Diet & Nutrition

Time For A Detox? Why Everything You Know About Toxins Is A Lie

Even nutritionists, who should know better, talk about detoxing the body or avoiding eating things with toxins in. It’s a complete misuse of the word and practically scaremongering.

Time to Detox? Why Everything You Know About Toxins Is a Lie

I feel driven to write about this because a lot of industry professionals don’t seem to know what a toxin is. Even nutritionists, who should know better, talk about detoxing the body or avoiding eating things with toxins in. It’s a complete misuse of the word and practically scaremongering.

I’ve been haunted by the word toxin for a long time but a few weeks back, a British girl was in the news because she’s been making Mukbang videos, not a common thing in the UK. Honestly, I feel like unless someone is eating and chatting to the camera in a sort of vlog format, watching these videos is an eating disorder in disguise. And eating the amount of volume of food in one sitting for the purposes of Youtube entertainment is along the same lines but I digress.

She was featured on a segment on This Morning, don’t ask, I watched it by accident and like a car crash I couldn’t look away. Whenever that show has someone on who’s going to talk about something health or fitness related I just know it’s going to trigger me. Anyway, I was agreeing with what a nutritionist was saying (that it wasn’t healthy to eat such a high volume of food, as this girl was basically binge eating) but then she said the dreaded t-word. She said foods like these (Chinese takeaways) are filled with toxins and should be avoided.

First off, let's look at the dictionary definition of a toxin.

‘A poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation’

So a meal that contains fried noodles and sweet and sour sauce is NOT going to contain toxins unless someone has spiked it with a poisonous plant that’s probably going to kill you.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary also goes on to say, ‘Today we hear health advisers of all kinds talk about ridding the body of toxins, but they’re usually pretty vague about which ones they mean, and most of these “toxins” wouldn’t be called that by biologists.’ Very true.

Also, the Wikipedia article on toxins actually hits the nail on the head in the first sentence.

‘A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms; synthetic toxicants created by artificial processes are thus excluded’

What people are more closely referring to when absorbing ‘toxins’ are actually toxicants. But, let’s take this further…

What is a toxicant?

The 2011 book A Textbook of Modern Toxicology states, “A toxin is a toxicant that is produced by a living organism and is not used as a synonym for toxicant—all toxins are toxicants, but not all toxicants are toxins. Toxins, whether produced by animals, plants, insects, or microbes are generally metabolic products that have evolved as defence mechanisms for the purpose of repelling or killing predators or pathogens.” (pathogens are micro-organisms such as bacteria that can make you sick)

So that still doesn’t sound like food, right? Not unless it’s gone off. What happens when you eat food that’s gone off? That’s where your body gets rid of toxins, all by itself. Your body processes the bacteria and gets rid of it.

Same goes if we’re talking about pesticides, which would be classed as a toxicant, but pesticides are sprayed on fruit and veg! That is the reason why some people go organic but we’re not talking about fruit and veg here, we’re talking about takeaways. So there is still no relevance or evidence that takeaways contain toxins or toxicants.

As you may well know, the internet is full of articles about toxins in foods and it just makes things more difficult for people to know what to eat. I’m going to try and keep this paragraph short, but whenever someone suggests having a detox or doing something to detox the body it is absolute bullshit and it makes me really mad. The body does it all by itself.

If you'd have actually absorbed a toxin, you'd bloody know about it and you'd be in hospital being given drugs not a cup of detox tea.

What the nutrionist was probably trying to say is that these takeaways contain high amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate) which in high amounts is believed to cause health issues but still there is no evidence that has actually been found and any illnesses from high consumption have to be completely anecdotal. Takeaways often do have a high amount of salt though, which can bad for you particularly if you have high blood pressure.
Most takeaway foods are high in fat if they’re fried or contain a lot of oil for example and they can be high in sugar if you have something with a lot of sauce. Sometimes you’re just literally overeating when it comes to having a takeaway, it entirely depends on the portion size and the way it’s cooked. For instance, a chicken shish kebab isn’t bad at all, the only high calorie things would be the marinade and drowning it in garlic mayo but otherwise, not a bad choice.
Like any food if you want a healthy diet, fats and sugars should be consumed in accordance with a sensible calorie and macronutrient intake to maintain a healthy weight. Takeaways are basically ‘bad for you’ because they are high in calories and they’re not nutritionally balanced. I do tend to tell people to cook their own food so they know what’s in it, but when I say that I’m just talking about calories.
Having a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be so hard but it gets more and more complicated when people start spreading lies about things that shouldn’t be a concern. Bottom line is, limit your takeaways in favour of home-cooked meals, eat your veggies and don’t take advice from anyone who tells you lies about toxins.

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By Kim

Hi, I'm Kim! I'm a Fitness & Nutrition Coach from the UK and owner of Barefaced Fitness.

I help women achieve their goals through effective training methods and creating healthy balanced diets. I offer a strong focus on strength, movement and simplified nutrition for a healthier lifestyle.