Juice cleansing sounds like a healthy, natural way to get plenty of fruits and vegetables while eliminating not-so-healthy foods from your diet for a few days. But is it?
A juice cleanse involves drinking only fruit or vegetable juices for a certain period of time, usually ranging from one to seven days depending on the goal. Juices are usually pressed, which means that the pulp of the fruit and vegetables is separated from the juice.
Common reasons for doing a juice cleanse include losing weight, eliminating “toxins” from the body and giving the digestive system a rest. While fruits and vegetables do provide important vitamins and nutrients, consuming only juice may not be as good for you as it sounds. Before you commit to a juice cleanse, take time to understand the pros and cons.
Will you lose weight on a juice cleanse? Probably, because you are likely consuming fewer calories than if you were eating your usual foods. You may lose weight rapidly in the first few days, but it isn’t sustainable.
“Most of the weight loss during a juice cleanse will be temporary until you begin eating solid food again,” says Tara Robbins, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Del Mar. “Moreover, a juice cleanse can slow your metabolism, which may contribute to weight gain when you return to a regular diet.”
While a juice cleanse may help you kick off a weight loss plan, you need to make long-term changes to your lifestyle in order to keep the weight off. That means changing the way you eat daily and getting regular exercise. Doing a juice cleanse for a day or two may give you the motivation to “reset” your eating habits to be healthier, but don’t depend on it for lasting weight loss.
Drinking nothing but fruit and vegetable juices may seem like a good way to “detoxify” your digestive system, especially if you’ve been consuming a lot of unhealthy food, drinking too much alcohol, or feeling bloated or sluggish. However, “detoxifying” is a leading marketing claim made by companies that promote detox cleanses, and not only is it misleading, no scientific evidence supports this claim.
“Juice cleanses load your body up with sugar, which is anything but detoxifying,” says Dr. Robbins. “Plus, all that sugar causes your blood pressure to spike and then rapidly drop, which can give you a burst of energy but then leave you feeling even more tired, as well as interfere with how your body uses insulin.”
Fiber helps your body process sugar without the sudden spikes and drops. Juicing removes the fiber from the whole fruit or vegetable, leaving behind only the sugars and nutrients. Plus, fiber adds bulk to your stool to help your body get rid of waste and keep your digestive system functioning in a healthy way.
Instead of drinking pressed juice without the pulp, keep the fiber. Dietary fiber contains vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants, and research has shown that it can help reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, including colon cancer.
What’s more, eating whole fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, can actually help with weight loss. If that is your goal, build your diet around whole foods and lean proteins. Avoid or minimize packaged, processed or sugary foods and drinks that have little nutritional value and lots of calories.
If you like the idea of drinking your fruits and vegetables, try making smoothies using kale or spinach mixed with berries, apples, bananas — whatever fruits you like. Unlike pressed juice, smoothies are made by blending ingredients, using whole fruits and vegetables.
You can also add extra protein to your smoothie by including Greek yogurt or milk. You’ll get all of the nutrients of juicing the same ingredients, plus the benefits of fiber and more. And, you’ll feel fuller longer than if you drank juice alone.