While the concept of “detox” has been discussed openly and even passionately for decades, the reality is that very few people really understand how to do it correctly. For most people, a “detox” is something you do sporadically, a fast way to feel better and get results. It isn’t, however, something you can or would want to maintain. (A lifelong juice detox isn’t appealing nor is it a good idea for your overall health.) In other crowds, detoxing is something that is done regularly, but, in most cases, it’s not done effectively or efficiently. For most of the “regular” detoxers out there, sweating is the go-to method of choice, whether in the form of sitting in the sauna after every workout or attending weekly hot yoga classes.

Unfortunately, sweating isn’t the most effective way to actually detox your body. And, even worse, forcing your body to sweat too much can actually be unhealthy.

For starters, there is very little scientific evidence to support the idea that sweating actually rids your body of toxins. When your body sweats, it releases water, sodium chloride, and potassium — and really nothing else.  A few water-soluble toxins may be released, but the fat-soluble toxins remain intact.  Your liver and kidneys are the ones doing the REAL detox work in your body, not your sweat glands. Going to a hot yoga class or spending an hour in the sauna after eating a lot of junk food or overindulging in alcoholic beverages the night before is, therefore, probably going to do very little when it comes to really “detoxing” your body the way you want.

To add to the case against sweating for detox is the fact that forcing your body to sweat too much can actually wreak havoc on your body’s natural systems. Not only does excessive sweating dehydrate your body, but it makes your body work harder than it needs to, using limited resources and energy that could be used for other functions.

So, while sweating when you exercise is definitely good for you (and sweating in a sauna for the myriad of benefits that brings is also great), trying to find ways to always be sweating more, especially with the belief that it’s helping you detox, really isn’t effective or healthy.

The best, healthiest, most effective way to detox your body is by being mindful of what you eat. And, while some people may enjoy more strict detoxes from time to time, making changes to your diet that you can maintain is the only way to keep your body functioning at its highest level day after day, year after year. Rather than focusing on sweat and exercise, look at your meals and snacks every day. The more you’re able to incorporate whole, plant-based foods, the more you’ll be helping your body detox. If your diet is made up of loads of meat and processed foods, your body is forced to spend its energy trying to process them, breaking them down to scavenge for what little nutrients they provide. If, however, you focus on eating healthy, whole, colorful foods, your body has less work to do, more nutrients to use, and fewer toxins to deal with in the first place.