Juice cleanses have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to detoxify the body and promote weight loss. During a juice cleanse, you consume only fresh fruit and vegetable juices for a set period of time, typically ranging from 3 to 7 days. While juice cleanses may seem like a quick fix for shedding pounds and eliminating toxins, they are extremely restrictive and should be approached with caution.
What is a juice cleanse?
A juice cleanse is a type of diet that involves consuming only fresh fruit and vegetable juices for a certain number of days. The premise is that by abstaining from solid foods for a period of time, you give your body’s digestive system a break and allow it to focus its energy on “cleansing” itself of toxins. Advocates of juice cleanses believe they provide a number of benefits including:
- Detoxification of the body
- Weight loss
- Increased energy
- Improved skin appearance
- Reduced food cravings
During a juice cleanse you’ll typically drink between 6-8 glasses of cold-pressed juices per day, with each serving of juice equaling one meal. Ingredients often include fruits like apples, berries, citrus fruits, and vegetables like kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, and carrots.
Potential benefits of a juice cleanse
There are several proposed benefits associated with doing a juice cleanse, including:
- Increased intake of fruits and vegetables – Since juice cleanses are entirely focused on fruit and vegetable juices, they can drastically increase your daily servings of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Elimination of processed foods – Juice cleanses eliminate inflammatory processed foods and added sugars from your diet which may have negative health effects when consumed in excess.
- Weight loss – Due to the low calorie content of most juices, juice cleanses can create a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss, especially in the short-term.
- Improved digestion – Abstaining from solid food gives your GI tract a break from digestion, allowing inflammation to subside.
- Increased energy – Proponents believe flooding your body with nutrient-dense juices provides an energy boost.
- Detoxification – Juice cleanses aim to flush out toxins and stimulate the liver to eliminate waste.
Potential risks of juice cleanses
However, there are also potential downsides of juice cleanses that need to be considered:
- Extremely low calorie intake – Most juice cleanses provide less than 1,200 calories per day which is too low for most adults.
- Nutritional deficiencies – Juice cleanses fail to provide adequate protein, fat, fiber or other nutrients.
- Limited long-term weight loss – Any weight lost is likely to be regained once you resume normal eating.
- Loss of muscle mass – Low protein intake and calorie restriction can lead to loss of valuable muscle.
- Lightheadedness – Drastically reducing your calorie intake can cause dizziness and low energy.
- Cravings and overeating – Once the cleanse is over, food cravings and binge eating can occur.
If you do attempt a juice cleanse, it’s crucial to limit it to no more than 3-5 days at a time in order to minimize health risks.
How much juice should you drink on a cleanse?
If you decide to try a juice cleanse, how much juice should you drink each day? Here are some general guidelines on juice intake:
- Women should consume a minimum of 1200 calories from juice per day.
- Men should consume a minimum of 1500 calories from juice per day.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of fresh juice spaced throughout the day.
- Listen to your body’s hunger cues – drink more juice if you feel hungry or low on energy.
- Avoid cleansing for more than 3-5 consecutive days.
To determine how much juice equals 1200 or 1500 calories, you need to consider the calorie content of each ingredient. Here is an estimate of the calories found in 8oz of common juice cleanse ingredients:
|Calories per 8oz
Using this calorie estimate, you would need to consume around 8-12 glasses of vegetable juice and 4-6 glasses of fruit juice per day to reach the minimum calorie requirements on a juice cleanse. Always pay attention to your body and hunger levels rather than sticking to strict juice counts. Some cleanses also allow you to consume unlimited herbal tea and water in addition to juice.
The best juices for cleansing
If you want to get the most out of a juice cleanse, it’s important to choose the right juices. The best juices for cleansing should be:
- Low sugar – Focus on low glycemic vegetables and fruits like leafy greens, cucumber, berries.
- Low calorie – Opt for low calorie vegetables like cucumber and celery.
- Rich in nutrients – Choose produce packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Easy to digest – Stick to juices without pulp or fiber like strained orange juice.
- Hydrating – Cucumber, melon, citrus juices have high water content.
Based on these criteria, some of the best juices for cleansing include:
- Cucumber juice
- Kale and spinach juice
- Carrot and celery juice
- Beet and carrot juice
- Strained lemon and orange juice
- Watermelon and strawberry juice
- Apple and ginger juice
It’s best to alternate greens, roots, citrus fruits, berries, melons, and apples when making your juice combinations over the course of a cleanse.
Cleansing juice recipes to try
Here are some delicious juice recipes to incorporate into your cleanse:
Morning Energizer Juice
2 carrots, 1 apple, 1⁄2 beet, 1-inch ginger, 2 celery stalks
Green Detox Juice
5 kale leaves, 1 cucumber, 3 celery stalks, 1 lemon, 1-inch ginger
1 grapefruit, 1 orange, 3 strawberries, 1 cup watermelon
Glowing Skin Juice
1 cup pineapple, 1 peach, 1 cup spinach, 1⁄2 cucumber
Digestive Aid Juice
1 cup aloe vera juice, 1 cup strained carrot juice, 1⁄2 lemon
The bottom line on juice cleansing
While juice cleanses may seem like an easy shortcut to weight loss and detoxification, they come with notable nutrient deficiencies and health risks if followed for more than a few days. Moderation and medically-supervised cleansing is key. For lasting weight loss and health benefits, Focus on a well-balanced, whole foods diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.