The Big Difference Between Fasts And Cleanses

Fasts and cleanses are talked about a lot these days. Both involve limiting what and how much you eat, but there are some key differences between these two dietary choices. Here's what you should know.

Fasting refers to the practice of willfully giving up food and sometimes water for a certain period of time. People typically fast for religious, spiritual, and health reasons. Some types of fasting have become popular weight-loss strategies and usually involve giving up food (but not water) for short periods of time. Also called intermittent fasting, this can involve doing things like only eating during a small window of time each day or giving up food for an entire day once per week (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).

Cleanses claim to eliminate toxins from your body and may involve fasting, following a specific diet plan, or a combination of both. Also called detoxes, cleanses often replace solid foods with juices and smoothies (via Cleveland Clinic). They are usually short-term and can last anywhere from a few days to a month before normal eating is resumed.

Fasting can be helpful for some people but cleanses don't hold their weight

Fasting has been around for centuries and there is plenty of research to back up its benefits. According to Healthline, fasting may be helpful to people with diabetes because it can help improve blood sugar control and reduce insulin resistance. It can also fight inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, boost brain function, delay aging, and even aid in cancer prevention. You should never begin a fast without speaking to a medical professional first.

Cleanses are incredibly popular these days, but there isn't nearly as much science to back up the supposed benefits of a cleanse. According to Cleveland Clinic, there is "no conclusive medical evidence" that going on a cleanse or detox will remove toxins from your body and improve your health. Your body naturally removes toxins every day, so a cleanse won't make much of a difference.

Many people turn to cleanses to help them lose weight, but they aren't an effective way to achieve that result either. "Cleanses aren't effective for long-term weight loss," Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, told Cleveland Clinic. "The weight you lose from a cleanse is a result of losing water, carbohydrate stores and stool, which all return after you resume a regular diet." Unless you have a specific health condition and your doctor recommends a cleanse, a well-balanced diet will keep you healthy.