What is a juice cleanse and is it worth it?

What is a juice cleanse and is it worth it?

Overview on juice cleanses

In all probability, you’ve heard of the new detox diet “the juice cleanse” a few times by now, co-workers, friends and strangers alike are talking about it. But what is this new craze all about? Does it live up to the promises of a purifying detox and flatter belly, or is it just another crash diet where we walk away hungrier, heavier and unhappy? Is a juice cleanse as effective as we think it is?

If you are thinking about doing a juice cleanse because skinny Sharon from your spinning class swears by her monthly one, then you might want to read this article as it explores what you need to know before you take the first sip of some green bottled goodness.

So, what exactly is a juice cleanse?

The idea is simple, if you are feeling like you have had an indulgent week or month (or year, we don’t judge), then you might be leaning towards doing some kind of a cleanse. The theory goes that all you have to do is drink juices made from pressed vegetable and fruits for a few days (you can’t eat anything else), and hey presto – toxins gone! Say hello to a healthier and happy life. Fit into your jeans, clear your skin and boost your physical and mental health, not to mention your metabolism.

But nothing in life can be that simple, can it?

There are a few companies out there who specialise in providing you with the juices pre-made for your week of cleansing, and others give you the recipes you need in order to achieve the results you want. You can pay a fine price for the cleanse as you will sometimes need to drink up to eight juices a day. But before you go spending your hard-earned cash, you need to know what a juice cleanse actually does.

The cleanse can last anywhere between a few days to a week, where all you do is drink juices made from freshly squeezed and pressed fruit and vegetables, this doesn’t mean you can just go to your local grocery store and buy some ready-made fruit juice, this is the wrong kind of juice as it often contains added sugar, artificial sweetener and preservatives.

The point of the cleanse is to use fresh produce with no added preservatives or sugar. Some of the juices may also contain a component of nut milk to bring in some fat and protein. Overall, you will be consuming about 1000 to 1200 calories a day (which is generally not considered to be adequate for the average adult on an ongoing basis).

But, what most people don’t know, is for the cleanse to be effective, you will also need to cut out so called “bad foods” which include sugars, fizzy drinks and processed foods three days before the cleanse.

You will also need to drink eight glasses of water a day (which you should be doing by now seeing as dieticians have been telling you this for years).

During the cleanse, you will drink the juices at two-hour intervals, with water in-between. Then, once you have finished the cleanse (typically after a week), you will need to slowly add in fruits and greens on the first day, then nuts and gluten free grains on the second and only organic meats and gluten grains on the third day.

So realistically the actual juice cleanse is about a week, not just a few days, but then for another week, you will also need to diet (being the three days prior to and after the cleanse). Which works out to two weeks of dieting if you’re doing a full week cleanse, not really the ‘quick-fix-cleanse’ you were expecting, is it?

This is not to put you off of a juice cleanse, some aspects of a juice cleanse can be very beneficial, otherwise, why would so many people swear by it?

The science behind juice cleanses

Juiced fruits and vegetablesA juice cleanse is not intended to act as a ‘purifying force’ in your body. The idea is that a juice cleanse gives your organs a break from detoxing and purifying, allowing them to focus on other things such as boosting your immune system or even fighting a disease.

What are the toxins in my body?

Toxins and chemicals tend to be a part of our everyday diets. Water has chlorine, food has preservatives and colourants and even the air has carbon monoxide.

These toxins build up in the body and can result in a weakened immune system. This makes us more susceptible to developing chronic illnesses such as headaches, asthma, arthritis, heart diseases and even cancer - being a popular cleansing method after treatments such as chemotherapy. Our kidneys, liver and colon are tasked with expelling these toxins and waste, however, some cleanse enthusiasts believe that these toxins in modern-day life have become too much for our organs to handle. Cue the juice cleanses.

Theoretically, what does a juice cleanse actually do?

We have already explained the basics of what a juice cleanse is and what it does, but let’s get into a little more detail. The idea behind a cleanse is that when our bodies no longer have to digest solid foods and can focus on releasing toxins in our systems more effectively.

Basically, giving our bodies a break to do what they really need to be doing.

Doctors have said that if we eat a healthy and nutritional diet, our bodies should cleanse and purify naturally as they will be operating at optimal performance.

A three-day cleanse is not some miracle formula to improve our body’s natural system of waste removal. However, it can be a very effective way of allowing our body to focus on its natural healing power of not having to put all of its efforts into detoxing and purifying itself from ingested toxins.

Will I lose weight through a juice cleanse?

The simple answer is, yes. You are highly likely to shed some unwanted weight during a juice cleanse, but be warned, you can easily pack this back on should you return to eating excessive portions of high-fat foods. You will need to adapt to a healthy eating plan after a cleanse, and before one, as we previously mentioned. This will help you to stick to a weight that is sustainable. Remember, it’s a lifestyle, not a diet.

The weight you will lose during a cleanse will most likely be water weight. This is because of the fact that when you eat whole foods such as carbohydrates (breads and grains), these are heavier foods and result in your body having to hold onto water to aid in the digestion process of them. If you take these foods away, your water weight will disappear. But, when you start eating solids after the cleanse, your water weight is bound to come back.

Oh, and did we mention that due to the cleanse being so restricting, some people may have severe cravings during it and spiral into eating sugary foods after completing it. So, there’s that.

Who should not do a juice cleanse?

Most people who are in good health can do a juice cleanse and experience positive results from it. However, if you have certain medical conditions such as low blood pressure, low blood sugar or diabetes, you should refrain from doing a juice cleanse. Speak to your doctor or dietician about your condition if you are serious about doing one.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should definitely not do a cleanse.

What are the side effects of a juice cleanse?

Short-term cleanses are unlikely to cause any side-effects, you might be tired and have a few headaches (your body is going through withdrawals and adjusting to the new diet). Some people may experience more severe side effects, such as flu-like symptoms, constant headaches and fatigue.

Should we really be juicing our food?

When we juice our fruits and vegetables, they are stripped of their natural fibre, which is actually good for our bodies. Some experts believe that when this fibre is removed, our bodies can more easily digest the nutrients without having to work so hard, absorbing the nutrients and enzymes through minimal digestive effort.

The same experts believe that juicing is a natural healing protocol for the body and those dealing with chronic and debilitating diseases, cancer being one of them, can reap the many benefits of juicing. Their reasoning is that while our body is trying to fight off a disease or illness, we should be allowing it to use most of its strength to do so, which cleansing allows for. It is a non-invasive treatment which can be extremely beneficial for some, but it is not a cure, and few experts recommend it as a treatment.

Juicing also allows more nutrients to be digested in one go then we normally consume in an average day. This is because 10 carrots may only make half a cup of juice, but the average person does not eat that amount in one go (it would be a tiring task indeed).

On the contrary, others believe that there is no scientific research to support that claims that juicing is better and healthier than eating food whole and that the fibre that is removed is actually vital to our bodily functions. With the fibre being stripped, your body absorbs the sugar in the fruits and vegetables more easily (fructose), which affects your blood-sugar levels. If you do decide to jump on the juicing bandwagon, try and drink more veggies and avoid sugary fruits.

So, should you juice?

It all comes down to this, juicing can make you feel better about yourself. The determination required to complete a cleanse is a sure-fire way to set yourself new goals and try to reach them. And reaching said goals in completing the cleanse can make you feel motivated and proud – and there is no harm in that. Besides the emotional benefits, there are studies that suggest that juicing, while it does not actually get rid of toxins itself, does give our bodies a bit of a break from digesting hearty meals in order to focus on more important things, like our immune systems, fighting diseases, and in turn our organs could possibly work better and rid the body of toxins more effectively.

Detox Juices
If you’re going to do a juice cleanse, don’t do it for prolonged periods of time as this could have adverse effects on your metabolism in possibly slowing it down and resulting in weight gain when you return to normal eating. Three days to a week are the recommended time for a cleanse. Some people say it helps them to control their cravings and others insist that it makes their cravings worse and they end up in a sugary den of doughnuts and depression as soon as their cleanse is over.

If you want to lose weight for a wedding or special occasion, many people would recommend doing a juice cleanse, but if you are looking for sustainable weight loss, this is not the answer. The best way to reach a weight goal and stick to it is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Bringing juices into your diet can help give you the fruit and vegetables you wouldn’t normally have had. Try sticking to a diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and lean sources of protein. It’s all about balance. A juice cleanse might help you to get a jump start into healthy eating, however, it should not be the long-term solution.

So, if Sharon from spinning class says she really feels amazing after she does a juice cleanse, she probably does. In doing something good for your body, you will psychologically feel more energised and happy. And there is nothing wrong with feeling better about ourselves, even if there is no scientific evidence to prove why.

Some questions answered

How often should I juice cleanse?

If a juice cleanse is the direction you decide to go in, try to limit it to three to five days once a month. Some people do it every Monday, just for the day, after a guilt-food-ridden weekend. Others do a three-day cleanse at the end of every season. 

Is a juice cleanse the quick fix I am looking for to lose weight?

A quick fix solution to losing weight is never the way to go. But we understand how sometimes life throws us a curveball when we have to look great for that reunion or upcoming party. As far quick weight-loss tricks go, a juice cleanse is probably one of the safest. You aren’t ingesting any chemicals or sketchy fat-burners, so apart from withdrawals from caffeine and sugar, your side effects will be mild. Bear in mind though, the weight you lose is water weight and you will likely gain it back when you start eating normally again.

Are all juicers the same?

We have noted that juice cleanses are criticised for removing some vital fibre from the fruits and vegetables in the juicing process. When it comes to preparing juices for a cleanse, there are a variety of juicers on the market, the most common are centrifugal and masticating juicers.

Masticating juicers are more expensive, this is because they knead the fruit and vegetables at a slow speed, with no spinning action. This allows all of the nutrients to be extracted from the food, replicating the action we make in chewing our food.

Centrifugal juicers, on the other hand, use a high-speed spinning movement to grind the fruit and vegetables into a pulp, squeezing all the juice out into a separate container. Masticating juicers are considered a healthier way to juice food, as centrifugal juicers strip away many of the needed nutrients and fibre.

If you are looking into doing regular juice cleanses but don’t have a juicer as yet, it is well-worth investing in a masticating juicer in order for your body to get the nutrients and fibre it needs.

Disclaimer - MyMed.com is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition or illness or act as a substitute for professional medical advice.