. and nuts are experiencing a renaissance of sorts.  The Lebanese have never feared nuts, which are a classic snack with a drink — along with carrots doused in lemon juice.  Fresh almonds, or loz, are especially popular.  Here’s a bowl we were served at dinner in Tyre, with a bright red nut cracker.  Pictured below is a bowl of the fresh almonds with the puffy green shell removed.




We are chronically low consumers of fruit in the U.S., although that’s beginning to change and fruit in all its forms are trending up back home.  Here in Lebanon, fruit is practically worshipped.  The picture below is all the fruit grown in my father-in-law’s yard — grapes, figs, passion fruit and pomegranates.  Most meals end with fruit — often watermelon, as pictured below from our dinner in Beit Mery.




While mini desserts are a popular restaurant trend in the U.S., that’s what they’ve always done here in Lebanon.  Sweets are a tradition — but the portions are small.  That way you can savor just a bite. Dessert is not an everyday thing, fruit is the more common way to end a meal.  Yet, when they do eat dessert, people are satisfied with a small portion.  The sweets are a work of art — like this arrangement from Al Baba in Saida.


 Oh, and foraging…a hot, hot trend in the U.S., that’s a way of life here.

I especially love that.  We pick our own wild herbs from the yard, dry the sumac from the bushes and pluck fresh figs, grapes and cactus fruit from the trees.

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