Starting off the year detoxified

Master Cleanse
Lemon water and cayenne pepper used in the Master Cleanse. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Like many others, I started the new year with intentions of being healthier, more active and less gluttonous.

The latter is especially difficult for a self-described foodie, but I decided to start 2010 with a naturopathic detox.

The effectiveness of detox "diets" is debated among health professionals. My partner, a doctor, is extremely skeptical of anything that is naturopathic or homeopathic. Critics of detoxification argue that there's no proof these diets do anything beneficial and the body's immune system is sophisticated enough to do its own detoxing.

Perhaps the most famous detox is the "Master Cleanse" (aka the "Lemonade Diet"), which encourages participants to maintain a strict diet of lemon water mixed with maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

For me, that was far too extreme. Instead, my 10-day detox, outlined by a naturopath, only asked me to eliminate dairy, gluten, meat (except for organic chicken), seafood (except fish), pre-packaged food, sugar, caffeine (except green tea) and alcohol.

The list seems long and people often run away in horror at the idea of going without coffee, but there were plenty of foods I could still eat.

Most importantly, it forced me to plan my meals ahead of time. It didn't feel like I was depriving myself when I was enjoying chili, grilled fish, quinoa salad and roasted chicken.

That's not to say I wasn't tempted by a chocolate birthday cake or a greasy grilled cheese but it was the healthiest 10 days I've had in a long time, possibly ever.

I'm not sure that my body got rid of toxins, but that wasn't my goal. Instead, I came away with a reminder that cooking my own food and thinking about what goes into my meals is an important part of being healthy. Even if my body ends up re-toxing, I hope that some of these good habits stick with me throughout 2010.

Have you ever tried a detox? Which one, and what did you think of it?