Thursday, 30 April 2009

Kitchen Wisdom & Tips

I haven't tried any of the following kitchen tips... if you have, or if you have any other good ones to share... let me know!

The following
tips are presumably from Martha Stewart herself...
  • Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of an ice cream cone to prevent ice cream drips.
  • To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.
  • If you accidentally over-salt a dish while it's still cooking, drop in a peeled potato and it'll absorb the excess salt for an instant 'fix-me-up'.
  • If you have a problem opening a jar, try using latex dish washing gloves- they provide a non-slip grip.
  • Freeze leftover wine into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

Here are some other good ones. Click here for the entire list:
  • To soften hardened brown sugar, place a slice of bread or a few apple slices with the sugar in an airtight container. The sugar will soften overnight.(I actually tried this... it works!)
  • Grate orange and lemon peel before peeling. Dry and add to spice cake or any cookies or puddings. The dried grated peel will keep well in a covered jar.
  • If you scorch milk by accident, put the pan in cold water and add a pinch of salt to the milk. Takes away the burned taste.
  • When measuring sticky ingredients (molasses, honey, peanut butter), try spraying the measuring cups with non-stick spray first (just lightly). The ingredients will come out easier.
  • Stir natural peanut butter well and store in the fridge. It won't separate.
  • Place stuffed peppers and tomatoes in a muffin tin before sticking them in the oven. They’ll stay upright and keep their shape perfectly!
  • Toast oatmeal in the oven before adding to other ingredients when making oatmeal cookies-–delicious!
  • To pare pineapple easily cut into rings and peel each slice separately.
  • Canned fruit is much better if opened and removed from the can an hour or two before using to restore the oxygen.
  • Fill a large salt shaker with flour and use that when needing to dust surfaces with flour- this is handy way to keep a bit of flour on hand instead of digging in the flour bin.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

What's a Whole Grain?

We know that the grains we eat should be "Whole Grains"... and i've blogged about Whole Grains in the past. The topic can be a bit confusing though so I'm going to review.

First, a little quiz:

1. Which bread is usually all or mostly whole grain?
a. Whole Wheat
b. Multi Grain
c. Rye
d. Pumpernickel

2. Which of the following (could be more than one) are whole grains?
a. Bulgur
b. Quinoa
c. Couscous
d. Oatmeal

3. Which cereals are whole grains?

a. Shredded Wheat
b. Total
c. All Bran
d. Corn Flakes
e. Special K

1. Bread

In theory, Multi Grain, Rye and Pumpernickel could all be whole grain... but not always.
The answer is a) Whole Wheat bread... but only in the US.

In Canada and the US, read the ingredient list. If the first ingredient starts with "whole", it's a whole grain. For example, if the first ingredient is "Wheat Flour", it's not a whole grain. If it's "Whole Wheat Flour", it is.

Products labeled with words like "made with whole wheat", "multigrain," "stone ground," "whole wheat (in Canada*)," "seven-grain," or "bran" may actually contain little or no whole grain!

*In Canada, it's legal to advertise any food product as "whole wheat" with up to 70% of the germ removed! A label must state '100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat' for a Canadian consumer to know they're getting a whole grain product.

Don't rely on the colour of the bread- lots of products add molasses to get that brown colour.
Don't rely on fiber amount either since products may add processed fiber from peas or other food that can help prevent constipation and diverticulosis but doesn't offer the antioxidants and phytochemicals whole grains do.

When shopping for bread:

Choose ones that are whole grains AND high in fiber:

-Read the ingredient list and choose a bread that has a whole grain as the first ingredient- in most cases, starting with the word "whole".
-Choose a whole grain bread that contains 2-3 or more grams of fiber per slice.

2. Other Whole Grains

b) Quinoa and d) Oatmeal are whole grains.
Bulgur and Couscous are not always (whole grain bulgur and whole wheat couscous are).

Other whole grains include:
Barley ( but not pearl barley), buckwheat, kamut, millet, brown and wild rice and spelt.

3. Cereal

a) Shredded Wheat and b) Total are whole grains. All Brans, Corn Flakes and Special K are not.

The first ingredient in a whole grain cereal is a whole grain- usually starts with the word "Whole".
For example, the first ingredient in the cereal Grape Nuts is "Whole Grain Wheat Flour" therefore, it's a whole grain.
The first ingredient in the cereal Kellogg's Multi-Grain Rice Krispies is "Rice" therefore it's not a whole grain.

Cereal can be confusing when it comes to choosing a whole grain, partly because of fiber content. For example, Shredded Wheat (a whole grain) has less fiber than All Bran (bran isn't technically a whole grain).

Secondly, sugar added to cereal decreases the amount of fiber. Honey Nut Cheerios (a whole grain) has only 1g fiber per serving. That's because the added sugar takes the place of the whole grain, therefore there's less fiber.

When shopping for cereal:

- Choose a whole grain cereal that is ALSO high in fiber. A whole grain cereal has a whole grain as the first ingredient, usually starting with the word "whole". A high fiber cereal contains more than 5 grams fiber per serving.

- Even though bran isn't technically a whole grain, think of it as a whole grain because the high fiber in the bran has loads of benefits.

- Choose a cereal with less sugar- less than 10g sugar per serving. Sugar replaces some of the whole grain you should be eating.

- Make sure your granola is low fat.

Here's a list of some of the popular breakfast cereals and whether they're whole grains or not:


Whole Grain:
Granola or muesli
Grape Nuts
Raisin Bran
Shredded Wheat

NOT Whole Grain:
Corn Flakes
Frosted Flakes
Just Right
Corn Pops
Puffed Wheat
Rice Krispies
Special K


Whole Grain:
Oat Bran
Quaker Multigrain

NOT Whole Grain:
Cream of rice
Cream of Wheat

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Stevia/Truvia/PureVia's Safety

About this time last year I blogged about Stevia. Stevia is a plant native to South and Central America and its extracts are 300 times sweeter than sugar without the calories of sugar. This time last year, the use of Stevia in food was banned in Canada and the United States because of a lack of evidence that it was safe.
However, in December 2008, the American FDA approved rebaudioside A, the sweet extract of the stevia plant, a move that has been
called "President Bush's parting gift to the soda industry". Canada and the European Union have not approved the use of Stevia in food.

What changed?

The FDA received two notices that rebaudioside A
was 'Generally Recognized as Safe' (GRAS). Who submitted these GRAS notices?
Two corporate giants with evident interest in using the stevia extract: Cargill Inc and Whole Earth Sweetener.
These GRAS notices informed the
FDA that their ingredients were safe and didn't need pre-market approval... leading to, according to a review prepared for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the following products being rushed to market too early:

Truvia- from Coca-Cola and Cargill- a tabletop sweetener. Moreover, Sprite Green (from Coca-Cola) is out on the market already and Coca Cola plans to use it in Coke soft drinks and plan to release new Odwalla juice drinks with the sweetener.

PureVia- from Pepsi-Cola and Whole Earth Sweetener- a tabletop sweetener. Pepsi Co has released Trop50 (Tropicana) containing the sweetener and will launch at least 3 new flavours of SoBe Lifewater.

SweetLeaf- Wisdom Natural Brands started selling SweetLeaf sweetener.

Why the concern?

Firstly, the research was ind
ustry-sponsored raising questions about the objecticity of the science - authors of the studies are scientists from Cargill and Coca-Cola (or paid by Cargill). The FDA did not follow-up.

Some independent studies have found that the stevia extracts caused mutations, chromosome damage or DNA breakage. Although in 2 studies in which one of the extracts, stevioside, was added to drinking water and fed to rats for 2 years, there was no increase in tumors. However, the most popular extract, rebaudioside A (TruVia and PureVia are 95% rebaudioside A), wasn't tested!
Furthemore, Stevia was only tested on one animal and usually, it should be 2.
Other reports found ill effects to the rats' reproductive systems: male rats fed high doses of the stevia exract for 22 months had lower sperm production and femal hamsters had fewer and smaller babies. However, a Cargill-sponsored study found no evidence of reproductive problems through 2 generations of rats fed very large doses of the stevia extract.
Evidently, more research is waranted but, according to a senior nutritionist at CSPI, there
was probably a lot of pressure put on the FDA to approve the new sweetener.

The Stevia products are being marketed as natural because they come from a plant. To
underline their natural claims, the stevia products are packaged in green. However, be aware that stevia is also being blended with other sweeteners: the makers of Splenda just introduced Sun Crystals, a mix of sugar and stevia. Stevia is also being added to some soft drinks containing aspartame.

Japanese manufacturers have been using stevia since the 70s but they don't consume nearly as much soda as North Americans.

Bottom Line:
According to the CSPI, the occasional use of a stevia product to sweeten your tea or coffee is probably safe (although taste is another matter as it has been said that there is a bitter aftertaste). However, until more reserach is done, there's no way to tell whether larger amounts will increase the risk of cancer (If Coke and Pepsi add stevia to their diet drinks, millions of people will be exposed to large amounts...) .

The general recommendation when it comes to sweeteners is to limit your intake to 2-3 sweetener-sweetened products a da
For more general information on sweeteners, click here.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Swine Flu: Q & A

The WHO has also called the outbreak of the Swine Flu virus in the States and in Mexico a "public health emergency of international concern".
So far as many as 86 deaths are suspected and 20 confirmed in Mexico, with over 1400 people ill. The United States, which has declared a public health emergency today, 20 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in 5 states, including New York (8), California (7), Kansas (2), Texas (2) and Ohio (1). Canada has now confirmed 6 cases in Nova Scotia (4) and British Columbia (2).

CTV and CBC News published great Q & A pieces and I'm including the main points below:

What is swine flu?
Just like humans get the flu, so do pigs. They get a fever, a cough, sneezing, lose their appetite.

Can humans catch swine flu from pigs?
Usually it's rare and, if it happens, it's people that deal directly with the pigs. On average, in the States, there are 4 cases documented a year.
1976 saw the last swine flu outbreak at Fort Dix, NJ among military recruits. At that time, the US vaccinated 40 million people fearing the outbreak would turn into a pandemic, but it didn't.

Can you catch swine flu from an infected person?
Yes- just like the seasonal flu is transmitted between humans.

Can you catch swine flu by eating pork?

No- the swine flu virus isn't transmitted through food.

Should we be worried about this outbreak?
This new outbreak is a bit worrisome because none of the people recently infected had any contact with pigs. The Center for Disease Control is reporting that this is a new virus that's a combination of bird, swine and human influenza.
American officials are asking people not to panic though. The emergency declaration lets the government free more money for antiviral drugs and give some previously unapproved tests and drugs to children. One-quarter of the national stockpile of 50 million courses of antiflu drugs will be released.

Dr. Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital told CBC News that, while the cases in Mexico sound like a large number, "in truth for influenza, that's a very small number." "You need to remember that in Canada alone, which is not that much bigger than Mexico City actually in population terms, 4,000 people die of seasonal flu every year."

If you're travelling, you may be asked if you have had the flu or a fever. Those that appear ill will be asked to step aside, given a mask and given medical care.

Is there a vaccine?
Only for pigs- none to protect humans. The flu shot will not protect you.

What are symptoms?
Similar to regular flu symptoms: fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing. Some people have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

How to they diagnose swine flu?
A respiratory specimen is collected within 4-5 days of becoming ill and sent for testing.

Is it treatable?
Yes, with antivirals. The recent US swine flu cases seem to be resistant to 2 antivirals (amantadine, rimantadine) but are susceptible to zanamivir and Tamiflu.

What can you do?
The CDC is advising you to to wash your hands frequently, to cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth (that's how germs are spread) and to stay home if you feel sick.

Visit the CDC and the WHO's sites for more up-to-date info.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Warning: Açai Berry Scam

Have you heard of the açai (pronounced "ah-sigh-EE") berries?
They come from South America, look like grapes and have been touted as a superfruit. You can buy
açai juice (selling for $40 a quart! ), juice powder, tablets, smoothies, as well as the whole fruit.

The Center for Science in the
Public Interest (CSPI) is warning the public to stay away from signing up for online "free samples" of açai products since thousands of consumers have had their credit cards charged and have had trouble stopping recurrent charges.

The Claims:

You'll lose weight, flatten your stomach, have more energy, cleanse your colon, improve your digestion, enhance sexual desire, improve heart health, improve your skin, sleep better, reduce your cholesterol levels.

The Science:

There's none. There's no evidence that the berries live up to any of their claims.
study comparing antioxidant-rich beverages was published in Feb 2008 and found that pomegranate juice, red wine, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice and black cherry juice all had higher levels of antioxidants than açai juice (however, the açai juice had more antioxidants than orange juice, iced tea and apple juice).

The Controversy:

Oprah's famous doctor guest, Dr. Mehmet Oz, included açai, along with tomatoes, blueberries and broccoli as healthy foods. A guest on Rachel Ray also talked about the açai beverages.
As a result, ads and websites such as and, have been created claiming Oprah and Rachel Ray have endorsed the products and steering visitors to fake blogs of people that have supposedly lost a lot of weight on these products. Free samples are also offered .

Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Rachel Ray have publicly disassociated themselves from the açai sites (and taking legal action).

The Best Business Bureau (BBB) have received thousands of complaints from consumers that have had their credit cards charged (up to almost 200$) after ordering a "free" trial of açai supplements.

Protect Yourself:

The CSPI suggests that if, despite the lack of scientific evidence that the product had any benefit, you still want to try to get a "free" trial of an açai product, check the company on the BBB site first. Click "check out a Business or Charity" and enter the information you have on the company before signing up for anything. For example, FX supplements that markets Acai Berry Maxx received an F rating from the BBB's online report due to the fact that the company received 213 complaints in the last 12 months.
Other a
çai sites that have received an F rating include FWM Laboratories (runs ), Pure Acai Berry Pro (Advanced Wellness Research), AcaiBurn, Acai Berry Maxx (FX Supplements) and SFL Nutrition.

Furthermore, use a prepaid credit card with a low credit limit or a virtual credit card that shields your real credit card number

The misleading and deceptive açai health claims are currently being investigated and the fraudulent companies have yet to be caught... so beware.

Note that
at least one brand, Açai Berry Select, contains 200 mg added caffeine per capsule-the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee- and they recommend you take 2 capsules a day. Remember that women in childbearing years should aim for less than 300mg caffeine a day as high caffeine intakes have been linked to miscarriages. Something else to consider.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Earth Day Freebies

Go to any Starbucks in Canada (some US stores may be participating) or Target in the States with a reusable cup or tumbler and a free fill of brewed coffee. (on any day, Starbucks will offer a $0.10 discount when you bring a reusable cup).

Bring 3 empty plastic bottles to a
Disney store and get a free gift.

If you shop at Walgreens today, you'll get a free re-usable shopping tote.

Reynolds is offering a free 100% recycled aluminum foil with a mail-in rebate. Click
Here for information.

Live in New York? Lightbulb maker Sylvania is driving a branded Mister Softeee truck around New York City and giving out
free soft serve ice cream and distributing product coupons for Sylvania CFLs. The truck stops first at 10 a.m. at the Lowe’s in Brooklyn, then heads into Manhattan to stop at Bryant Park around 12 p.m. and then Times Square at 1 p.m.

Sources: abcactionnews

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A Greener Diet: How the foods we eat impact our environment

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a great Eating Green Calculator you should try... it allows you to enter the servings of animal products you eat in a week to determine the impact your diet has on the environment: pounds of fertilizer and pesticides used yearly to grow animal feed, acres of grain and grass needed for animal feed and pounds of manure created by the animals you eat. The program then allows you to make changes to your diet and calculate how those changes can reduce your environmental burden.

The website also allows you to score your diet: you enter the servings of certain foods you eat in a week and the program calculates a Health Score, Environmental Score and Animal Welfare Score. Kinda cool.

The CSPI encourages everyone to take the
Pledge to eat less meat and dairy:

To protect my health and the environment, I will eat a more plant-based diet—more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts and fewer fatty meat and dairy products. When I do eat animal products, I will emphasize ones that are lower in fat and raised in humane ways that minimize harm to the environment.

What are the CSPI's 6 arguments for a greener diet?

1. Less chronic disease and overall health: The fat and cholesterol in meat, dairy, poultry and egg products cause about 63, 000 deaths from heart disease a year. Apart from heart disease and hypertension, consumption of meat and other animal products have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and diabetes.

2. Less foodborne illnesses: More than 1000 Americans die annually from foodborne illnesses linked to meat, poultry, dairy and egg products.

3. Better soil: Currently in the States, 100 million acres of land is used up to grow crops to feed livestock. In fact, 66% of US grain ends up as livestock feed. This practice depletes the topsoil of nutrients and erodes the soil (a typical acre of US cropland loses an average of 5 tons of soil a year!) , as does overgrazing of grasses by livestock. 22 billion pounds of fertilizer and immense amounts of pesticides are used to grow the animal feed is used, disrupting the ecosystem, poisoning wildlife and polluting waterways.

4. More and cleaner water: 80% of all freshwater in the States is used for agriculture, Half of available irrigation water (14 trillion gallons annually) is used to grow food for US livestock (1 trillion alone is used directly by livestock). Fertilizer, pesticides, manure, antibiotics and eroded soil pollute water.

5. Cleaner air: Methane gas produced by cattle and livestock in 2000 had the same impact on global warming as 33 million cars! Livestock are the largest source of ammonia releases on Earth, contributing to smog, acid rain as well as respiratory and other health problems.

6. Less animal suffering: 140 million cattle, pigs and sheep, 9 billion chicken and turkeys and millions of fish, shellfish and other sea creatures are slaughtered a year in the United States. Food animals are not protected by federal animal welfare laws making common procedures such as chopping animals' beaks, horns, tails, or testes legal.

Click Here to download their entire "6 Arguments for a Greener Diet" book.

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Running makes you live longer

Over 26 000 people are currently running the Boston Marathon (congratulations!), so this post will appropriately deal with running!

A 2008 study followed 284 runners and 156 controls, all over the age of 50 at baseline, for 21 years and found that elderly runners lived longer and had less disabilities than non-runners.

At the beginning of the study, the runners ran an average of about four hours a week and were younger, leaner and less likely to smoke compared to the controls.

After 21 years, their running time declined to an average of 76 minutes per week but health benefits were still apparent.

After 19 years, 34% of control had died compared to only 15% of runners!

Running has often been blamed for causing knee problems and osteoarthritis over time. The same researchers published a companion paper showing that running was not associated with greater rates of osteoarthritis and did not require more total knee replacements than nonrunners. On average both groups in the study became more disabled after 21 years of aging, but for runners the onset of disability started 16 years later than nonrunners.

What surprised the authors even more was that the gap between the physical abilities between runners and nonrunner kept increasing, even as the subjects entered their 90s. The authors speculate that this is a result of the runners' healthier habits and lower BMIs.

Bottom line:
Vigorous exercise (running) at middle and older ages is associated with reduced disability in later life and a notable survival advantage.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

How Many Calories Do We Need?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to counting calories for weight loss:

1. Don't waste your time and focus on the quality of your diet.

2. It's an essential tool for weight loss.
As one
doctor specializing in weight loss I worked for put it: "before you buy something it's a good idea to know how much is in your bank account, how much you make a month and how much it costs. As far as weight goes, it's currency is Calories and therefore it's a good idea to know how many Calories you burn in a daytime, how many you've had and how many you want".

I go back and forth on this one. However, if you agree with the latter school of thought, the following will help you:

How to determine how many calories you consume?

1. Measure your serving size using measuring cups and spoons.

2. Read the label: look at the serving size and the calories for that serving size.

3. Calculate and write down the calories in your serving.

For example: If you ate 4 cookies and the label on the cookie bag indicates that there are 100 calories for 2 cookies, you ate (2 x 100 calories) 200 calories.

You can use the online program
Calorie King to determine calories in foods without labels (ie. produce).

How to determine how many calories you need?

Of course, caloric needs vary widely, depending on factors like gender, age, height, weight and physical activity.
Dietitians use various equations to calculate caloric needs and in 2005, the Journal of the American Dietetics Association published a review of the various equations used (Harris-Benedict, Mifflin-St Jeor, Owen, WHO/FAO/UNU). The Mifflin -St Jeor equation was found to be the best (for both obese and non-obese individuals), predicting Resting Metabolic Rate within 10% of the measured value.

The Mifflin-St Jeor equation below estimates your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR: the minimum number of calories your body needs to maintain your weight at complete rest). You must multiply the value obtained by an Activity Factor.

Remember that this equation is an estimate only of your caloric needs since many factors affect metabolic rate. It is meant only for healthy, non-pregnant adults.


Male: 10×weight + 6.25×height - 5×age + 5

Female: 10×weight + 6.25×height - 5×age - 161

Weight: in kilograms. If you know your weight in pounds, divide by 2.2 to obtain to get your weight in kilograms.

Height: in centimeters; if you know your height in inches, multiply by 2.54 to get your height in centimeters

here for an online BMR calculator that uses the Miffline-St Jeor equation. You must multiply your BMR with the appropriate Activity Factor to determine your daily caloric needs for weight maintenance:

Activity factor:

If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : 1.2

If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): 1.375

If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): 1.55

If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): 1.725

If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job or intense training, ie. twice a day): 1.9

Is weight loss a goal for you?

For a reasonable and healthy weight loss of 1lbs a week, subtract your total daily caloric needs measured above by 500 calories:

Daily caloric recommendation for weight loss: (BMR x Activity Factor) - 500

Remember that a woman should never consume less than 1200 calories a day and a man should never consume less than 1500 calories a day.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Sweet Dreams

This is such a cute story and very imaginative and well done... with a great moral: vegetables provide a more solid foundation than sugar. Ok. I may be extrapolating... just watch and enjoy!
Happy Friday!

"Sweet Dreams" from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Spring cleaning: detox / cleansing diets

Gwyneth Paltrow does it. So does Angelina Jolie, Oprah, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck and Christy Turlington (to name a few). Beyonce did it to lose 20lbs quickly for DreamGirls. I’m talking about “detox” or “cleansing” diets.

What are detox/cleansing diets?

There are different variations of detox diets but all claim to clean out our bodies of chemicals and dietary toxins. The supposed result: weight loss, increased energy, better digestion. Another claim is that by allowing the cells in the gut to rest, they are able to grow stronger, resulting in a healthier gut.

You can ‘detox’ by eliminating certain foods from your diet- Oprah recently followed a 21-d detox diet in which she eliminated animal products, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and gluten. The stricter versions are liquid diets- lemonade (followed by Beyonce and others) or juice fasts where followers will drink anywhere from 32 to 90 oz juice/24 hours, and even water fasts. Many of these diets also suggest enemas. These diets vary in time- from 1 day to a few weeks.

Do they work?

There is no scientific evidence available to support any of the claims these diets make- only people’s testimonials. Most health professionals, myself included, will tell you that our body is able to “detoxify” itself naturally. Abstaining from food will not help you be healthier. In fact, fibre’s role is to help clean out the gut- so a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils and other lean proteins and water would be the perfect detox diet!

With summer coming up, you may be tempted by this supposed “quick fix” to weight loss. However, for the most part, these diets and fasts are an ineffective weight loss solution. If you do lose weight, it’ll mostly be water weight and you’ll most likely regain it... quickly. Any diet that eliminates major food groups (or food, for that matter!) is not sustainable- definitely not a long-term solution. Moreover, many of these diets are extremely low in calories. As a result, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’- your metabolic rate will decrease so you’re burning less calories at rest. Moreover, your body will hold on to its fat stores (because it’s more energy-efficient) and burn lean muscle... something you obviously want to avoid. When you start eating again, your body will more easily store those calories as fat and, as a result, you’ll regain the weight faster.

You need to eat to lose weight!

These diets also lack major nutrients: protein, an essential nutrient in helping you maintain lean muscle mass during weight loss, as well as fat, an essential nutrient that, among other things, is essential in helping you feel full after a meal. As a result, people claim to always feel hungry on these diets... something that is not only uncomfortable but can cause irritability and lead you to eat irrationally afterwards. Beyonce was quoted as saying: “I was hungry, therefore I was evil. When we wrapped the movies, I was so excited... I ate a whole dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts”. It was also reported that she quickly regained the weight she had lost on the diet... a fact that’s ignored by followers of the same diets!

A dietitian calculated that the Master Cleanse diet (a well-known detox diet that consists of drinking 96 oz of lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne pepper a day) is 1300 calories. A woman should never eat less than 1200 calories and a man, never less than 1500 calories. So, for a woman, 1300 calories isn’t drastically restrictive. However, it lacks major nutrients. Why not eat 1300 calories of fibre-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and drink water?! You’re more likely to stick to a meal plan that includes real healthy foods, you’ll lose weight, and you’ll also have more energy to exercise- an important key to long-term weight loss!

Oftentimes, these diets are used to “jump start” weight loss, ie. They start with a strict “detox” diet for a few days and follow it with a weight loss program. Maybe. A diet (under the supervision or guidance of a Registered Dietitian or doctor) that restricts certain foods, ie. alcohol, sugar, animal products (if replaced by vegetable protein), can be useful in motivating someone to kick-start a weight loss program and perhaps feel ‘cleansed’. As long as the diet is not overly calorically-restrictive and includes all the major nutrients, it can be an effective motivational tool to start a healthy weight loss program... although, not necessary.

What are the risks?

Evidently, the extreme diets, (fasting- no food) are extremely dangerous. However, even restrictive diets can be dangerous if you’re not replacing the nutrients you’re eliminating. As a result, speak to your doctor and/or a Registered Dietitian before embarking on any diet.

Many of these detox diets will rightfully warn pregnant and breastfeeding women and women trying to become pregnant against trying them. Children should not be put on these diets. These diets can widely affect blood sugar levels so people with diabetes and low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) should avoid them as well.

If you’re recovering from an illness or injury, suffer from anemia, have weakened immunity (ie. elderly), have heart problems, psychological problems (depression, bipolar disorder, prone to eating disorders), are underweight and/or suffer from migraines, you should not embark on these diets- they can exacerbate existing illnesses or delay healing/recovery.

Apart from irritability, side effects of liquid diets and fasts can include GI problems, ie. diarrhea and/or constipation, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, depression, headaches, fainting, irregular heart beats, dehydration and even death.