Ultra processed foods are an all too common component of many people’s diets. These products have been linked to a variety of unpleasant consequences, from heart disease to diabetes to obesity. Processed foods are often high in added sugars and artificial flavorings, all of which can disrupt your body’s natural processes and leave you feeling sluggish and sick.
There are myriad benefits to quitting processed foods. From weight loss to an increase in energy to better skin and hair, a healthy diet will leave you looking and feeling your best. Detoxing from processed foods is a major step in the right direction toward a healthier you. If you hope to detox from processed foods, below we’ll go over some strategies you can employ to ensure success and embrace a healthier lifestyle.
Understand What Processed Food Is
While we tend to think of processed foods in terms of junk food, a lot of the food we eat every day technically meets the criteria. The first step to detoxing from processed foods is learning how to identify them in their worst forms.
In the broadest sense, processed foods are any foods that have been deliberately changed before we consume them. Suffice to say, that umbrella term includes a lot when you look at the amount of foods that are in plastic or cardboard and that have undergone human intervention with chemicals to increase shelf life. What you need to worry about though, is highly processed foods loaded with preservatives, dyes, trans fats, additives, and chemicals like pesticides sprayed on crop.
Make a habit of checking labels when purchasing foods. Ideally, the shorter and simpler the ingredients list, the better. Ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, sodium nitrate, carrageenan, and sodium benzoate indicate a food has been highly processed.
There are some obvious culprits when it comes to processed foods, like deli meats, potato chips, hotdogs, and sweets like candy. However, even seemingly innocuous food choices are often highly processed. Pre-packaged bread, canned pasta sauces, and processed carbohydrates are loaded with unhealthy additives.
Don’t neglect to check the label – even when you think you’re being healthy!
Plan Out Your Snacks
Quitting cold turkey is hard because processed foods aren’t just bad for your health. Some studies indicate they have addictive properties. It’s not just lack of willpower that makes cutting out processed foods so challenging. If you’re actually experiencing symptoms of food addiction, you’ll need to be conscientious about your triggers and how to plan ahead.
One great way is planning out your snacks. This way, if you’re craving the bag of potato chips you would normally reach for around 2PM, you’ll have a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy alternatives instead like protein, veggies, good fats, nuts and seeds. You can also make a point of bringing your own snacks to events where you know there will be junk food.
It can help to make non-processed, healthy versions of your usual go-tos. From kale chips to veggie sticks with avocado dip to even things like salad dressings and home made mayonnaise, there are plenty of recipes you can find online that use whole foods only.
Adopt A Detox-friendly Diet
Your diet can help your body detox from the unhealthy foods you’ve been putting into it over the years. However, it’s not just about upping your intake of fruits and vegetables (although, a diet high in both is certainly important!). A detox-friendly diet incorporates specific foods to promote gut health and immunity and reduce inflammation. In short, it helps your body undo some of the damage caused by processed foods.
Good digestion is key to a good detox, so make sure you support your gut health in between cleanses. Go for high-fiber foods like fruits and veggies, chia seeds, chia meal, coconut chia pudding, flaxseed meal, lentils, oatmeal, buckwheat, quinoa, nuts and seeds. Add in some extra probiotics with fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.
Over time, processed foods can contribute to inflammation and a poor immune system. Boost your consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids, found in seeds, seafood especially deep sea fish like atlantic salmon and barramundi and eggs. Cruciferous veggies, berries, and spices like turmeric and garlic are also an important aspect of a detox-friendly diet.
If you're trying to lose weight by detoxing, keep in mind that carbs count. It’s easy to feel like health foods are free foods, but be conscientious about how much you’re consuming to avoid insulin spikes from too many whole grains, if weight loss is a goal.
Drink More Water
Dehydration makes detoxing hard and is a cause of fatigue.
Water has endless benefits for our health, which is why drinking plenty of water is vital to detoxing. Water helps with liver and kidney function, promotes cellular activity, and keeps electrolytes high. While detoxing from processed foods, make sure to drink water throughout the day.
Filtered water is best, especially if you live in a major metropolitan area where water contamination may be high. You can motivate yourself to drink more water by adding in fruit, lemon, or sliced cucumbers for taste. Flavored sparkling water – as long as it’s free of unnecessary additives – can also help with your overall daily water intake.
While eight glasses of water a day is the usual recommendation, the amount of water you need varies depending on factors like your current health, the climate where you live, and how much exercise you get in throughout the day. If you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is light yellow or colorless, you’re probably getting enough water.
Start Working Out
Working out does not just help your body excrete toxins via sweat. It can boost your mood, which can help you better cope with emotional eating and stress. Working out regularly also reduces your risk for all kinds of diseases, so – even if you’re not trying to detox – it’s always great to establish a regular workout routine.
If you’re new to exercise, make sure to start with lighter activities and work your way up. It’s also a good precaution to talk to a doctor first, especially if you have underlying health conditions.
The best way to stick to an exercise routine is to pick something you enjoy, whether that’s a long walk or an afternoon on the tennis court. My personal favourite is high intensity interval training.
Detoxing from processed foods isn’t easy, but it’s doable with dedication, energy, and ample emotional support.
A combination of a detox-friendly diet and lifestyle changes can go a long way to helping you ditch processed foods and adopt a healthier lifestyle.
At SmartCleanse, we offer a 14 Day Cleanse designed to improve gut health, detoxify the liver, and shed excess pounds. If you’re interested in detoxing, you can read more about the 14 Day Cleanse here or reach out here with any questions.
Your Naturopath & Coach,