Juice cleanses, also known as juice fasting, have become an increasingly popular diet modification that promises to support weight loss and even cleanse your body of harmful free radicals. The science on their effectiveness is murky at best, and juice cleanses may not be healthy for you in the long term.
So, what effects do these types of detox cleanses have on your health?
What Is Juice Fasting?
The basic premise is to replace food in your diet with specific juices for a period of time. The complexity of each cleanse may differ by the company or dietician who designed it, but the idea of a juice cleanse is generally the same: limiting your caloric intake and restricting variety to allow your body to flush, or “cleanse,” itself of toxins.
Juice fasting isn’t simply drinking apple juice from the store. While some pre-bottled options are available at specialty health food stores, many juicers insist on juicing fresh fruits and vegetables at home. Making juice at home can eliminate preservatives, sugar, and other additives commonly found in most brands of fruit juice.
There are different types of juice cleanses that call for different fruits or vegetables. They may also last from as little as one day to as long as 10 days or even longer. Certain cleanses also incorporate specific meals of raw fruits and vegetables as a part of the process.
The Supposed Benefits of Juice Cleanses and Fasting
Most cleansing diets make similar health claims. Many focus on weight loss but may also tout benefits like removing free radicals from the blood, introducing antioxidants to the body, supporting the immune system, and even improving your skin.
Antioxidants. The vitamins and nutrients from a cleanse can improve your immunity and resilience to germs.
Gut health. Juice fasts can introduce new healthy bacteria to your digestive system, which can reduce stomach issues and promote weight loss in the long term.
Skin health. Some juice believers swear that their skin clears up during and after a cleanse.
But Do Juice Cleanses Work?
To date, there is little evidence to support many of the supposed benefits of juice fasting.
Not-too-sweet. Juice cleanses can still introduce much more sugar into your diet than recommended, due to their reliance on fruit as a sweetener. A ratio of 3 to 1 vegetable-to-fruit is considered the best way to keep sugar intake in check.
Weight loss. If your main goal in trying a cleanse is to lose weight, keep this in mind: While you may lose weight during the cleanse, studies have shown that those pounds will likely come back once you return to a normal diet.
Many of the benefits of juice cleanses are temporary unless healthier eating habits are adopted to maintain the levels of vitamins and nutrients from cleansing.
The Truth About Detox Diet Culture
Claims of detoxification may be overblown. There is no evidence that juice cleanses or fasting do anything to remove the “toxic” chemicals in the body. To date, human studies on these claims are sparse, and those that have been conducted have been questioned by healthcare experts.
Juice cleanse diets have even been linked to eating disorders like orthorexia nervosa and purging disorder.
Healthy Eating Is About Balance
Most experts agree that the best way to improve diet and overall health is to focus on developing healthy eating habits that become part of your daily routine. Instead of following fad or crash diets, choose to eat healthy fruits and vegetables, limit dairy and meat, and add whole grains like rice to your meals as often as possible.
Follow the advice of your healthcare provider to improve your diet, and check out the USDA’s MyPlate information as an excellent starting point.
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