Monthly Archives: May 2013

Dr. Oz’s “Three” Day Smoothie “Detox”

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As part of my Month O’ Smoothies Challenge, I decided to do one day of nothin but smoothies.  (As a reminder, my “diet” for this month is replacing my breakfast with a delicious, produce packed smoothie. Just one a day, nothing too crazy.)

There is a definite craze going on these days that supports the notion that we need to “detox” our bodies.  It’s hard to make a list of my least favorite  words that arise whenever people want to talk about health and nutrition because there are so many of them, but “detox” definitely makes the top 10…along with “anti-nutrient” (see my original post on Paleo for more information on that).  “Detox” is one of those very vague terms that floats around the media.  No one really knows what it means, but it sounds important, so people keep saying it.  Here are some important questions that you should chew over when considering a “detox.”
Q: What are the toxins of which you’re ridding your body when you go on a “detox”?
A: Pesticides? Inflammatory molecules? Antinutrients? Cancer? The boogey man?
I use question marks in my answer because I don’t know what the answer is.
Q: How, exactly, are drinking a bunch of fruits and vegetables going to rid your body of these toxins?
A: I’m not knocking fruits and veggies here.  If you’ve been paying attention this year, I’ve got nothing bad to say about them. But, unless you’re eating organic, you’re actually going to introduce pesticides (and who knows if that’s even a bad thing? I’ll go into detail on that when I do my Sustainability Month). Eating fruits and veggies that are packed with anti-inflammatory agents will promote health and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, but they aren’t going to get rid of the ones you have.  You can actually just eat lots of fruits and veggies on the reg — there isn’t some transformative value of putting them in a blender that gives them miniature superhero capes. And doing it for a day only isn’t really going to do anything at all.
Q: Does the body lack the ability to get rid of “toxins” (put simply, things that are bad for us)?
A: No, it doesn’t.  It actually has some really incredible organs called the small intestine, liver, and kidneys whose jobs are to prevent bad stuff from getting in / getting rid of The Badness when it does get in.  These organs stop working properly when they aren’t treated properly (i.e. binge drinking, doing drugs, eating an unhealthy diet).  The body is composed of a pretty incredible set of systems, and a single “detox” isn’t going to do much for them.  In fact, a detox could actually hurt those organs, because they require a proper balance of nutrients to work, and most “detox” programs are deficient in nearly every nutrient. A better program is to just eat a healthy diet full of foods that are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich components pretty much all the time.  But that just doesn’t have that glamorous ring to it, does it?
Q: What about cleanses? Aren’t those good? Don’t I need to cleanse my body? (This is sort of a tangential thought, but it seemed like the right time to answer this question).
A: No.  See above answer about the organs that get rid of bad crap — same thing.  Also, anything that involves a “colon cleanse” is a bad idea.  There are lots of really beneficial bacteria that have formed a symbiotic relationship with your gut – they live off what you eat and they help to promote a healthy immune system and overall keep your insides happy.  Don’t get rid of them. YOUR COLON SHOULD NEVER BE CLEAN (unless you’re getting a colonoscopy. Have fun with that).

The Detox
I decided to follow Dr. Oz’s three day smoothie detox because 1) I saw it on Pinterest, so I figured lots of other people had too; 2) I didn’t look for any others. This doesn’t mean that I support anything Dr. Oz says or does.  I don’t know everything he says because it makes me too angry to listen to him, but I do know that he’s a really important contributor to the propagation of whack ass health information out there. He’s making my life harder than it needs to be. Anyways, back to my smoothie challenge.  I decided ahead of time that I was only going to follow this thing for a day because it’s so low in calories, and I’m not trying to lose weight.  Also, I didn’t want to become a huge bitch due to not eating for a few days.  I was really just thinking about everyone else. You’re welcome, loved ones.

Here’s how it goes:

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I did take a fish oil supplement because I had one.  I didn’t take a multivitamin or a probiotic supplement because I didn’t have those, and I wasn’t going to spend money on them.  I also decided to do a nutrient analysis to see what my intake was for that day:

Nutrients Target Average Eaten Status
Total Calories 2000 Calories 1047 Calories Under
Protein (g)*** 46 g 21 g Under
Protein (% Calories)*** 10 – 35% Calories 8% Calories Under
Carbohydrate (g)*** 130 g 170 g OK
Carbohydrate (% Calories)*** 45 – 65% Calories 65% Calories OK
Dietary Fiber 25 g 37 g OK
Total Fat 20 – 35% Calories 36% Calories Over
Saturated Fat < 10% Calories 13% Calories Over
Monounsaturated Fat No Daily Target or Limit 11% Calories No Daily Target or Limit
Polyunsaturated Fat No Daily Target or Limit 8% Calories No Daily Target or Limit
Cholesterol < 300 mg 0 mg OK
Minerals Target Average Eaten Status
Calcium 1000 mg 658 mg Under
Potassium 4700 mg 3485 mg Under
Sodium** < 2300 mg 610 mg OK
Copper 900 µg 2840 µg OK
Iron 18 mg 8 mg Under
Magnesium 310 mg 405 mg OK
Phosphorus 700 mg 595 mg Under
Selenium 55 µg 13 µg Under
Zinc 8 mg 4 mg Under
Vitamins Target Average Eaten Status
Vitamin A 700 µg RAE 698 µg RAE Under
Vitamin B6 1.3 mg 1.6 mg OK
Vitamin B12 2.4 µg 0.0 µg Under
Vitamin C 75 mg 295 mg OK
Vitamin D 15 µg 1 µg Under
Vitamin E 15 mg AT 16 mg AT OK
Vitamin K 90 µg 833 µg OK
Folate 400 µg DFE 263 µg DFE Under
Thiamin 1.1 mg 0.9 mg Under
Riboflavin 1.1 mg 1.2 mg OK
Niacin 14 mg 7 mg Under

Clearly, I was deficient in nearly every nutrient, which is to be expected when there is absolutely no variety in the types of foods you’re eating. Some whole grains and a couple of lean protein sources could have done this body some good.  I was kind of surprised that this day didn’t provide more fiber (37 g is still pretty substantial, but that’s the goal for the average man, so it’s really not that much).  What’s most interesting to me is that a standard low calorie diet that is prescribed to someone trying to lose weight is 1200 calories.  This was only 150 shy of that, and I can think of a lot of lean, satiating foods that I could have eaten with the same number of calories and felt a lot better.  But pain is health, right? …Wrong.

My Experience

This day was pretty hard for me.  I tried to drink the smoothies slowly so that there wouldn’t be much time in between meals for me to get hungry.  It worked between breakfast and lunch, and I wasn’t too terribly hungry.  But the lunch smoothie was pretty weird.  The consistency was more like apple sauce than a smoothie, and I ended up eating it with a spoon.  It was also the only time that I did any chewing throughout the day, and it was pretty unsatisfying.  Which brings me to things that I couldn’t stop thinking about throughout the day: chewing, food, food, chewing, food, food, I hate vegetables, chewing, I hate fruit, food, food, food.  I also had some interesting cravings for things I really never crave including BBQ chips, fried chicken, orange chicken, fettucine alfredo, and Olive Garden breadsticks. Now that I’m not hungry, those things sound gross to me, but that’s what a day of low calories, low fat, low protein, and no salt will do to you. I’m pretty sure my attempt to detoxify my system only made me want to re-toxify by the end. Not really much of a homerun on the health front.
However, the smoothies were actually really good (minus lunch, whose flavor was nice, but was too weird of a texture to want to enjoy again), and I have since made them for breakfast. As you may have guessed, I noticed no positive changes in how I felt.  No little health cherubs descended from the heavens and kissed my forehead and eradicated all my ailments.  I ended the day disappointed and hungry and then went back to my normal, overall healthy eating pattern the next day.  What a sad, boring story.

Hoppin’ On That Smoothie Bandwagon

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I don’t know if I’m just noticing it because I’m in the field, but people seem pretty nuts about smoothies and juicing over the last few years.  As a nutritionist and a cynic, I always thought the whole thing was pretty stupid.  And by whole thing, I mean just the juicing part of the thing.

The Smoothie vs. Juice Debacle

To be clear, the difference between a smoothie and a juice really lies in the type of machinery that you use to make each.  A lot of people will use the term “juice” when they’re really talking about a smoothie, but make no mistake: they are not the same thing. A smoothie is made in a blender-like contraption in which you put whole fruits, vegetables, nut butters, milk, seeds, water — really whatever you want, and hit frappe.  Smoothies are actually a great way to pack in lots of fruits and vegetables in their whole from to make for a very healthy treat.  Of course, you can make these unhealthy by adding sugary yogurts, not including a variety of fruits and vegetables, and not taking the macronutrient content of your smoothie into consideration with what you eat for the rest of the day.  It’s so easy to ruin a good thing.

Juices, on the other hand, are made when you extract the juice of a fruit/vegetable from the fibrous part of the plant.  And therein lies the problem: you’re removing the fiber.  In my experience as a nutritionist, fiber seems to be one of the most forgotten components of the diet.  People seem to wave off recommendations to eat more fiber like they’re trying to shoo away an annoying fly.  But it’s just so important.
Fiber does wonderful things for your digestive tract.  You can’t absorb fiber (if you could, our food supply would be a lot more calorically dense), but all the healthy little bacteria in your intestines love it, and when they digest it, they produce short chain fatty acids that are involved in protecting the colon from cancer.  And who doesn’t love cancer protection? Fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol and lower your risk for heart disease (which is why you’ll see that packages for foods like oats have the American Heart Association seal of approval for Heart Health).  It also helps to reduce belly bloat and increase feelings of satiety (fullness).  Bottom line, eat lots of fiber.
So back to my original point: juices extract the fiber.  In doing so, this creates a lot of waste, which is sad to see because all of that “waste” could be improving your GI and heart health. Additionally, because juices are devoid of fiber, people tend to over-drink them as well.  As I said, fiber helps you to feel full, and without that fiber, many of the body’s normal cues that tell it to stop eating don’t exist.  While juices are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, they can also be pretty high in calories.
I’ve seen this happen numerous times: people start juicing as an addition to their regular diet.  They make no other changes, and they assume that they are doing something super healthy by juicing, but for some reason, they slowly start to put on weight. I think juices cause people to forget the basics of nutrition.  Fruits and vegetables DO have calories (I know, WHAT?!), and a serving of a whole fruit or vegetable is typically fairly low in calories because fiber and water make up the majority of the volume.  When you juice, though, you’re probably using 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables to make one juice.  Taken together, that adds up to a lot of extra calories.  Tack on all those extra calories to your normal diet, and you’ll start gaining weight.  So, this isn’t to say that juices in and of themselves are evil, because they are actually a really great way to get in A LOT of nutrients, but it’s all in how you use them.  And most people use them incorrectly.  The calorie issue is also present in a smoothie — however, because the smoothies have fiber, you typically can’t drink as much of a smoothie as a juice.  Plus, because they are thick (unlike a juice), it takes more time to drink one, so your stomach and brain have time to realize that you’re eating and send the signal to stop once you’re full.  Lastly, because of the fiber and anything you add to the smoothie (yogurt, nut butters, etc.), the smoothie can be hearty enough to replace a meal, so that you’re not actually adding calories to your day.
Here is a really amazing blog post from a Registered Dietitian about some of the problems with juice fasts/cleanses.  This lady totally speaks my language and she hits on a lot of the issues with the pseudo-science that abounds in popular culture and all over the internet.

30 Day Smoothie Challenge

What I’ve decided to do for May is simply to replace my breakfast with a smoothie everyday.  “How is this a diet?” you ask. It really isn’t, but it is a pretty big trend right now, particularly green smoothies.  With one of these breakfast smoothies, I average 4 servings of fruits/vegetables in a very portable, easy to consume “meal.” I really just want to see if I feel any different by adding this many servings of fruits and vegetables to my diet.

I’m 15 days in to the challenge, and I’ve started to get pretty creative with my smoothie skills.  Here are some of my criteria for this challenge:
-Every smoothie has to have at least one serving of vegetables
-Throughout the week, I have to drink smoothies that contain produce from a variety of different colors. Sometimes this means that all those colors go into one smoothie (i.e. mango, kale, and blueberries all in one). Other times it means that I’ll have a purple smoothie one day, an orange one the next, green on another day…etc. Eat the rainbow!
-Any “base” has to be unsweetened (i.e. unsweetened almond milk, plain coconut water, plain yogurt).  The fruits already have enough fructose to make the smoothies sweet. No need to add more.
-Every smoothie has to have a protein and/or a fat source.  Fat is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (Vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids).  Protein just makes it more well rounded, though I’m not too worried about the protein bit because I get enough protein in the rest of my diet. This typically means that I add some kind of nut butter, avocado, plain Greek yogurt, or a little olive oil to each smoothie.

At the end of the month, I’ll share some recipes of my favorite smoothies! And probably some of the failures too…