No offense to juice—but what’s with all the hype? Chances are you’ve seen a new juice shop pop up on every other corner. And social media is full of perfectly cropped juice shots in every shade of the rainbow.
So are juice cleanses another harmless food fad, or are there some real health benefits – or concerns – involved in these detox diets?
HealthTap’s doctors break down three common claims to help us find out.
What Exactly is a Juice Cleanse?
Fresh pressed juice is a $4.3 billion industry full of many companies with differing definitions of what constitutes a juice cleanse. Cleanses can vary from 1 day to 4 weeks, from an all-juice diet to a mixture of juices and solid foods. Popular juicing companies recommend nothing but juice for over 5 days to “fully detoxify and heal damage”.
Claim 1: Juicing Helps You Lose Weight
One well-known juicing company suggests a 2-4 week juice cleanse can help you lose a significant amount of weight. Of course they can! This weight loss is most likely water weight and muscle mass – and is usually short-term.
Juice cleanses tend to significantly reduce the amount of calories you consume. The less calories you eat, the more weight you lose, almost regardless of what you’re eating. The problem with juice cleanses is they eliminate key nutrients your body needs. Loss of nutrients like fat, protein, and fiber causes you to lose muscle mass, not fat.
To achieve long-term, healthy weight loss, follow Dr. Pamela Pappas’s advice: follow a healthy diet and exercise plan you can stick to for the long run.
Claim 2: Juicing Detoxes the Body
The most prominent claimed benefit of juice cleanses is that they rid the body of harmful toxins.
But what, exactly, are these toxins of which you need to rid yourself?
Toxins do exist and can have a negative impact. Alcohol, tobacco, pesticides, and poisons are good examples. But, as Dr. Richard Bensinger notes, your body is designed to eliminate these on its own through the liver and kidneys, and it does a very good job. Other serious toxins, like poisons and pesticides, require immediate emergency care by a doctor – no amount of fresh carrot juice will help there.
There is currently no compelling evidence that juice cleanses can remove toxins from your body.
Claim 3: Juicing is the Key to a Healthier You
As Dr. Pejman Katiraei notes, there isn’t necessarily a problem with drinking juice. Using juice as your only source of nutrition for any period of time can, however, be a cause for concern.
If your juice cleanse primarily relies on fruit juices, you miss out on the vital fiber found in fruit and are essentially drinking pure sugar.
While fruit can actually lower your weight and risk for type 2 diabetes, exclusively drinking your fruit can drastically increase your weight and diabetes risk.
Feel free to enjoy drinking juice, especially low-sugar vegetable juices, but juices should be consumed as a portion of a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods. Juice on its own is not a suitable diet.
When your goal is to lose weight, the healthiest approach is a sustainable approach. The key to weight loss and maintenance is a healthy diet and exercise program you can stick to long term. Schedule a virtual visit to talk to your doctor about a plan that will work for you or enroll in a nutrition care guide or exercise care guide to get started today.