Some things just go together: peanut butter and jelly, Queer Eye’s Antoni and heated debates about guacamole, and Instagram influencers and detox teas.
Really though—scroll through Instagram and you’re bound to find a reality star or 10 posting ads for one of their fave “slimming” drinks. But…what is it about those detox teas in particular that make celebs swear by them for weight loss? Are they really better for you than your standard cup of Lipton?
Tell me a little bit about detox teas—like what are they?
Basically, these are teas that claim to flush toxins out of your body, and many of them promise weight loss as an added bonus—and there are a ton of them out there competing for your attention (and your cash, tbh).
In addition to the herbs these teas contain (you know, as all teas do), detox teas typically highlight specific ingredients known to have diuretic or laxative properties, as well as appetite-suppressant qualities—nettle leaf, dandelion leaf and senna leaf are common ones, says Alyssa Ardolino, R.D., at the International Food Information Council. Some of the teas also have caffeine in them, which can also act as a diuretic.
So…do they actually work for weight loss?
Here’s a bit of honesty: Yes, they will result in weight loss—but it’s only the temporary kind. Detox teas only really lead to water or waste loss, says Ardolino—but they don’t facilitate increased fat burning, which is crucial for weight loss that’s actually sustainable. End of story.
As for the claims that these detox teas “flush toxins from your body”—those are pretty much BS too: “Detox teas are a marketing scheme,” says Ardolino. “You already have a liver and a set of kidneys that remove toxins from your body.” (And these organs do this, 24/7, for free.)
Basically, “there’s no research that detox teas improve health,” says Ardolino—in fact, they may even cause harm.
Wait, detox teas can actually be bad for you?
You know those laxative ingredients found in detox teas? Yeah, those can actually cause some pretty gnarly side effects, like diarrhea, stomach pains, and even dehydration, says Ardolino.
Take senna, for example—senna is an herb, but it’s also an FDA-approved over-the-counter laxative, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM); it can even be used to clear the bowels before diagnostic tests like a colonoscopy.
And, while it’s “likely safe” for most people when taken short-term, it’s “possibly unsafe” when taken long-term, frequently, or in high doses, per the NLM—in those cases, senna may cause laxative dependence or liver damage.
Additionally, if you’re not eating anything and only drinking detox teas, or are using detox teas for the soul purpose of weight loss (i.e., not losing weight and getting healthier), you may need to consider your relationship with food. As a healthier measure, Ardolino recommends speaking with a registered dietitian to learn how to incorporate some health-promoting behaviors into your life.
Well, what should I do instead of drinking detox teas?
Wanting to lose weight (and deciding to do so) are two extremely personal decisions—and according to Ardolino (and most other registered dietitians), the best route to better health and sustainable weight loss is improving your diet (adding more whole grains, fruits, and veggies) and getting regular exercise. That’s it.
And as for all you tea lovers out there, nix that detox tea for regular, non celeb-endorsed tea that’s been around for centuries. Just don’t expect those regular teas to be a magic bullet for weight loss, either.
The bottom line: Detox teas, while super popular, aren’t a healthy, sustainable way to lose weight. The only way to do that for real is through diet changes and exercise.
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