After all the indulgence of the party season, I’m thinking of doing a detox. What would you recommend?

There is no single food that acts as a magic wand to get rid of toxins and many of these diets won’t provide all the essential nutrients that your body needs. There’s no evidence that toxins even build up in our bodies, anyway. With the exception of a few people, your liver, kidneys and lungs are already taking toxins out of your body and if they weren’t doing their job properly, you would feel very ill indeed. So embarking on a specific detox diet is unlikely to make any difference in that respect. Although some people may say they feel better when they try these diets, it’s probably more that they’ve been overindulging, so of course a few days of lighter meals, and more physical activity will make them feel better. The other problem with detox is that it reinforces the idea that it’s okay to overindulge in unhealthy food as long as you detox afterwards. That’s simply not the case. Eat a balanced diet, including at least five portions a day of fruit and vegetables, don’t smoke, take regular exercise and get a good night’s sleep and you’ll reap the benefits.

I’m lactose intolerant and so, I drink soya milk. Does this still count as a dairy when I’m thinking about what makes for a balanced diet?

Strictly speaking, soya milk isn’t a dairy food, but it is commonly used as an alternative to milk for people who suffer from lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, or for vegans who exclude all animal products from their diets. Although soya milk does not naturally contain calcium, it’s often added to it so, if you’re using it as a milk substitute, it’s important to choose this type. Getting enough calcium in your diet (from two to three portions of dairy foods a day) is essential to maintaining your bone health. Soya milk tends to be a bit lower in energy (calories) than whole and semi-skimmed milks and similar to one per cent fat milk. It also contains healthy polyunsaturated fats, so it can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet, but remember to choose unsweetened versions, so your soya milk doesn’t come with added sugar. Similarly, other types of non-dairy milks are now readily available from supermarkets and include nut milks (almond, hazelnut), rice milk, and oat. These are all suitable non-dairy alternatives to cows’ milk, as long as they are fortified with calcium.