We had to join the debate.
There are so many diets that promise astounding results but never deliver on the goods. And they all seem to meet America’s obsession with instant gratification, showing results in a matter of days! With so much hype following so many failing diets, we were curious if juice cleanses fell in the myth or miraculous category.
What is a Juice Cleanse?
There a hundreds of different juice cleanses, but the basic concept is the same. Instead of eating normally, you drink vegetable and fruit juices for a period of a time. Generally they last a few days since more than a week can be detrimental. You can come up with your own juices from recipes online, or you can purchase juices from companies that specialize in juice cleanses.
Why are they popular?
Juice cleanses became popular because they promised a lot of miracle cures in a short period of time. Pretty much what every American wants. The main promise is that by drinking nothing but juice for days, you will cleanse your body of harmful toxins. The idea is that these harmful toxins build up on our bodies because of the foods we eat, so a cleanse is necessary to remove them.
With the cleanse of toxins, juicing also promises weight loss, increased vitality, and even a cure for cancer if you ask the right person. A juice cleanse became a magic, short term, cure-all, and was quickly made popular by many celebrities.
What health benefits does it actually offer?
While the scientific community does not support juice cleanses, it also doesn’t see the harm in them. As long as you are not diabetic or juicing for more than a week. But that doesn’t mean they can’t offer some benefits to the right people.
Helps your body get rid of toxins.
Your body is always getting rid of toxins. The liver, lungs, kidneys, and intestines are working constantly to remove toxins or harmful substances. Every breath of air we expel and every trip to the bathroom are examples of our bodies kicking out toxic material. So, we’re already pros at ditching toxins.
But juice cleanses can still help. Juicing increases the amount of fluids and decrease the amount of toxins introduced to your body. Water is the primary component in juice, and water is the bouncer when it comes to kicking toxins out. That’s why we are always encouraged to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated is crucial to digestion and juicing is a great way to keep those fluids flowing.
Plus, if you’re normal diet includes a lot of processed foods, you’re asking your body to remove a lot of toxic waste. Switching to juicing will decrease your toxin intake solely because you’re switching from processed to natural sources of food.
Helps reinvigorate your health outlook.
We shouldn’t overlook the power of the placebo effect. If people feel like they are helping themselves, they usually end up doing just that. By believing juicing will help cleanse the mind, body, and soul, many people experience a great purification.
Others have positive feedback that a cleanse helped them quit some unhealthy habits. It’s like pressing the reset button on your diet. It gives your taste buds a chance to relearn what natural foods taste like. Highly processed foods leave our taste buds over stimulated, so it’s good to give them a break.
Is there any science behind it?
The science doesn’t really support or oppose juice cleanses. With that being said, there are pros and cons (just like any diet!). Since we discussed the positives already, here are some of the negatives:
Why juice is not as good as eating the whole fruit or vegetable.
Whole foods are proving to far surpass their chopped, sliced, and blended selves. There are many reasons why, but we picked the top two:
1. The body has to work harder to break down whole fruits and veggies.
This is beneficial because it burns more calories! Anytime our bodies have to work harder at something, it expends more energy. This isn’t always positive, but when it comes to eating and exercising, more calories burned is beneficial.
When we puree our foods, that chore of breaking our food down into useable nutrients is already done for us. Only those without teeth need this done for them. Everyone else should never pass on an opportunity to chew. Not only does it burn more calories, but it allows you to enjoy the texture of your food, and it helps you get full faster! It’s a Trifecta of winning:)
2. When juiced, fruits and veggies lose some of their nutrient value.
The skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables contain the fiber and some of the antioxidants. During the juicing process, these beneficial nutrients are often eliminated. Plus, the lost fiber can’t help keep hunger at bay the way it does in whole fruits and veggies.
The blending process also breaks down the cell walls of fruit and vegetables. This allows them to oxidize, a process that can reduce the activity of vitamins. However, this happens anytime you cut up a fruit or vegetable. You can see it happening when an apple browns. So, to eliminate oxidation, just consume your juice right after making it.
The weight loss is temporary.
One of the miraculous aspects of juicing is weight loss. This is true! However, the weight loss is rarely permanent. During the first few days of a juice cleanse, your body sources its energy by burning your glycogen stores. Glycogen is stored with water in our muscles. When we burn up those glycogen stores, we use the water as well. This loss of water can show up on the scale as weight loss.
But the pounds will not stay off. Once a normal diet is resumed, even if it’s a healthy one, we replenish those glycogen stores and the accompanying water. So the scale will bounce right back!
You and your metabolism will slow down.
Most juicing is composed of fruits and vegetables which have little protein. Reduced energy due to insufficient protein will lessen the likelihood of making it to the gym. Plus, we need protein from somewhere, and when we are not getting it from our food, our body will take it from our muscles. Breaking down our muscles is counterproductive to weight loss. Lost muscle mass is lost fat burning power.
Juicing also puts our bodies into a caloric deficit. This does all sorts of great things like burn fat and improve age-associated health according to one study . But it also has negative effects like slowing your metabolism. And we all know a slower metabolism will seriously hinder long term weight loss.
When is juicing a good idea?
If you want to try a full on juice cleanse, I would consult a doctor to make sure you are of sound health. The last thing you’d want is for your cleanse to send you to the hospital. Then prepare yourself (and friends) for the few days/week ahead. A cleanse can easily play with your physical and mental state, so you should be prepared.
Juicing is also great as part of a well-balanced diet. It’s especially handy if you struggle to get down leafy greens. Jam a ton of kale, spinach, or collard greens in a blender with some yummy fruits. A few pulses of the blender, and you are getting more of your daily fruits and veggies. So fad or life changer? We really can't say. What do you think?
 Redman, Leanne M., and Eric Ravussin. "Caloric Restriction in Humans: Impact on Physiological, Psychological, and Behavioral Outcomes." Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.