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If you’ve been reading into diet programs, you’ve probably come across what we call the clear liquid diet. The name itself probably got you thinking what it is, what it does, and whether you should give it a go or not. You might also be wondering if there’s an advantage to doing a clear liquid diet against other popular diets like low-carb, paleo, and keto.
Just like any diets, a clear liquid diet can be beneficial in many ways, but how do you know if it will benefit you? Read on to find out.
As the name implies, a clear liquid diet is a type of diet that focuses on the consumption of clear liquids (1). These liquids include broth, water, some juices minus the pulp, and even plain gelatin. The foods you consume leave no undigested residue in your intestinal tract - as in every bit is flushed away as soon as the body is done absorbing the nutrients. These foods may be colored, but if you can see through them, they count as clear liquids.
Typically, a clear liquid diet is medically prescribed before or after a medical procedure or if the patient has digestive problems. These procedures could be surgeries or a colonoscopy. It’s also prescribed for patients who may not be able to properly digest solid food or if they’re afflicted with nausea and vomiting after surgery.
Unlike many diets, medical professionals aren’t exactly keen on having a patient sustain a clear liquid diet unless there is a valid medical reason behind it. It normally lacks adequate nutrients and calories and is more of a medical-use only type of eating program.
The main objective of a clear liquid diet is to keep you hydrated while allowing your body to absorb necessary nutrients for energy and daily upkeep. It’s also meant to prevent your stomach and intestines from working too hard especially after a medical procedure.
While a clear liquid diet is utilized often within the medical space, some have used the premise of the diet and translated it to compare with other popular diets.
The sure-fire reason to be on a clear liquid diet is if your doctor told you so. Doctors wouldn’t prescribe a specific eating program or routine if you didn't need it. Otherwise, there really is no real reason other than the one we mentioned above.
However, some people want to experience some of the claimed benefits of a clear liquid diet. So, what exactly can a clear liquid do for you?
Safe to say, the foods you’re allowed to eat on a clear liquid diet must be both liquid and clear. But, what are those foods?
Depending on the type of clear liquid diet you follow, you may also be allowed:
Sometimes, knowing what’s not allowed is easier than remembering foods you’re only allowed to eat. This is the case when it comes to the clear liquid diet. You only have to remember two things to make sure it fits your “allowed” food list (or if the food doesn’t fit that category): the food has to be clear and in a liquid or semi-liquid state at room temperature.
Admittedly, a clear liquid diet looks really boring especially if you’re following the strictest form. However, be reminded this diet isn’t meant to be an everyday diet. You can do this everyday, but there’s no way you would be able to sustain it. Outside of medical reasons, the frequency of a clear diet should be good enough at once or twice a week.
The best reason is not just to make it more sustainable, but so you wouldn’t be deprived of some of the nutrients solid foods provide. It’s one thing to go on a “cleansing” diet, it’s another to run on half the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
This simple diet is not without risks. The problem is a typical clear liquid diet lacks calories and nutrients. This is why this type of nutritional program shouldn’t be voluntarily done for more than a few days at a time.
Then there’s the issue of whether you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic already. The food you eat must not exceed a certain amount of carbohydrates regardless of source. It’s way too easy to drink your carbs than to eat them, and therefore easier to consume too much of it.
There’s also the issue of constipation, as the diet is all but deprived of fiber content. You may find yourself barely using the toilet, but when you do, you might have difficulty in excretion.
A clear liquid diet, when you do it right and sustain it for a few days, will definitely help you with your weight as well as give you relief from digestive symptoms. However, as with any diets, it’s just not cookie cutter. It may be a practical method to reduce caloric intake for some people, but to find this pattern of eating challenging is a normal hurdle.
It could be a worthwhile strategy if you find it relatively easy and practical in the context of your everyday life, but otherwise, it might be wiser to invest your time on a diet you can actually be consistent with. After all, you don’t need to be on a clear liquid diet if you’re just after weight loss or cleansing.
There are many diets out there you can try for those two and many of them have high success rates. If you’re also already leading a healthy lifestyle, this diet may not even have any visible effects on your body and instead may even weaken you.
If you still insist on doing a clear liquid diet, you are allowed to make it a part of your day, but not the entirety of it. A good example would be to instead of eating a high-calorie meal for lunch or dinner, why not consume clear liquid foods instead? That way, you gain some of the benefits of a clear liquid diet without the side effects of having cravings or possible nutrient deficiencies.
Regardless of the reason you chose to go for a clear liquid diet, you should always keep in mind that no one diet fits everyone, but also give each diet some time before you say it doesn’t work. While the science around clear liquid diets for health and weight loss is sound, if you find yourself struggling to go past Day 1 or Day 2, then perhaps this diet isn’t for you.