They are all the rage, and some are claiming a huge number of health benefits such as clearer skin, weight loss, improved energy levels, a natural detox, and a kickstart for increasing metabolism and helping with weight loss.
As always with any new diet claim there are going to be some truth, some genuine benefits, and the opposite will be true as well. So how could you incorporate a juice cleanse into your diet plan, and the bigger question… should you?
What is a juice cleanse?
In the broadest terms, a juice cleanse involves all or the majority of what you consume coming from juice- ideally freshly juiced and without added sugar. It can be vegetable or fruit or both. Cold pressed juices claim to be the best- however studies have shown that there is very little difference between the nutritional value of juice from a regular juicer vs. a much more expensive cold pressed juicer.
A natural detox
Our bodies are always in a state of detox, constantly removing toxins from our system, and generally it works very well. A highly processed diet that is high in salt or including alcohol can create added strain on our system, and so changes in diet can certainly ease the workload places on our kidneys, liver etc.
If we are considering someone who has a regular diet that is unhealthy, no doubt they will experience improvements when trying our a juice cleanse, as fruit and vegetable juices are nutrient rich, have a high water content, and easily digestible (in most cases). This in part may account for how wildly popular juice cleanses have become and all the benefits that have been reported.
But how does a juice cleanse compare to eating whole, fresh fruit and vegetables and drinking more water? Unsurprisingly, the healthy diet comes out the winner- the fibre content and many of the nutrients of fruit and vegetables is generally in the skin, seeds, pulp. All of which is removed during the juicing process.
For weight loss
There is a growing body of evidence that intermittent fasting can have beneficial effects on weight loss, as well as memory, energy, concentration, and the ability to fight infection and disease. Research has been conducted around the idea of two “fast days” a week, with a fast day being classified as the total calories consumed being much less than usual- around 20% of usual intake, and a day being anywhere between 10-12 hours or 24 hours depending on the study.
The idea behind this is that a fast puts mild stress on the body, and that the body makes improvements in response to the stress. Almost the same way that exercise puts stress on the muscles, causing them to grow stronger and more efficient as a result.
It is important to note that intermittent fasting was only effective in boosting weight loss if 1: this did not result in the urge to binge at the end of the fast, and 2: overeating as a compensation did not occur on the other non-fasting days of the week.
So in this case, juice fasting could be useful, as you are still taking in nutrients but can have substantially lower calories (but check this, fruit does contain sugar which is calories, so you will need the fruit/veg balance right). It would certainly be more comfortable to complete a fasting day drinking juice than it would be to consume nothing at all.
Of course the benefits seen here seem to be related to the decrease in calories rather than the benefits of juice itself. An alternative could be a “light” day twice a week, including things like more vegetable soups or salads, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and water. Not only will the fibre content help keep you feeling fuller, but you’ll be getting all those added nutrients that juicing would have removed.
As always, we know that everyone is different, and if juicing works well for you as part of a balanced diet then go for it. If you are considering juicing thinking it will be better than your already healthy diet now, you probably won’t get the benefits you are expecting. Use your own judgement, see what works for your body. We would love to hear what has/hasn’t worked for you.