The juice cleanse diet is extremely popular and trendy. It is considered an easy way to lose weight, increase your nutrient intake, and cleanse your gut. Cold-pressed raw juices are more widely available than ever. There are so many brand names to choose from, all with different promises and claims.
But not all juice blends are equal, and not all juicing plans are beneficial to your health.
So, before you purchase a fancy juicer, let’s look at what a good juice blend is, how to juice, and the pros and cons of juice cleanses.
The Difference Between Juice and a Juice Blend
The term fruit juice typically applies to 100% fruit juice. For the purposes of this article, we will refer to juice blends to differentiate it from the cartons of orange and cranberry juice you find at the grocery store. By contrast, smoothies are mostly made up of pureed bananas and other sugary-sweet fruit.
Juice blends refer to a freshly made mix of fruits, greens, and grasses. These juice blends are either made by yourself at home or ordered from a trusted health food store. Your juice blend should be freshly made from non-GMO organic produce to ensure you’re getting as many nutrients as possible — with none of the pesticides.
Here are the elements of a quality juice blend:
- It does not contain too much sugar (but can be sweetened with a sugar alternative such as stevia or monk fruit sugar, which won’t raise blood glucose levels)
- It contains more vegetables than fruit
- It has more leaves than roots
- It contains at least one type of grass or spirulina powder
- Wheatgrass is beneficial to cancer patients or if you need to lose weight.
- Barley grass has the potential to prevent chronic disease and is an anti-inflammatory.
- Spirulina is a form of cyanobacteria, which is rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
Above all, a high-quality juice blend is nutrient-dense. While not as sweet as smoothies, juice blends are a good way to get your daily serving of fruits and veggies, if you find crunching through salad or munching on an apple time consuming or uninspiring.
What is Juicing?
Juicing refers to the act of extracting the juice out of solid fruits and vegetables. This is not the same as making a smoothie, which usually contains some of the fibrous materials, giving it that thickened quality. Juice blends are liquid.
Two common ways to extract juice are:
- Centrifugal juicer: These machines use spinning blades against a mesh filter, collecting the juice and the pulp in different compartments. Some can heat up during use, potentially affecting the nutrient content of your juice blend. Centrifugal juicers have a shorter shelf-life because they incorporate more oxygen.
- Cold-press or masticating juicer: These machines use a crushing and pressing motion of a screw against a screen to extract the juice blend. The process is slower than that of a centrifugal juicer, and the juice blend is broken down more effectively — ensuring more nutritional benefit — and with less oxygen added than a centrifugal blend.
The fresher your juice blend, the better. If you are unable to commit to your own juicer right away, then having your juice blend made to order at a juice bar is a good alternative.
While there are many pasteurized, ready-to-drink options in the grocery store, it’s important that you check the ingredient list thoroughly before purchase. Many mass-produced juice blends go heavy on the fruit over vegetables, as the sweetness makes their product more palatable. The pasteurization process reduces the overall nutrition benefits, as many of the enzymes die off in the heating process.
The Health Benefits of Juicing
Juice blends are a great option and an easy way to optimize your health. You can shake it up every day by changing the fruit you use, or trying vegetables you usually avoid in solid form.
Juicing is an effective way to get essential nutrients, particularly if you have a busy schedule. Juice blends also offer a great nutritional benefit to cancer patients, many of whom struggle with a loss of appetite during treatment.
Juicing can aid weight loss, but only in the sense that you’re reducing the amount of protein and fat that you’re consuming when you exchange a typical meal for your juice. You tend to eat less processed food while juicing, which has a positive effect on your waistline.
What Is a Juice Cleanse and Is It Safe?
We’ve covered what makes a juice blend, how to prepare your juice blend, and touched upon the health benefits of drinking juice blends. So what is a juice cleanse?
A juice cleanse is any plan where you swap out one or more meals for juice. There are a few plans and diets out there that require you to stick to only drinking juice blends in an effort to help you detox or lose weight. An easy cleanse diet is supposed to be simple and effective and set you up for life.
Yes, there are some bold claims on the different things a raw juice cleanse can help you achieve. Claims include detoxing, losing weight, cleansing your colon, a natural cleanse diet, and more.
Remember: juicing is not the same as fasting. When you fast, you are not ingesting any calories at all. With juicing there are always calories involved. Especially if you drink a lesser quality juice, you may take in a higher concentration of sugar than you intended. This raises your blood sugar and insulin levels.
A 100% juice-based diet is not recommended, due to the difficulty level, and the lack of many essential building blocks your body needs. These include, but are not limited to
- Protein: A macronutrient responsible for many processes in your body, including the health of your bones and muscles and the quick response of your immune system. A juice-based diet may result in symptoms of anemia, weakness and leave you open to infection. Even if you’re considering a juice cleanse only for the short-term, be aware of these potential risks.
When your body realizes it’s not getting enough protein, it begins to extract it from your muscles. This results in you beginning to lose muscle mass. Losing muscle mass is not the same as losing fat — you may feel weaker, struggle with your balance, and feel aches and pains. Losing muscle mass is not good for anyone, but it has worse consequences the older you are.
Protein is also used by your body to make amino acids. Some of these acids are used by your liver to convert potentially toxic materials into waste. Without sufficient protein, your liver can struggle to function properly, regardless of how much juice you consume.
- Essential fats: Important ingredients for your body to ingest as they cannot be made by the human body. Without essential fats, your body is unable to process fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, and K.
- Vitamin A is essential for cognitive function, good eyesight, a healthy immune system, and the health of your organs.
- Vitamin D is essential for the health of your bones.
- Vitamin K is responsible for helping your blood clot, maintaining strong bones, and preventing heart disease.
Essential fats are also crucial to reduce inflammation and boost your immunity.
4 Facts to Consider Before You Start a Juice Cleanse
1. Drinking only juice blends can induce some unpleasant side effects.
Unfortunately, you aren’t always able to handle such a densely packed nutrient load all at once. A juice cleanse diet may have an unwanted effect on your body, including diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, nausea, headaches, brain fog, fatigue, and poor mood. On top of that, your skin may become dry due to your lack of essential fatty acids.
2. Many juice cleanses are marketed as detoxing or as a liver cleansing diet — but they do the opposite.
Detoxification is a process where your body removes waste materials. Most detoxification happens in your liver, where certain enzymes convert toxins to be excreted in urine, sweat and other bodily fluids. While juice cleanses can be detoxifying in the beginning, this is mainly due to the fact that you’re no longer eating processed food and you’ve given up caffeine and alcohol for the duration of the cleanse.
During phase one and two of liver detoxification, your liver converts fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble substances. Phase three is when the toxins are excreted from the body — but your liver requires amino acids, normally made from protein, to excrete the toxins. When you are on a raw juice detox, you can’t make these amino acids as easily. This results in more toxins in your bloodstream, instead of fewer.
3. Juice cleanses can be expensive.
It’s pricey to buy a quality juice blend from a juice bar, and home cold-press juicers can often cost hundreds of dollars. Once you have your machine set up, you must source GMO-free organic produce to ensure a lack of pesticides and an abundance of nutrients.
Often, the juice yield can be far less when compared to the amount of fruit and vegetables you’ve packed into your machine. Also, each juice has to be made fresh, so you have to clean the machine out three times a day.
4. It’s not healthy to consume so much sugar without fiber.
If you only take away one piece of information about juice cleanses, let it be this: when juicing vegetables and fruit, you remove the fiber, and are left with the carbohydrates and sugar. While this may improve nutrient take-up, it is not healthy in the long run.
Fiber aids digestion and slows down the effects of the sugar on your system. Without the fiber, the sugar and carbohydrates enter your bloodstream much quicker, resulting in extreme changes in your energy and mood levels — high when the sugars first enter your bloodstream, and low when the sugar wears off.
What If I Still Want to Juice?
Juicing can work in moderation. It can be a convenient way to take in some important nutrients, as long as you drink it as part of a balanced diet. The best juice blend is freshly made, cold-pressed, with an emphasis on leafy vegetables over fruits, and made with non-GMO organic produce.
You can tweak your juice blend to fulfill more of your macronutrient needs by adding a little lemon flavored fish oil and a scoop of protein powder, along with grasses, to aid digestion.
Consult your chiropractor or healthcare practitioner if you are thinking of trying any form of detoxification, juice cleanse, or liquid fast. It is not recommended to replace all meals with juicing. Detoxes and cleanses are extreme for a reason; they’re targeted as a quick-fix for those fifteen pounds you keep gaining and losing.
Ultimately, juice blends can be convenient and are worth considering as part of a range of foods and behaviors to improve your wellbeing. However, healthy eating should also be considered for longer-term benefits.