What are liquid diets?
Liquid diets may consist of either transparent fluid (broth, juice, water, carbonated drinks etc) or opaque liquid (soup, smoothies, porridge etc)
Do liquid diets work?
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It depends on the objective. If your only concern is weight loss, then the answer is yes! If your doctor has prescribed a liquid diet prior to a medical procedure (for example colonoscopy) to cleanse the gut, then the answer is yes!
Your consultant may also prescribe a short term liquid diet, if you are suffering digestive problems (for example crohn’s disease), to calm the gut and this can be highly effective.
If, however your aim is to lose fat and maintain muscle, whilst keeping healthy, then liquid diets do not work long term and may even cause more harm than good, in some circumstances. We just have to look a bit closer at the ‘Maple Syrup’ diet, infamously followed by Beyonce to see why…
This liquid diet contains just four ingredients, maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and water. It is followed for approximately 10-days, if you can bear it! This diet is perfect for reducing weight, as it is extremely low in calories. However, it is also devoid of protein and other nutrients, necessary to maintain muscle.
When we starve the body in this way, it will break down muscle tissue to provide it with amino acids normally found in protein foods. Amino acids are needed for every cell in the body. White blood cells are replaced every 10 days, so your immune system will suffer. Your skin and hair will age too, as skin cells are replaced every 24-days approximately. Weight loss with bad skin and hair is not a good look.
So is the answer that easy?
Nope! There is a huge array of liquid diets out there and their safety and efficiency vary. The main focus is keeping the calories down (approximately 600 per day) and by doing this, weight loss is unavoidable. You can choose from processed diets that include shakes with artificial sweeteners, pureed soups with preservatives, porridge and optional chocolate bars (containing hydrogenated fat (bad fat)).
Current evidence shows that artificial sweeteners promote the same insulin response as sugar and therefore promote obesity, rather than reduce fat. Another popular alternative with the health conscious is drinking either fruit and vegetable juices or smoothies for a few days to detoxify. Critics claim this idea is a marketing myth and the whole idea of detox is nonsense.
Let’s look at the evidence.
Far from being nonsense, the body has various systems for detoxifing, but the most obvious is the liver. This organ detoxifies chemicals and metabolises drugs.
It filters blood of bacteria and manufactures bile in which toxins are transported to the intestines and eliminated from the body. There are two phases of detoxification and different nutrients and enzymes are essential, at each phase, for this process to complete efficiently.
Nutrients required for phase 1
– B vitamins: Wholegrains, pulses and beans
– Folic acid: Lentils, beans, dark green leafy veg
– Glutathione: Milk thistle, cumin, fruits and vegetables, dairy, eggs
– Antioxidants: Fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes
– Carotenoids: Yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables
– Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocado
– Vitamin C: Fruit and vegetables
Nutrients required for phase 2
– Amino Acids: Meat, poultry, fish, dairy, seafood, soya, spirulina, grains
– Sulphurated phytochemicals
– Cruciferous vegetables for example broccoli
A liquid diet in the form of fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies may be useful to kickstart a fat loss programme or provide a nutritional boost for a solid diet.
It may also be successfully used for detoxification, however it should be used cautiously, particularly if you are on medication. Over activity of Phase 1 and insufficient antioxidants may result in more free radicals circulating and damaging cells. Poor nutrient support of Phase 2 may result in poor drug and toxin elimination.
The bottom line
If you are a healthy, not on medication and just want to add a bit of va va voom to your diet, then a liquid juice or smoothie mini fast will help. If you are suffering ill health and are currently on medication, seek advice from a Nutritional Therapist first. When used appropriately the liquid diet will restore energy and help the body to work efficiently.