Juice cleanses are a big business that promise anything from weight loss and body detoxification to disease prevention and treatment. But do they really work? A nutritious homemade juice of fruits and vegetables every now and again can be beneficial, offering healthy nutrients and antioxidants to your diet. But when taken to the extreme, such as limiting your intake to juices for weeks on end, it not only fails to be the magic solution but may do more harm than good to your health.
During a juice cleanse, a person is limited to only consuming fresh vegetable and fruit juices and water from a few days to several weeks. You can make your own or buy them from a juice cleanse business for a small fortune. But your health is worth it, right? At least that is what they want you to believe.
Most of the cleanses have people consuming 1,000-1,200 calories per day and may include a nut-milk beverage for the end of the day to provide some protein and fat (and so your rumbling, hungry stomach doesnʼt keep you up all night.) Purchased juices are pasteurized which kills dangerous pathogens, but if you are making your own at home, be sure to thoroughly clean all of your produce and only make one serving at a time to avoid the potential development of dangerous organisms.
A short-term juice cleanse of one to three days can be a good way to kick off a weight loss program for some and a way to include more fruits and vegetables into your day. The recommended average intake for fruits and vegetables is approximately 5 cups per day. It can be hard to eat that much produce each day but you can fit a lot of fruits and veggies into one glass of juice.
I appreciate that some people need this jump start as they begin to make changes to their lifestyle and diet. However, cleanse longer than three days may begin to negatively affect your physical health and leave you longing for real food, which can lead to feelings of deprivation and binge eating. You will lose weight, as they claim, but it will be water weight and this weight loss is temporary until you begin eating again.
Along with feeling deprived, cranky, dizzy and tired from not having enough calories to fuel your day, these cleanses will have you missing out on entire food groups and adequate amounts of nutrients such as fiber, protein, fats, calcium and B vitamins. Although juicing proponents tout that juice cleansing can improve your health, missing out on these vital nutrients is anything but healthy and can actually weaken the immune system on a longer cleanse, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables in their natural state offers us the fiber that we are lacking in our diet and helps with digestion. Juicing removes this important fiber and can leave you feeling bloated and constipated. “Why drink the juice when you can eat the fruit?” is my motto.
The idea that drinking a fancy, manufactured juice product, or even making one at home, will detoxify our bodies is nonsense. There is no reliable scientific evidence to support this and if our own livers and kidneys were not good at filtering out the toxins from our blood, then we would be long dead after a few cocktail parties. In fact, it can be downright dangerous for some people such as those undergoing chemotherapy, those with kidney disease, and diabetics. The high sugar intake with a juice fast can send blood sugars up to dangerous levels and the higher levels of potassium from drinking excessive amounts of juice can be hazardous for kidney disease and chemo patients.
Lastly, these juice cleanses are not cheap. Packaged juice cleanses can run from $50 to $85 per day and if you are juicing at home, you will first have to purchase a $300 juicer. You can easily eat and enjoy a healthy, nutritious plant-based diet full of fiber and all of the important nutrients for less than $20 per day with no deprivation or constipation. There is really no such thing as a healthy juice cleanse. Save your money.