Fruits and vegetables (especially organic ones) are good for you, right? So let’s take that thought to the extreme and “cleanse” our bodies and our minds by subsisting on NOTHING but JUICE for about a week. Because more of a good thing is even better, right?
Yet juice fasting and juice cleanses have increasingly become a popular part of the diet and wellness landscape, claiming benefits from weight loss and glowing skin, to cures for a host of medical conditions and even cure-all for cancer.
Fans of juicing say they can get more vitamins and minerals from juiced foods then they can by simply eating the fruits and vegetables. They claim to feel more alert and energetic, since their body is getting a “break” from the digestive process and clearing out all those nasty toxins.
While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a fresh glass of organic or raw juice occasionally, here’s why you don’t want to take this trend to extremes.
Juices offer a sugar high
Although juices do offer the benefits of vitamins and nutrients, ultimately they are higher in sugar than their produce sources. You would take in more sugar from apple or orange juice than if you simply ate the apple or orange. The body breaks down the sugar into glucose and fructose. Without any fiber, fat or protein to buffer all that incoming sugar, your body goes into a high glycemic mode and the pancreas releases more insulin into the bloodstream to counter and control all that glucose. If you are insulin resistant, pre-diabetic, or have type 2 diabetes, this excess sugar load could be dangerous. When glucose levels in the bloodstream remain high (because the pancreas can’t keep up) you will store all that excess energy as fat.
The immediate glucose rush may make you feel energized, for a while. But ultimately your blood glucose will drop dramatically, leading to a crash. You may even feel dizzy, weak or sick.
The fiber is missing
Juices leave out the skins and pulp of the fruit or vegetables, which hold many of the nutrients and fiber. Plant based fiber is a key for intestinal health and it slows down digestion and the absorption of all those sugars which keeps you feeling fuller. Your body is meant to function on whole foods! Your body doesn’t need a “rest” from food and fiber, but it just may need a rest from certain types of foods you eat, like processed foods, refined sugars, gluten and excess fats.
They detox the wrong way
Fructose is metabolized primarily in the liver. If the liver gets overloaded with high amounts of fructose, it can overtax this organ that does most of the body’s detoxification. The liver relies on vitamins, nutrients and amino acids to remove toxins from the body. If you go many days on a juice cleanse, you are depriving the liver of what it needs to do what it does -cleanse your body!
Most juice cleanses use organic fruit and vegetables to make the juice. But if they don’t, you are actually concentrating a lot of the pesticides and dumping them into the body you are trying to cleanse.
The weight loss is temporary
Many people who choose juice fasts and cleanses are simply looking for a quick-fix to weight loss. While it is possible to lose weight on these cleanses, the weight loss is primarily due to calorie restriction and not due to any actual loss of body fat. Worse, the lack of protein in the fast will cause your body to break down muscle and other tissues to obtain the amino acids it needs to keep the body and metabolism functioning.
The combination of the high glucose and excess insulin produced to control it, combined with the breakdown of muscle tissue, create a double-whammy for your body and it lowers your metabolism. When you add back in food (even healthy foods), you gain the weight back, and maybe even more because instead of acquiring desirable (fat-burning) lean muscle mass, you’ve added fat you’ve stored from consuming all that excess sugar (see Why Dieting Makes You Fat).
The body is a pretty much a self-cleaning organism
The real issue for your body is not so much what you feed it, but what you don’t put into it! The body relies on a balanced variety of foods (even fats!) to function properly. When you give it too much of any ONE thing, it will be out of balance. Of course, many of us end up putting too much of the WRONG things into our bodies in the form of processed and refined sugars and trans-fats via the convenience of manufactured foods. There is nothing wrong with cleansing the body to get rid of some of this excess of modern life, but as with anything, moderation is the key.
You really don’t need to juice-fast in order to do an effective cleanse that detoxifies your body and will help you lose weight! Choose a sensible cleanse that eliminates processed foods and possible allergens like gluten or dairy, but will still give you enough protein and amino acids to support your liver and other organs so they can do their job. Eliminate the toxins naturally without starving or stressing your body. You will still lose weight, but without all that excess sugar from the juice, it will be fat and toxins you lose, not muscle mass.
To juice or not to juice
Juices can be an option if you’re looking to add additional nutrients to your diet, or looking for fun ways to experiment with fruits and vegetables you might not otherwise try, but juicing is no substitute for the eating the real thing. If you do decide to juice, it’s best to make your own fresh juice with organic ingredients you control. Bottled juices may contain added ingredients or sweeteners, and juice bars may not be as picky about where their produce comes from as you would be.
As for the weight loss aspects of these juice cleanses and juice fasts? Don’t buy into the hype. Fresh juices can be a nice addition to a healthy diet, but don’t expect them to be a weight loss miracle. If you do decide that you’d like to include juices in your weight loss plan, make sure you consume them with adequate protein and fiber to offset the carbohydrate and glucose load so that you avoid the blood sugar and insulin spikes that can harm your body.
Bottom line: be sensible!
A glass of fresh made juice can make for a refreshing treat of phytonutrients, but it doesn’t mean you can skip out on eating the real things.