Article Created on October 31, 2019 | Last Updated on August 22, 2022
Weight loss is a big business in the modern world. Everywhere we turn we’re bombarded with products that promise us the perfect beach body, or that we’ll drop a clothing size with minimal effort.
It’s no secret that the most impactful weight loss plan of all is to eat sensibly and exercise regularly. Any temporary or fad diet should be approached with caution. Most of these eating plans and lifestyles are not sustainable in the long-term. Some of them even do more harm than good.
Let’s look at the popular choice of juice cleansing. The idea behind this diet is that if you’re not consuming solids, you’re barely consuming any calories. In addition, juice cleansing floods your body with all the nutrients found in fresh vegetables. That is sound logic, on paper – but is it safe?
Why Undertake a Juice Cleansing Diet?
There are two primary purposes to juice cleansing – quickly losing weight and taking in more nutrients than your body may ordinarily receive. We’re all encouraged to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, but not everybody manages to fit this into their schedule.
If you’re sustaining yourself on a juice cleanse, you’ll receive all the minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients that your fruit and vegetable ingredients have to offer. In particular, leafy greens are packed with these. If you can’t bring yourself to swap chips for kale at mealtimes, a juice cleanse could be a way to consume this superfood.
Juicing also removes fibre from your ingredients, as pulp is typically strained. This could be positive or negative, depending on your individual health. Fibre is essential to human digestion, so you’ll need to source it through supplements if you undertake a juice cleanse. Excessive fibre in the diet can cause uncomfortable bloating and gas, though.
Juicing enthusiasts claim that their diet plan enhances the immune system and flushes the body of toxins. This makes sense, as you’ll be consuming countless vitamins. Don’t place faith in suggestions that a juice cleanse prevents cancer, though. This common claim has never been backed up by any reputable scientific source.
How to Embark on a Juice Cleansing Journey
The first thing you need before attempting a juice cleanse is a masticated juicer for your kitchen. Never rely on shop-bought fruit juices. They’ll be loaded with sugar, and you’ll be placing your health at significant risk.
Shop around for the best masticated juicer that you can afford. Avoid centrifugal juicers. Masticated juicers are also known as slow juicers, as the blades on these appliances rotate slowly. This is ideal. It means that your juice will retain the nutrition of your ingredients and will not run hot. The same cannot be said about centrifugal juicers. These devices are cheaper to buy and work faster, but you’ll lose out on a great deal of nutrition.
Next, you’ll need to think about what ingredients will make up your juice cleanse. This is a balancing act. You’ll need variety so you don’t grow bored with your diet. Your juices will also need to be palatable, or you’ll fall off the wagon in spectacular fashion. Nobody can sustain themselves on a diet that sparks a grimace at every meal. Most importantly, you’ll need to ensure that you are consuming healthy ingredients.
The vegetable and fruit ratio of your juicing diet should always be 80:20 in favour of the former. Not all vegetables are equal, though. You’ll need to research what you’re putting into your body. Carrots, for example, are a popular base ingredient for juicing – but they also contain a relatively high sugar content and should be used sparingly.
Some juice cleansers prefer to assign their juices by colour. For example, Red Juice would use beets as a core ingredient. Orange juice could be built around carrots, pumpkin or sweet potato. Yellow juice could be focused on sweet bell peppers or a pineapple.
Typically, somebody on a juice cleanse will need to consume around five 16fl.oz glasses of juice per day. A handful of low-calories snacks should also be incorporated into the diet.
Are There Side Effects to a Juice Cleanse?
A juice cleanse will result in some unpleasant side effects, especially if you are not used to fasting. Although juice cleansing ensures that your body receives nutrition, you’ll still miss solid food. Your body may go into shock as a result.
Common complaints from those on a juice cleanse include:
- Physical and mental exhaustion, including ‘brain fog’.
- Dizzy spells.
- Stomach problems. Don’t be surprised if you alternate between constipation and diarrhoea.
As your body adjusts to the juice cleanse, these side effects should start to ease up and eventually disappear. If they don’t, call a halt to your juice cleanse. It clearly isn’t helping. In addition, immediately cease your cleanse and call a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Fainting and loss of consciousness.
- Sharp drop in blood pressure.
- Extreme bouts of vomiting or diarrhoea.
- Inability to function through dizziness.
You may also need to bring a range of supplements into your daily schedule to make up any shortfall. Juice fasting provides plenty of nutrients, but not everything the body needs to function at full capacity.
How Long is a Juice Cleanse Sustainable?
Realistically, you should not be looking to keep up a juice cleanse for longer than three days at a time. Any longer places your health at risk. Your body will start to crave whole foods, and you’ll really start to notice the absence of genuine fat and protein in your diet.
However, you’ll need to manage your diet carefully after this period. The temptation will arise to gorge on everything that you have denied yourself for several days. This will flood your body with all the toxins that you’ve just purged, and you’ll immediately regain any weight you lost during your cleanse – and possibly more besides.
Intermittent fasting is a more impactful way to enjoy a juice cleanse, alongside a healthy diet of lean, low-calorie foods. If you juice for three days a week, and eat well for the remaining four, your body will quickly adapt. This will also be easier to keep up as a long-term lifestyle choice.
It’s best to space out our juicing days rather than three days on/four days off. That way, you’re less likely to suffer from any ill effects. In addition, mixing up your schedule will ensure that your body receives a natural balance of everything that it needs.
Your blood sugar levels will remain stable, and your digestive tract will not struggle to keep up with constant changes. This is the key to a longer, more successful juice cleansing. Treat it as a way of life, rather than a passing fad to squeeze into a particular article of clothing.
So, is Juice Cleansing Safe?
This is the big question, and the answer is … that depends. Any major change to diet can be dangerous. It’s advisable to consult a GP before attempting a juice cleanse.
Based on your medical history, and potentially additional tests, a healthcare professional will let you know if it’s safe for you to proceed with your plan. Be prepared – most doctors will strongly advise against a juice fast.
The primary risks of a juice fast are:
- Juicing does not provide protein or fat. You’ll need to replace these food groups using supplements.
- Juicing may lead to a dangerously high intake of naturally occurring sugars. Coupled with the lack of fat and protein, this can lead to a serious spike in blood sugar.
- Leafy greens, while generally healthy, are packed with goitrogen. Too much goitrogen prevents the body from absorbing iodine, which can lead to hypothyroidism.
You’ll also need to ensure that you clean your juicer very thoroughly between uses. Soft ingredients can be stubborn and cling to the blades. This will lead to bacterial growth, which can be harmful.
Overall, think very carefully and speak to your GP before attempting a juice fast. While this diet may help you drop weight and cleanse any toxins, it can be dangerous. Weigh up all your options before committing to this lifestyle choice.
Written by Bev Walton, BSc Nutritional Science
I achieved a First-Class Honours degree in BSc Nutritional Science, Nutrition Sciences from the University of Reading and now have over 35 years experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for magazines and websites as well as ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I’m also a proud member of the Guild of Food writers.