Drinking cold-pressed juices made entirely with fruits and vegetables is a great thing. Although juice may not be as nutrient-packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals as fresh fruits and veggies, it is the second-best thing.
Juice cleanse is a type of restricting eating where your whole diet is composed of juices, with no solid foods. Juice cleanses have become very popular in the last decade, especially among celebrities. The whole idea behind juice cleansing is to help you lose weight quickly, “detoxify” your body and restore everything to balance.
But is it really working? Or is it just one of many fad diets?
Common Myths About Juice Cleansing
The marketing strategy for a juice cleanse industry is to promote it as a healthy eating solution. Trendy juices with mixes of exotic fruits and vegetables, packed in expensive-looking bottles can appeal to many buyers.
They are often recommended after a period of unhealthy eating, such as the Holidays when we consume a lot of fatty foods and alcohol. The idea is that one quick juice cleanse should help your body detox and get rid of toxins.
However, a registered dietitian Dr. Joy Dubost warns that juice cleanses are not as healthy as marketers make them out to be.
There’s no scientific research that it provides benefits in the short or long term, and it’s not an overall healthy approach to eating.
We tackled some of the most common myths to help you gain a better understanding of health effects of a juice cleanse.
Juice Cleanse Will Detox Your Body
This is the most common juice cleansing myth, and it is the result of a misleading marketing strategy.
Your body is doing a pretty good job detoxifying on its own. Your liver, kidneys, and GI tract eliminate toxic and harmful substances, and it’s all you need to detox (except if you have a condition affecting these organs).
Since these organs are active 24/7, there is no need for any juice cleanse to detoxify your body. In fact, juice cleanse companies never tell you how or what toxins get eliminated from the body with their products.
The Celebrities Are Doing It, so It Must Be Healthy
Many celebrities like Oprah, Beyonce, and Gwyneth Paltrow have popularized the idea that juice cleanses are good for you. They often try juice cleansing to lose weight quickly, and it can be effective temporarily.
Because celebrities have access to the best dietitians, people automatically believe that juice cleanses are healthy. Why would they do it otherwise? Seeing all those beautiful celebrities doing it can make people jump on the bandwagon, even though science may not support it.
Remember, being a celebrity doesn’t make somebody a healthcare professional. Although a few famous people are also doctors (We are looking at you, Ken Jeong).
Always search for credible advice and health tips from medical professionals and science-based sources.
A Juice Cleanse Is a Perfect Way to Lose Weight
While cleansing with juices made with fruits and vegetables may lead to short-term weight loss, it is not effective in the long run.
Losing weight is not just about the numbers on the scale. You want to drop a few pounds but do it sustainably, by burning more fat than muscle.
Juice cleansing is very restrictive, and it lacks the necessary proteins and calories for your body to function normally. Because of that, you start using glycogen storage for energy and converting it into glucose. Glycogen helps retain water in our bodies, and when it gets broken down, you lose weight simply because you lose water.
Severe calorie restriction can leave you with a lack of energy for physical activity. The studies also show that it leads to long-term slowing of the metabolism, additionally reducing weight loss (1).
Juice Cleanses Will Improve Your Health and Energy
Juice cleanses offer a false belief that you are doing something super healthy and beneficial. The restrictive nature of a juice fast can be appealing from a psychological standpoint, and people may feel motivated to adopt healthier eating and lifestyle habits.
However, a lack of calories could lead to energy deprivation, headaches, and shakiness due to low blood sugar levels. These juices have low protein and fiber content, which means that you won’t feel as full as when you eat a standard meal. And since most of the necessary insoluble fibers are stripped down during the juicing process, you may experience constipation and gastrointestinal problems.
Additionally, once you are off the juice cleanse, there are no guidelines on what happens next. You can get back to your old unhealthy eating habits, and you haven’t done anything except starve yourself for a few days.
A healthy whole food diet approach is a much better long-term solution, according to experts.
Pros and Cons of Juice Cleansing
Fruits and vegetables are good for your health. During the juicing process, you remove certain nutrient-dense parts such as skin and pulp. That eliminates some of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals from the juice, but overall it is still an excellent choice to get some extra nutrients.
Although fruit and vegetable juices are healthy, a juice fast is a controversial topic. Juice cleanses usually last from one to ten days, and their main focus is on detoxification and weight loss. The most popular juice cleanse choices include two or three-day cleanse. There is also a Master Cleanse, where people drink a mix of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water for 10 days. Imagine drinking 6 to 12 glasses of this beverage per day without eating anything. And yeah, people following this program also drink laxative tea at night.
Juice cleansing advocates report many potential health benefits. Keep in mind that these health effects are anecdotal, and there is no concrete peer-reviewed evidence to confirm this.
Some of the benefits include:
Studies investigating the effects of juices show some positive health effects when used as an addition to a regular diet (3). Juice fasts are entirely different, and they lack the nutritional balance of a standard diet.
Researchers have identified several health risks, including (4):
You will consume 900-1000 calories per day while only drinking juices, compared to 1500-2000 calories on your normal diet. To make things worse, you are getting all of the calories from simple sugars. So you’ll have a spike of blood glucose and insulin, and then a sudden drop because of restricted calorie intake. This can lead to dizziness, weakness, and even faintings. Lack of other nutrients can significantly impair your body’s functions.
Yes, you can lose weight while drinking only juice. However, most of the weight loss comes from eliminating water, which is not a sustainable solution in the long run. Weight loss should be all about burning fat and strengthening your muscles, and juice fasts don’t provide that.
A 3-day cleanse is not going to change your health dramatically, but you may experience some side effects. During day one, you are likely to experience hunger and food cravings. Lack of calories may lead to sluggishness and moodiness, but it shouldn’t be too drastic. The second day is often described as a “honeymoon day” as one can start feeling energized, euphoric, and better overall. On the other hand, people overly dependent on coffee may experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms. You should also get ready for frequent trips to the bathroom, as you have less protein and fiber to slow nutrient absorption. Food cravings and hungriness will stay, so you may experience trouble falling asleep. Day three brings stronger food cravings, potential weakness, and dizziness. You will still frequently go to the bathroom, but you can also expect some benefits like decreased bloating and improved libido.
Experts say zero. Their health tips include switching cleanse juices for raw fruits and vegetables and a nutritionally balanced diet to experience positive health effects, sustainable weight loss, and improved well-being.
The Bottom Line
Juices can be an excellent source of extra nutrients in your diet. However, eliminating all of your meals and doing fruits and veggie juice fasts is not the best idea. Yes, even if you plan to drink organic juice.
Instead, you can choose a Mediterranean style diet with lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and nuts. This diet has been recommended by health experts for a long time, as it has a positive effect on your overall health (6,7,8).
"Juice cleanses are a fad. There is no current, clear evidence that shows any health benefits to juice cleanses. There's a perception that juicing can 'cleanse' your intestines and 'reboot' your system-neither of which are true. Your liver and kidneys do all of the necessary cleaning." explains Kimberly Sasso RD.
If you are set on trying juice fasts, make sure to add some protein sources like nut-butter, avocados, nut-milk, seeds, nuts, and other nutrient-rich foods.