While these cleanses are often marketed to women, they are increasingly gaining popularity with men as well. Some people purchase popular juice cleanses by companies such as Blueprint Juice or Organic Avenue, while others go the do it yourself route and use a juicer or blender at home.
So what’s the deal? Are they a healthy option? Do our bodies need “cleanses”?
A few things to consider:
1. When we are eating optimally, cleanses are not usually necessary.
While the optimal diet may vary from person to person, if your diet is low in processed foods and sugar, your body’s own systems do a great deal of the waste removal. However, after a period of more junk food than normal (or if junk food is your normal, when you are looking to make a change) a few days of a juice cleanse can be helpful to get you back on track. It can also be a great way to transition between seasons or to be gentle with yourself after being sick.
2. Juice cleansing is not the best option for sustainable weight loss.
Many people will lose a few pounds of water weight during a juice cleanse, and likely gain them back when they start eating normally again. While some people (myself included) enjoy this gentle break for your body to absorb concentrated nutrients, it’s not going to miraculously make you drop 20 and have ripped abs. In fact, if you are juicing mainly high GI fruits and vegetables, you might end up gaining weight.
3. Juicing is a great way to consume large quantities of leafy greens.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably heard that leafy greens are good for us. The tough part is consuming them in large enough quantities to benefit from them. Enter juicing. While they might look like something the Hulk coughed up, green juices are one of the best ways to get lots of greens in. Most mornings, I will make juice or a smoothie with kale, swiss chard or spinach as the base, and add in other low GI fruits and veggies, like berries, lemon, melon, cucumber—and mint or ginger for both their benefits and their flavor.
4. Bottled juices and fresh juices are not interchangeable.
If you are looking at juicing for health benefits instead of just as a new beverage choice, not just any juice will do. That Tropicana orange juice from concentrate is worlds apart nutritionally from cold-pressed, unpasteurized juice of organic fruits and vegetables. Think of it like the difference between eating a freshly picked green bean from your garden in the summer and eating canned green beans. Sure, they are both technically the same food, but the nutritional content is vastly different.
5. Juicing isn’t for everyone.
If you are planning to spend a day or longer with juices as your sole source of food, it’s worth talking it over with your doctor or other health care provider the first time you try it. If you are in generally good health, juicing can be a great boost after overindulging or to help with the transition between seasons. If you have a chronic illness that impacts your blood sugar, such as diabetes, juicing alone may not be adequate to keep your blood sugar stable. Some holistic health care providers recommend longer term or more specific juicing to help with healing from cancer or to address auto-immune disorders, but this is not something to try haphazardly or on your own.
So, while avoiding any wild extremes, fresh vegetable and low GI fruit juices can be a great health habit to adopt. And as Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”