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Real Food Very Low-Calorie Diet (VLCD) Program vs Shakes, Juice Cleanses & Other Detoxes

VLCD Shakes vs Real Food

Meal replacement shakes, juice cleanses and detox teas have become a popular diet trend over the past decade. Often praised for their health benefits, these products often claim to help with:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved skin
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Increased energy levels

Although the detox industry is booming, there is little clinical evidence which supports the use of such diets – our bodies already have an in-built (and extremely effective!) detoxifying system!

Our major organs that help us to detoxify include the digestive tract, kidneys, liver, lungs, lymphatic system, respiratory system and the skin. These systems are designed to breakdown chemicals into other forms we can easily get rid of through sweating, breathing, or using the bathroom.
While it’s great to consume the occasional vegetable-based juice, juices lack the gut-loving fibre that come from wholefoods. And fibre is not something to be overlooked (more on this shortly!).

Juice cleanses and detoxes

The sad reality is that while you may feel that a detox or cleanser is helping you shape up quickly, it is an illusion. Why? Because following a cleanse often helps your body to shed fluid, your stores of carbohydrate and intestinal bulk – not the unwanted kilos that you were hoping to lose.

People often find that weight comes back on quickly once the cleanse ends and this is because those carbohydrate stores, fluids and intestinal bulk are part of our body’s functionality – your body can’t (and won’t!) stay empty forever. The good news is that if weight loss if your goal, there are ways you can diet smarter not harder to get more sustainable results.

Bars and shakes

Meal replacement bars and shakes are another popular diet for losing weight quickly. There is no denying that they are convenient and near effortless – just shake and go appeals to a lot of people. While shakes and bars remove the need for calorie counting and portion control, they often contain ingredients that are difficult to pronounce...let alone digest in our bodies.

Artificial sweeteners and added sugars can have a negative impact on your overall health and importantly, your gut microbiome (the powerhouse of bacteria living in your gut that helps with immunity, mood, and overall health).
Why is this important? We know from clinical research, that gut health is an incredibly important factor in looking after our physical and mental health and eating a diet rich in wholefood is an effective way to look after your gut.
The best diet for gut health includes eating a moderate amount of different types of fibre including soluble fibre, insoluble fibre, and resistant starch – found in plant-based foods and wholegrains, and not in an artificial powder. With compelling evidence that gut health contributes to physical and mental health, a poor diet is now considered a risk factor for depression and anxiety meaning that a healthy wholefood diet may prevent these conditions at a brain level.

Shakes and bars also miss an incredibly important element of eating – learning about nutritious eating and portion control for long term health and weight maintenance. While this might not sound overly exciting, with 2/3 of Australians classified as overweight or obese, it is very obvious that we need to adopt some of these learnings into our everyday life.

Whole foods for weight loss

Now for the good news…

There is a way you diet – eating real food – that will see results. In fact, real food in the right amounts can have the same benefits as shake or detox diet.
Using the science of a low-carbohydrate diet, you can lose weight and see improvement in other areas of health including blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. These improvements are often accompanied by improved sleep and clearer skin like juice detoxes, but also help to improve gut health which is linked to eating wholefoods.

So, what does wholefoods for weight loss look like? A wide variety of different coloured plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, and wholegrains. Plus, adding a moderate amount of lean protein and healthy fats at mealtimes provide essential nutrients and help keep you fuller for longer.

Letting our bodies efficient detox system to do the detoxing, we can then concentrate on eating a varied diet and looking after our health and waistlines in a way that works.
If a wholefood approach to weight loss is something that you are interested in, you can book a complimentary Dietitian consultation to get more information


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  2. Acosta RD, Cash BD. Clinical effects of colonic cleansing for general health promotion: a systematic review. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Nov;104(11):2830-6; quiz 2837. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2009.494. Epub 2009 Sep 1. Erratum in: Am J Gastroenterol. 2010 May;105(5):1214. PMID: 19724266.
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  4. Evrensel A, Ceylan ME. Then gut-brain axis: the missing link in depression. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2015;13(3):239-244.




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