To juice or not to juice, what a tricky question – it’s one our team here at Good Zing has lately been debating. "Won't you faint?", "Doesn't it deplete you of energy?", and "Surely you don't get all the nutrients you need day-to-day?" we wonder.
Calorific depravation can cause dizziness, nausea, constipation, fatigue and irritability, as well as putting a lot of stress on your body – so we decided to gather the scientific research behind the ever-expanding craze and finally answer the questions like, is juice fasting actually good for you, what are the health benefits of juice fasting, and will a juice detox actually help me lose weight. Here's what we found out:
What is juicing for detox?
Detox juicing is when you decide to limit your diet to fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water for anywhere between a few days to several weeks. The detox juice diet contains roughly 1000-1200 calories a day and often incorporates some sort of nut milk in order to provide the body with a source of fat and protein. It is widely marketed as providing health benefits, including weight loss, flushing toxins from the body, and increasing energy. Up to now, however, there is no strong scientific evidence to support these benefits as compared with eating fruits and vegetables. The gospel of juicing though is here to stay, mostly through social media (1).
Juice cleanse health benefits and cons
Juice fasting attracts those wanting to be and feel health-conscious. Advocates of the trend may swear by its effectiveness for anything from helping shed excess pounds to full-body detoxing, just like the 5:2 diet. Sceptics however, argue that although a juice now and then can be beneficial to your health, detox juicing is too extreme a method. Limiting your body’s calorific intake to only juice for long periods of time not only does little of the good stuff like actually cleanse out your system, and claim it can be detrimental to your overall health.
Let’s take a look at the 3 main reasons someone might choose to embark on a juice detox and see what both the friends and foes have to say about each.
1. Juice fast and weight loss
Friends – The majority of us are on a constant quest to lose or at least maintain our current weight. To stay consistent, really. However, most of us (secretly or not so secretly) would jump at the opportunity to drop a couple of kilos, and maybe are easily convinced that a juice fast will help you lose weight fast. Detox juicing enthusiasts swear by the diet as a quick, effective means of shedding a few pounds without having to starve your body completely of calories. PS. If you decide to try a cleanse, let your loved ones know you'll be #HANGRY for a little while...
What's more, fruit juices are a more appealing option to a few salad leaves or low-calorie meal alternatives, and by limiting your grocery purchases to exactly the fruit and veg you need for that day’s juices, you won’t have the opportunity to overeat and can stop giving in to unhealthy cravings and binge eating.
Foes – Like most short-term, trendy diets, detox juicing is not the most effective means of losing weight and keeping it off. In the short-term, your weight is likely to drop off slightly due to the lack of fat in the diet and the drastic reduction in calorific intake. By limiting your diet to around 1,000 calories a day, it’s not the juice helping the weight loss, but the lack of food (2).
Also, as soon as you stop the diet, you are likely to put the weight back on pretty quickly. Just like the Atkins diet, a lot of the weight you will lose is water and muscle weight rather than fat. In fact, experts say juice fasting could actually lead to easier weight gain in the long-term as doing it frequently enough will probably slow your metabolism right down (2).
Good Zing Expert and Nutritional Therapist Maria Mekhael says, "My issue with juice fasts for losing weight is that they often push a false promise of dropping pounds in a short period of time. When things seem 'too good to be true', they usually are!
Much of the time, any weight loss that is derivative of an extreme 'detox diet' is primarily water, plus carbohydrate stores and intestinal bulk, as your body is not dealing with fibre and indigestible components of food. Personally, I don’t believe that juice fasts offer adequate nutritional support to provide a sustainable way of truly altering your body fat composition, and on top of this, juice cleanses do nothing to support a healthier relationship with food, instead promoting a form of immoderation that can play into an 'all or nothing attitude' I see all too often in my clinic.
The human body has an amazing capacity to process and eliminate the toxic end and byproducts of normal metabolism, and to do this, it needs adequate supplies of certain key helpers to support liver detoxification, including B-Vitamins, a range of antioxidants, glutathione and sulphur-containing amino acids. Equally, it’s just as important to ensure healthy gut function and elimination systems when looking at detoxification, so fibre-rich foods like wholegrains, pulses and vegetables, as well as those high in pre and probiotics and glutamine like, chicken, beef, fish and organic dairy can all be helpful.
I believe that a better route to boosting your body’s detoxification capacity is to reduce your intake of alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar and carbohydrates and junk foods. Instead, try to fill your plate with quality protein, nutrient-dense vegetables, berries, pulses, wholegrains and beneficial fats like olive oil, avocados, and omega-3 rich fatty fish.
It sounds basic, but in the long run, when combined with regular exercise, this is more protective of optimal health and far more enjoyable route to sustainable weight management and healthy detoxification.
Having said that, as a supplement to a balanced diet, I think juices are a great addition as they provide a fantastic hit of nutrients. Try and stick to vegetable-based ones, and have with a handful of almonds to balance the impact of a concentrated hit of sugars on your blood glucose levels."
2. Juice cleanse and full body detox
Friends – Detox juicing is an immediate and effective means to cleanse the body and get rid of unnecessary toxins. It helps detoxify the liver and kidneys which improves the function of your internal organs and slows the effects of ageing. Giving up processed and solid foods will also give your digestive system a well-deserved break.
Foes – You do not need to go on a juice diet to detoxify your body. The body is perfectly capable of detoxifying itself naturally and is doing so on a continual basis. Your internal organs, specifically the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, are effective at removing toxins and harmful substances.
3. Juice fast and the immune system
Friends – It’s common knowledge that fruit and veg are awesome for us, so a diet packed full of just that is bound to do amazing things to our bodies. By eliminating all the 'baddies' from our diet, such as taking control of sugar cravings and cutting out saturated fats, and limiting our intake to nutrient-packed fruit and vegetables, our bodies will reap fantastic benefits.
Juicing will make you feel more energised, boost your immune system, strengthen your bones, help your skin glow and reduce your risk of illness and disease.
Foes – Some bold claims from the advocate camp. But where is the scientific evidence? To start, juicing is no better than eating whole fruit and vegetables. In some cases, juicing is even less healthy. Sometimes the fibre and antioxidants found in the skins of fruit and veg are removed during juicing, and a lack of fibre means the body absorbs fructose sugar more easily which can affect blood-sugar levels.
If you do decide on a juice fast or detox, try to drink more veggie juices rather than fruit juices as veggies contain less natural sugars. Juice diets also leave crucial nutrients, vitamins and minerals out of your diet by eliminating entire food groups. Without sufficient protein, your body has no raw materials with which to build and repair tissue, and lack of fats actually leaves your hair and skin in poor condition and means your body is less apt at absorbing vitamins.
What do Experts say about juice detoxes, fasts and cleanses?
Glossy marketing and celebrity endorsement have done wonders to promote the detox juicing industry, but has also meant that few have stopped to question the science behind the fad. Yet the general scientific consensus is that juice detoxing actually has little basis in science!
A healthy and nutritious juice now and then is fine and can have numerous health benefits. But the claims that detox juicing is the answer to all of your health problems especially weight loss is most definitely not true as you can suffer from added weight gain long-term.
Is a juice cleanse worth it?
For many people going on a detox for a few days has helped jumpstart a commitment to a healthier diet. Even if the idea of a full-body cleanse is purely psychological, if a detox diet kick starts you into consciously deciding to lead a healthier lifestyle, then that’s never a bad thing. Just make sure you do your research before you embark on the diet and consult a Nutritional Therapist or Nutrition Specialist for helpful information.
Ensure that everything going into your juices is natural and that you will be getting all the nutrients you need. Don’t jump straight from a greasy diet to straight juices – make sure you are eating a normal nutrient-rich diet for at least one month before the detox. It may even be a good idea to go on a pre-cleanse programme before you actually start, by slowly eliminating foods such as dairy, caffeine and alcohol. Prioritise green juices and incorporate smoothies into the mix by adding a bit of almond milk – this will give your body the essential proteins and fats it needs.
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1. The American Journal of Medicine: https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(13)00390-2/fulltext
2. Harvard School of Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/diet-and-weight/#references