A detox smoothie sounds like such a great idea. Gwyneth Paltrow totally loves them. The problem, however, is that all of the “detox” regimens and products out there are completely bogus. Every. Single. One.
You’ve got green detox smoothies, vegan detox smoothies, heavy metal detox smoothies, smoothie cleanses, and summer detox regimens, all over the place. But, really, what are you cleansing yourself from? And do you really need smoothies and other products to do it?
Detox or Weight Loss?
Sure, a detox summer smoothie will probably result in some rapid short-term weight loss. (And let’s face it—that’s why most people do them. A heavy metal detox may sound noble, but let’s get real.) When these are the only items you’re consuming for eight days, you’re going to lose weight.
Of course, when you re-introduce food, that weight is going to come back on—and then some. Furthermore, at no point during the regimen will these products do anything to detoxify your body—the idea of a “heavy metal detox smoothie” is just a marketing ploy.
But that’s a good thing, even though the programs and products are big waste of money.
The reality is that your body is already equipped with a sophisticated, comprehensive detoxification system. It works on its own, without any need for apple cider vinegar, special diets, or supplementation. But even though this intricate system is built-in, it takes some finesse and work to ensure optimal function.
Think of your detox system as you would your brain or your heart: yes, they function independently, but you can do things (exercise, eat well, learn, challenge yourself) to help them work better.
People do accumulate trace amounts of heavy metals in their body. They are in the air we breathe and food we eat—even the food in your detox smoothie. In some cases, high levels of acute exposure can occur, but at that point, a detox smoothie likely isn’t going to help.
Does a Detox Smoothie Really Work?
Detox diets are promoted as ways to remove harmful “toxins” from the body, by way of eliminating certain foods and including others; drinking more liquids; and consuming supplements, potions, and teas, while also promoting weight loss.
Often, they emphasize the use of diuretics, laxatives, various vitamins and minerals, and other products or compounds that can produce “detoxifying” effects. These “toxins,” however, are loosely, if ever, defined, and typically include villains like pollutants, synthetic chemicals, and heavy metals.
There is no evidence suggesting these products do anything to remove these compounds from your body, or that they can lead to sustainable weight loss. Put bluntly and honestly, they are a sham.
Your body, on the other hand, is equipped with a series of organs and processes that eliminate toxins for you. Your liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, and lungs all work together to remove waste, prevent toxic buildup, and keep your healthy and balanced. Of course, the healthier these organs are, the better they function. So, adopting certain lifestyle practices can help you stay healthier, longer, and reduce the risk of chronic illness.
You may have heard of Anthony William, author of Medical Medium. If his claim of having communication with a spirit from the future doesn’t throw up a red flag, then consider the claims his smoothie recipes can “pull heavy metals out of your organs.” There isn’t really any evidence to support that this happens.
There is research indicating that a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods, may help counteract exposure to heavy metals—much in the same way they keep your body healthy from sugar, inflammation, etc.
In a sense, a smoothie may help—it is usually made of healthy plant foods—but simply eating more plant-based foods throughout the day is just as useful, and is probably a better option.
What Makes a Healthy Smoothie?
A healthy smoothie can serve as a microcosm for a healthy diet. For example, it can include seasonal or frozen fruit, leafy greens like spinach or kale, nut butters, and protein.
Protein can come from a supplement source, eggs/egg whites, or Greek yogurt; it’s really up to you and the tastes you’re going for. So, use whatever works. Avoid adding sugars and sweeteners like honey and maple syrup—they don’t add useful nutrition and considering your smoothie is likely packed with fruit, it should plenty sweet enough.
Using frozen fruit and veggies is a great option because they add some thickness to the drink to make it feel more filling. Nut butter or Greek yogurt can help, too. The thicker consistency can also help with slower consumption, so you can enjoy it a little longer.
Some tasty smoothie ingredients include:
- Almond butter
- Peanut butter
- Cashew Butter
- Chocolate whey protein
- Vanilla whey protein
- Greek yogurt
- Pure cocoa
- Leafy greens
On the other hand, you likely want to avoid ingredients like:
- Ice cream
- Artificial sweeteners
- Milk chocolate
Does Your Smoothie Contain Heavy Metals?
Protein powder is a popular ingredient in smoothies; however, a few studies have indicated certain types contain heavy metals. Over time, regular consumption of heavy metals may lead to illness and increase the risk for disease.
Recent research from 2018 revealed that plant-based protein supplements tend to have much higher levels of heavy metals. Experts believe this is likely due to the fact that the ingredients are grown in soil, increasing the likelihood and amount of heavy metal absorption.
Animal-based protein supplements derived from whey, on the other hand, are not as high in heavy metals. This might be because the animal’s digestive system has diffused some of the metals.
It’s probably impossible to rid protein powders—or any food source—of heavy metals. For example, the ingredients in the protein powder, or feed for the animals producing whey protein, are what actually contain the heavy metals. All you can really do as a consumer is your due diligence and learn what products are lowest in heavy metals.
According to research from the Clean Label Project, the five worst protein supplements are:
- Garden of Life Organic Shake and Meal Replacement Chocolate Cacao Raw Organic Meal
- Nature’s Best Isopure Creamy Vanilla Zero Carb
- Quest Chocolate Milkshake Protein Powder
- 360Cut Performance Supplements 360PRO Whey Chocolate Silk Premium Whey Protein
- Vega Sport Plant-Based Vanilla Performance Protein
The best were:
- Pure Protein Vanilla Cream 100% Whey
- Performix Pro Whey Sabor Vanilla Protein with Amino Acid
- BodyFortress Super Advanced Vanilla 100% Whey Protein
- BioChemVanilla 100% Whey Protein
- Puori PW1 Vanilla Pure Whey Protein
There are other ingredients that you also need to look out for in protein supplements. These include added sugars, sweeteners, and high levels of certain cheap amino acids like lysine that are used for “amino spiking.”
Of course, you don’t need a protein supplement for your smoothie, either. You can add Greek yogurt or egg whites to get the same amount of protein in your drink if you want to. Also, if you’re getting adequate protein throughout the day from other sources—meals, snacks, etc.—you should be fine.
Further, protein supplements and smoothies should never be your primary sources of nutrition. Having maybe one per day, occasionally two, is about as far as you should go.
Summer Smoothie Recipes
Here are a couple of smoothie ideas to try out this summer season:
1. Razzle Grazzle
½ cup low-fat milk
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 cups frozen raspberries
2 bananas, peeled, and cut into pieces
Place ingredients in a blender; puree until smooth.
2. Mint Green Tea Smoothie
1 1/2 ounces baby spinach
1 apple, chopped
3 tablespoons cashews
1 cup ice
4 ounces pineapple
3 sprigs mint
1 cup unsweetened greentea
Place ingredients in a blender; puree until smooth.
Hirsch, J., “Arsenic, Lead Found in Popular Protein Supplements,” Consumer Reports, March 12, 2018; https://www.consumerreports.org/dietary-supplements/heavy-metals-in-protein-supplements/, last accessed August 13, 2019.
Zhai, Q., et al., “Dietary Strategies for the Treatment of Cadmium and Lead Toxicity,” Nutrients, Jan. 2015; 7(1): 552–571; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303853/, last accessed August 13, 2019.
William, A., “Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie,” Medical Medium, August 17, 2017; https://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/heavy-metal-detox-smoothie, last accessed August 13, 2019.