I have a serious nutrition pet peeve to bring up today. The kind of pet peeve that drove me to stop everything I was doing last night (i.e., homework) to write this because it was bothering me so much. I cringe whenever I see the word “detox” mentioned on Pinterest or other websites. I’ve seen it so much lately that it compelled me to take the opportunity to highlight what “sketchy” nutrition advice looks like and how you can recognize it.
The idea for this post came to me on a whim after seeing this article posted on Lauren Conrad’s website last night. Don’t get me wrong, I love LC (she will always be my favorite Laguna cast member, and I realize she is not the one who writes these posts) but it irked me to see “Detox Approved Snacks” with little to no reasoning behind why these foods detox your system.
Lauren’s website isn’t the first one to list “detox” foods. But this my friends, is a prime example of bad nutrition advice. This post states:
“Asparagus: cooking up this veggie is a delicious and healthy snack, not just because it detoxifies the liver, but also because it helps our body to flush out all the impurities.”
Ok…. but how does it do that?
If the post stated the metabolic reasons as to how asparagus does this at the cellular level, I would be satisfied. But a very generic sentence like this shows exactly why this information is flawed. There are no facts to support the statement.
Naturally, when I happened upon this nutritional nightmare last night my first instinct was to check the sources cited from this post. The first source listed? Some sketchy website. The second source listed? Dr. Oz’s website. I stopped looking at the sources after I saw that.
If you’re not sure how I feel about Dr. Oz, this picture will give you a better idea:
The next problem I have with this post is it doesn’t explain how any of these foods detox the body. Can someone please explain to me how asparagus, trail mix, or celery magically cleans out your body? So if I eat asparagus, an apple, celery, trail mix, and then half a pepperoni pizza it’s ok because I ate more “detox” foods, right? Wrong.
If the intention of the post was to highlight the vitamins and minerals that each food contains that benefit us, that would be a different story. Each one of those foods is loaded with phytochemicals that help reduce your risk for cancer and neutralize free radicals. But they don’t detox your body of them.
Let’s go over this in more detail….
A free radical is a pesky little molecule with an unpaired electron. I won’t go crazy on the chemistry specifics, but an unpaired electron basically means the molecule is unstable. This means that it is highly reactive and damage all parts of the cell including DNA.
So foods that contain antioxidants (such as vitamin C) act by donating an electron to neutralize (stabilize) the free radicals. Antioxidants act by preventing damage in the cell, they don’t cleanse the toxins from your system.
The moral of the story here is that eating specific foods is not going to “magically” detox your system and make you feel better. Healthy food will help everything function better, but the only thing that is capable of detoxifying your body is your liver.
We are taught in dietetics to always justify our information. I can tell you without a doubt I would not have passed any of my classes if I simply wrote: “Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer.”
Reliable nutritional information will justify the reasons why a food or a vitamin is beneficial. A better answer to define the function of vitamin E would be (taken directly from my micornutrients final exam study guide last semester):
“Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant by protecting the cell membrane from destruction through it’s ability to prevent the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids contained in the phospholipids of the membranes. Hydrogen atoms from the methylene groups found between double bonds in polyunsaturated fatty acids are primary targets for proton abstraction by radicals. Vitamin E stops this reaction and therefore prevents the formation of the lipid peroxyl radical.
The hydroxyl group on the phenolic ring donates hydrogen ions to terminate the propagation of free radicals. This protects against lipid peroxidation by reducing peroxyl radicals in cell membranes.”
See the difference? Thumbs up to anyone who actually read that whole statement. Two thumbs up to anyone who read that whole statement and actually understood it.
What kind of sketchy nutrition info have you read lately?
Click to follow me on: Bloglovin’, Twitter, & Facebook