Are you thinking that it’s about time you did a juice cleanse? Maybe you’ve seen your favorite celebrity talking about it and want to know more. After all, a number of high-profile stars have made ringing endorsements of the diet. But do you really know what it does to your body?
Juice cleanses are one of the latest in a long line of popular health regimes. From Atkins to the zone diet, there’s seemingly a new one always round the corner. You can purportedly lose weight eating like our Neolithic ancestors with the Paleo eating regime, or you can reduce some pounds tucking into the Mediterranean diet. If you’re interested, there’s bound to be one that will appeal to you.
And dieting is big business. The U.S. market was estimated to be over $71 billion in 2020, according to Reportlinker.com. That’s a staggering amount, but it should be unsurprising, too. After all, we all know someone who has been on a diet of some kind. Perhaps even you have!
Diets have also become a staple of famous influencers. Stars including Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie have been supporters of particular regimes, but you don’t need to be an ex of Brad Pitt to be in on the action. Victoria Beckham, Boy George, Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé have all been seen promoting or espousing the benefits of one diet or another over the years.
And the sheer number of people who embark on diets is mind-bending. According to the Boston Medical Center, approximately 45 million Americans get involved in one every single year. It also claimed that almost two-thirds of people there are either obese or overweight.
Diets are clearly big business – as is the equipment that goes along with them. Take juicers, which are required for anyone following the juice cleanse regime. According to Statista, around 1.5 million of them were sold in the U.S. in 2019.
But what exactly is a juice cleanse? And how long do you need to go on it for? Thankfully, Houston Methodist wellness dietitian Amanda Beaver had an answer for those very questions. She told her organization’s website in January 2020, “Juice cleansing is a diet where a person almost exclusively drinks fruit and vegetable juices for as long as ten days or as short as just a day or two.” Some apparently even embark on a longer cleanse lasting a few weeks.
There are plenty of different types of juice cleanses, too, and some include a light meal. But who actually does this diet? Well, it’s reportedly a favorite for stars including Miranda Kerr, Jessica Alba and Nicole Richie. These actresses are reportedly all keen on the “Pressed Juicery” regime, which offers three types of cleanses. Then there’s Salma Hayek, who actually has her own line of pressed juices called Cooler Cleanse.
So, juicing is clearly popular. But why would you do it, exactly? Well, the answer is that it’s primarily undertaken as a detox diet. You may feel your body needs a bit of relief if you’ve been going a little heavy on the fatty, greasy or sugary foods of late. And many of those who do the diet claim that their appearance, mood and health have improved as a result.
What can a juice cleanse do for you, then? On the face of it, there are definitely some grounds for optimism with this kind of approach to eating. Gorging on a diet which consists almost entirely of fruit and vegetables means that you are certainly going to get the recommended daily allowance. The United States Department of Agriculture currently suggests eating five to nine portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
And lest we forget, it really is a pretty good idea to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Amanda Beaver told the Houston Methodist website, “Studies have shown that fruit and vegetable juices can boost levels of important vitamins and antioxidants – including folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene.”
But what’s so good about the particular vitamins and antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables? Folate, for example, is a B-vitamin and is needed in order for your body to make both DNA and other important genetic materials, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is also needed to help cells divide. Meanwhile, vitamin C helps keep your cells healthy and protects them, too.
Fruit and vegetables also provide much-needed vitamin E, which apparently acts as an antioxidant. It is also vital to vision, reproduction and assists in the healthy upkeep of your skin, blood and brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. And the juices also contain beta carotene – another effective antioxidant. Quite simply, fruit and vegetables are brimming with goodness.
So, straight off the bat, if you were someone who was previously not eating enough fruit and vegetables, you’ve made an improvement. That means you’ll be getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins that you just weren’t getting enough of previously. In addition, it’s pretty painless too, as it’s coming in the form of a drink.
What other benefits can a juice cleanse bring? Well, the website Eat This, Not That! claims that juicing can actually suppress your appetite. As a result, you will feel less inclined to turn to food, because you feel satisfied after a meal. This can be a huge psychological boost for those who are actively trying to eat less or lose weight.
Another advantage to a juice cleanse is that it may allow you to figure out any food allergies you might have. That’s because when solely juicing you have essentially eliminated all manner of possible allergens from your diet – including dairy, gluten, fermented items and wheat. Chairman of the Department of Integrative Medicine Woodson Merrell told Eat This, Not That! in 2015, “… Reintroducing them can help define which foods are causing problems for your body.”
It’s hard to beat the benefits that fruit and vegetables bring to a diet. Researchers from Imperial College London sought to explore the optimum amount that you should include in your eating plan. Lead study author Dr. Dagfinn Aune said in a statement, “We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death.”
And the results were pretty conclusive in terms of the benefits that these particular types of food can bring. Dr. Aune explained, “Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system. This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold. For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”
It’s fair to say that there are few people who doubt the health benefits of fruit and vegetables. But it is important to remember that a juice cleanse diet means that you will be consuming only fruit and vegetables. And herein lies the problem. Because it’s important to consider what you are not getting as much as what you are.
As you may well have suspected all along, a juice cleanse might not be all it’s cracked up to be. You see, too much of a good thing – whatever it may be – usually isn’t quite as good as it sounds. And there are indeed several health drawbacks with living solely on juice.
What’s the bad news in terms of juice cleansing, then? Brace yourself. First up is a common problem with many diets: you are just not getting enough of the other stuff that you really need. So, what kind of nutrients will you lose out on if you go ahead with a juice cleanse?
For a start, you will be consuming next to no protein at all on a juice cleanse diet. Proteins contain amino acids, which are needed to repair and build both bones and muscles in the body. They also make hormones and enzymes, too. And protein is an energy source, so don’t be surprised if doing a juice cleanse leaves you feeling a bit lethargic.
What other nutrients might you be missing out on with a juice cleanse? Certainly, you’ll be getting no fat, but that’s the point, right? Not necessarily, because some fats are actually good for you. These so-called “good” fats are known as such because they’re beneficial for your heart and cholesterol levels. Amanda Beaver also notes that with a juice cleanse you won’t get any vitamin B12, which is important for nerve and blood cell health.
The fact that all your fruit and vegetable intake is in juice form is a little counterproductive, too. That’s because the actual process of juicing removes fiber from the fruit and vegetables, Beaver told the Houston Methodist website. And this type of carbohydrate is great for many reasons. It provides a source of food for your healthy gut bacteria, prevents your blood pressure from spiking and keeps your stools solid, too. Not only that, but it helps you feel full.
And if you still think a juice cleanse might be the answer, then it might be important to consider some other side effects, too. Yep, there’s more. Beaver explained that there are very few calories in the majority of juices, so you can end up feeling tired and even a little dizzy. Plus, you might even get a few headaches as well as hunger cravings.
The lack of essential nutrients from the juice cleanse diet can also result in muscle and even bone loss. Beaver explained, “While it might sound healthy, it’s best to look at what the science says about juice cleanses before giving in to the hype.”
Furthermore, the high amount of natural sugar that you are consuming is not a good thing. Leah Kaufman told the Eat This, Not That! website, “[The increased sugar content] will cause your body to produce insulin faster – making your blood sugar drop. This results in dizziness and feeling lightheaded.”
It’s not just your physical health that may suffer as a result of an extreme diet of this kind. Kaufman went on, “Your brain won’t be getting enough fatty acids. This can result in you feeling depressed and sad since [you’re missing out on] omega-3s, which are known to increase serotonin levels. And because you won’t be getting enough protein, your muscle mass will decrease and you will not have much energy.”
And still we’re not done. London College of Fashion associate lecturer in the chemistry of aromatherapy Antonia Burrell warned the publication that juice cleanses can cause your skin to dry out. The lack of protein also means that carbohydrates or fats, your hair and nails might fail to grow, too.
For her part, Beaver added that people with kidney issues might encounter problems with the juice cleansing diet. She added, “Anyone with kidney disease should not undergo a juice cleanse. The kidneys are responsible for removing oxalate, which can be found in high levels in some juices.”
And it’s not just those with kidney issues who might need to be wary of a juice cleanse. According to Harvard Health Online, those with diabetes might also be compromised, too. An article on its website warns, “Excessive intake of juice may cause weight gain and be dangerous for people with diabetes because juice is a concentrated source of calories and sugar.”
Juice cleanses can, unfortunately, also lead to other health conditions, too. Harvard Health Online notes, “One extra serving a day of juice may be associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women.” That’s food for thought, if you’ll excuse the pun.
But at least you can lose weight, right? And you can do it in double quick time. If that’s all you care about, then a juice cleanse is a great way to do that, isn’t it? Nope, not really! Beaver told the Houston Methodist, “Not only is rapid weight loss unhealthy, but it doesn’t last. The number on the scale may be lower, but that doesn’t mean any fat has been lost.”
You need to be very careful here. You may appear to be a few pounds lighter, but these numbers can be deceptive. Beaver warned that the apparent loss of weight is probably because your gastrointestinal tract now has no food in and you have probably lost muscle. In short, these are only cheats in terms of proper weight loss, because you haven’t actually lost any fat.
Muscle serves a pretty important purpose in that it contributes to the efficiency of your metabolism. And less of it will lead to your metabolism slowing down. This means that when you do start eating normally again, you’ll put weight on faster than you did before.
Beaver also warned about the detrimental effect of any loss of weight achieved with a juice cleanse. She went on, “More than likely, any weight that was lost will be regained shortly after solid foods are reintroduced, with the potential added downsides of a slower metabolism and bone loss.”
Okay, so a juice cleanse doesn’t really work if you want to lose weight. But at least it will give your body a good detox, right? Well, it seems that you may be disappointed here, too. Beaver explained, “The science of detoxifying is still being researched, so don’t fall for the marketing ploys that juice cleansing companies are trying to sell you.”
So, what are your options if you really want to detox safely? Thankfully, Beaver has got some sage advice in that regard. She suggested, “… Focus on eating whole foods – including veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and whole grains. The fiber from these foods is thought to help eliminate some toxins, while their phytochemicals may help promote the detoxification of carcinogens.”
The message that Beaver is sending is consistent with other health experts. It’s quite simple: you should maintain a balanced diet. And you need plenty of vitamins, because these are vital for supporting the body in its natural detoxification process. The fact is that as you embark on a juice cleanse, you are going to do without some of the nutrients that your body needs.
When it comes to any diet, the bigger picture must be paramount in your mind. Harvard Health Online wrote, “No published research currently supports the safety or efficacy of juice cleanses or fasts. Some types of juices are associated with health benefits, but more research is needed to determine cause-and-effect.” Need we say more?