Juicing, Juice Cleanses and Detox Diets are all the rage these days. Most people who try “juicing” or “juice cleanses” often believe they will lose weight, improve energy levels, prevent disease, get relief from constipation, resolve headaches, muscle aches and fatigue, or in some way “unpollute” their bodies. Options range from home-made, gym-made or chain restaurant vegetable and fruit cocktails, commercially made grab-and-go single bottles, or powdered mixes. Typical Juice or Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets can be meant for one single day, some for a few days, while others may replace a week’s or even a month’s worth of food! The differences are often based on the goals promoted by whomever is marketing the program.
But ... Is Juicing Healthy, or Just Another Health Scam?
Let’s start by reviewing the difference among Juicing, Blending, and the Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets.
What is Juicing? Juicing is a process where juice is extracted from fruits and vegetables, such as through pressing or squeezing. This is different from eating whole fruits and vegetables or blended drinks because juicing leaves only liquid while discarding the fiber filled pulp. Think: Mr Juiceman
What is Blending? Unlike juicing, blending retains all of the edible portions of the fruit or vegetable in the drink. Because all edible portions (skin and all fibrous parts) are included in blending, blending usually results in stronger antioxidant and phytonutrient content than those prepared by juicing. (1) Think: Vitamix or NutriBullet
What is a Juice Cleanse and Detox Diet? Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets involve a process in which an individual consumes only vegetable and fruit juices for a period of 3 to 10 days. (2) Most programs are designed to eliminate solid foods or specific food groups, often the common high-allergy foods, such as dairy, eggs, grains, and legumes. By eliminating these foods, supposedly your digestive system gets to “take a break”, allowing it to heal, so it can eventually better absorb nutrients in the future. Some programs market a 1-day juice cleanse, while others promote several weeks of cleansing. Some juice cleansing regimens suggest fasting from certain foods, while others suggest an initial fast, but will slowly re-introduce additional food items during the following weeks.
I’ll admit, I'm often impressed by people who can blend up broccoli, kale, beets, cucumber, and ginger - mask it with some sweetness from apples or berries – and chug it down. I believe they are impressed by their efforts too, because they usually feel compelled to tell you all the vegetables and fruits they knocked back in their daily routine!
Still, the question remains:
Is Juicing, Blending, or Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets Healthy, or Just Another Health Scam?
Let’s face it – if you're willing to put out the big bucks for a juicer, blender, or a juice “cleanse” and “detox” diet, you should want to know the advantages and disadvantages. Many of my clients want to know too, so I've compiled the following benefits and drawback to Juicing, Blending, and Juice Cleanse and Detox diets:
Overall Benefits of Juicing, Blending, and Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets
- Research shows that consuming up to seven servings of vegetables and fruits a day can have a significant impact on your lifespan. (3)
- Some scientists believe that you should consume more than that - especially if you have a chronic illness, such as Multiple Sclerosis. (4)
- Increasing your intake of vegetables and fruits increases the number of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, which has been inversely correlated with the risk of chronic diseases. (5)
- This is a good way to use vegetables and fruits that are about to spoil.
Benefits Specific to Blending and Juicing
- For people with impaired digestive systems, Blending offers a "pre-digested" processed fiber could help you absorb valuable vitamins and minerals.
- For those who don't have time to cut up or cook two servings of vegetables and/or fruits with every meal, this is an easy way to consume them on the go.
- If you are vegetable and fruit challenged, it can make you feel good knowing that you can drink in your required daily vegetables and fruits in one quick sitting.
Benefits Specific to the Juice Cleanse and Detox Diet
- During a Juice Cleanse, eliminating certain foods for several days, such as those linked to inflammation (dairy, grains, eggs), can help you identify food sensitivities and potential trigger foods
- Still, truth be told, there is no conclusive medical evidence that your digestive tract will “heal” from skipping solid foods (unless you have been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, such as Celiac Disease, Crohn’s disease, or Ulcerative Colitis triggered by those foods that you eliminate).
Overall Drawbacks of Juicing, Blending, and Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets
- You may experience gastrointestinal distress and frequent bowel movements by introducing a large amount of fructose (fruit sugar) to your digestive system.
- When fructose (fruit sugar) enters your blood stream too quickly, it is more likely to be stored as fat.
- Consuming your food in liquid form may leave you feeling less full.
- Diets that restrict oral intake to only Juicing, Blending, or Juice Cleansing are very low in calories, which leave you with little energy to exercise and could disrupt and slow your metabolic rate
- People taking blood-thinning prescription drugs such as Coumadin or Warfarin should maintain consistency in their consumption of dark green vegetables high in vitamin K (kale, spinach, arugula, and broccoli) to prevent spikes in vitamin K, reducing the effects of their medicine, developing the potential to form a clot.
Drawbacks Specific to Blending
- You may experience gastrointestinal distress and frequent bowel movements by introducing a large amount of fiber from Blending vegetables and/or fruits.
Drawbacks Specific to Juicing and Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets
- Juicing removes the rinds and fiber of fruits and vegetables, but keeps all the sugars. For example, a medium sized apple has about 19 g of sugar and 4 g of fiber. In comparison, a glass of apple juice does not contain any fiber, and can contain about 24 g of sugar.
- High influx of sugar from fruit juice will cause blood sugar to spike, which once absorbed will create low blood sugar, promoting feelings of hunger.
Drawbacks Specific to Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets
- Juice Cleanse and Detox diets have not been shown to be effective for long-term weight loss. The weight you lose from a juice cleanse is often due to losing water, carbohydrate stores and stool, which all return after you resume a regular diet.
- Some programs claim that Juice Cleanses and Detox diets help your body achieve a beneficial alkaline pH. Your body maintains a tightly regulated pH at all times, regardless of what you’re eating. To date, there are no major human studies to substantiate the purported benefits of an alkaline diet.
- It’s argued that specific organs - usually the intestines, liver, or kidneys - need to be cleansed periodically. Our bodies work hard everyday to remove toxins - our bodies naturally detox! Our organs, particularly our digestive tract, liver, kidneys and skin are responsible for breaking down toxins for elimination through urine, stool or sweat.
- Juice Cleanse and Detox Diets are basically high-carb, low-protein and low-fiber diets, which can cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar, and lead to headaches, mood swings, dizziness, and fatigue.
The Bottom Line
As for a general health claims, it's true that eating a plant-based diet is linked to lower risk of heart disease and cancer. There is even some research that Juicing and Blending can strengthens the immune system. But any immune system benefits can just as well come from eating whole fruits and vegetables – without all the drawbacks of Juicing, Blending, or a Juice Cleanse.
Eating whole foods is good. Unprocessed fiber found in plant-based foods helps slow digestion, revs your metabolism, can help with nutrient absorption by feeding your gut flora, and removes toxins via stool. In addition, your digestive tract uses probiotics from fiber to nourish your intestines with beneficial bacteria, which helps maintain immune health and weight. Fiber is also necessary to activate satiety responses - which as mentioned, drinking a few hundred calories from a Juiced or even Blended vegetables and fruits is not as filling as eating the whole vegetable and piece of fruit.
On one hand, Juicing and Blending can be good in moderation because it can help you consume a large amount of essentials vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients in one sitting.
On the other hand, Juice Cleanse and Detox Diet Programs are not a good way to “cleanse”, “detox”, or “diet”.
Unfortunately, most “cleanse”, “detox”, or “diet” programs never address the individual’s typical diet or lifestyle. Think about why one might think they are “polluted”. What is polluting you?
- From an Social, Emotional, or Personal perspective: Is it job or family stress? Maybe a toxic relationship? Lack of exercise?
- From an Environmental Perspective: Could it be pesticides from your lawn-care or landscaping company, the cleaning agents you use in your home, or eating foods listed on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list (6)? Maybe its your exposure to heavy metals in the tuna fish you're eating every week, or the beauty products or antiperspirants you use? I have a BS in Environmental Science – I can go on and on about environmental toxins!
- From a Nutrition Perspective: Is it processed cheeses and meats, processed or genetically modified snack foods, maybe even too many so-called “health food” snacks? What about drinking unfiltered, chlorinated tap water, or alcohol? Is it a smoking habit?
I like to address these social, emotional, personal, environmental and nutrition issues during my nutrition counseling sessions with clients because it is a holistic approach to starting a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately Juicing, Blending, or enrolling in a Juice Cleanse or Detox Diet is not going to help you address what is lacking in other areas of your life. Nor will following restrictive diet plans help you learn how to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Remember: Your Body is Amazing!
Your body is designed to “cleanse” and “detox” itself. All your body asks is that you supply it with healthy, balanced meals prominent in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, along with some lean protein, and healthy fats (7). Whole, unprocessed foods are good for your entire body and they will give you plenty of energy, help you maintain a healthy body, healthy lifestyle, and best of all, help you avoid disease.
Eat to sustain a healthy lifestyle - it may not be as cool or as glamorous as your local “Nutritionist’s”, “Sport Club’s” or “Wellness Center’s” Juicing or Detox plan, but it’s also no trap.
To learn more about how to sustain a lifestyle of healthy eating, contact me at 973.852.3335
- Effects of chronic and acute consumption of fruit- and vegetable-puree-based drinks on vasodilation, risk factors for CVD and the response as a result of the eNOS G298T polymorphism.P Nutr Soc. (2009).
- The Benefits of Fiber: For Your Heart, Weight, and Energy. webmd.com.