I have always loved juice. Family legend has it that I drank so much apple juice as a child that my diaper was constantly sagging. This post isn’t about hating juice. Let me state for the record that juice without added sugar and made from fresh fruits and vegetables, is good for you. I drink it, and I also use juice in recipes, like this one for granola. Juicing vegetables into smoothies is also a great way to get them into your diet if you have aversions to the raw version or just are not interested in cooking them.
It’s the cleansing part of a juice cleanse that I have an issue with. The idea is simple and seemingly benign. Toxins in the body can build up and cause inflammation. Our liver, kidneys and colon are designed to filter out and deal with toxins and keep our gastrointestinal system healthy. Proponents of cleansing say our own body systems can’t always keep up with those toxins, and we need to give them a little boost by drinking only liquids which are easier to digest. People even claim there are metabolic benefits and changes that occur on your cellular level when you juice cleanse.
Here’s the thing. If you eat properly all the time, don’t fill your body with unnecessary toxins like those found in processed foods, your body’s own systems don’t need any help keeping up. The healthy food and nutrients allow your body to function at its optimal level. Sure, after a week of eating junk, you might feel like you need a “cleanse.” But what you really need is to get back into eating real foods, not simply juice.
In addition to the elimination of toxins, the touted benefits of juice cleanses include mental clarity, an immune system boost and improved skin and overall health. Guess what? I get all of those from my running program and from eating a diet full of real, healthy food. I can guarantee you that when I finish my 6.1 mile leg of the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay on Sunday, I will feel better than you’ll feel after 3 days of nothing but juice.
While I recognize that not all juice cleansers are doing it to lose weight, there are those who enjoy the few pounds you drop from a juice cleanse. But sadly, the weight you lose is only water, and when you return to eating solid food, it will come back. And often cravings are induced by the deprivation that you put your body through, which can lead people to over-do it when they go back to regular food.
Juice cleanses are so often hyped as healthy, but there are many people who could actually be harmed by juice cleanses – particularly those with blood pressure problems or diabetes. If you eat a well balanced diet and you still have problems with your gastrointestinal tract, see your doctor, not Tropicana. Juice is essentially sugar water. And sugar doesn’t detox you. Water does.
There are precious few clinical studies to back up juice cleanses, regardless of what Dr. Oz says. (A quick search of PubMed returned no results.) And if you don’t eat well in the first place, it doesn’t matter how many days you juice cleanse, you will go back to feeling like crap when you are done. So what’s the point?
Treat juice cleanses like the celebrity fads that they are and just make yourself a fruit or vegetable smoothie as part of a healthy, balanced diet.