Considering a Juice Cleanse?
You may be surprised to learn what a cleanse can — and can’t — do for you
Trying to undo some of the post-holiday damage brought on by too many cookies and cocktails? A juice cleanse might seem like a good solution. But is it?
If you’re looking to “cleanse” your body by eating just fruits and veggies, don’t bother. Your liver and kidneys are very efficient at filtering toxins from the body — something juicing can’t do.That said, when you ditch certain foods and drinks in favor of fruits and veggies for a few days, you do make it easier for these organs to do their jobs. A short juice cleanse can offer your body a healthy dose of nutrients while giving your organs a break from alcohol and inflammatory processed foods, both of which make the liver and/or kidneys work harder.
But of course the real solution is to aim for a healthier diet all the time.
It’s true that a cleanse can help you lose a little bit of weight. Most cleanses amount to less than 1,000 calories a day — about half of what the average woman needs. "But most of the weight loss will be water weight," says Caroline Cederquist, MD, founder of Cerderquist Medical Wellness Center in Naples, Florida. When your body is deprived of calories it starts burning glycogen, the body’s main source of fuel. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles. When the body breaks it down it also releases water, which exits your body. Once you start eating solid food again, the water weight will come right back.
Don’t count on a juice cleanse to burn fat, either. Fruits and veggies are low in protein. When you don’t eat enough protein, your body will pull it from muscle, not fat, says Cederquist. This is one reason most experts agree that doing an extended juice cleanse — more than three days — is pointless and possibly even dangerous.
If you’re pregnant or nursing or have diabetes or other medical conditions, steer clear of juice cleanses. If you’re healthy and want to try a juice cleanse as a way of kick-starting a new healthy eating goal, then go for it. Consider these tips.
Keep it short
Keep a juice cleanse to one to three days max. Eating or drinking too few calories can make you feel lightheaded, irritated and shaky. If you notice any of these symptoms, eat a snack that contains protein, such as a handful of almonds or peanut butter on a slice of bread. To ward off these problems, plan on these snacks from the get-go.
Watch out for extra sugar
Juice naturally contains fructose, a form of sugar. But makers of bottled juices often add more sugar. Check the label and choose a brand without added sugar.
Whether you choose prepared juices or make them from scratch, opt for organic, since you’ll be loading up on a lot of produce at once.
Exercise while restricting calories is a no-no and will increase your body’s breakdown of muscle tissue. Plan your cleanse for when you know you won’t need to tax yourself physically.
Create a post-cleanse plan before you start
Why take the time juice, only to revert back to unhealthy habits the minute it’s over? Decide what goals you have to improve your health, then list the steps you’ll take as soon as you’ve finished the cleanse — and be realistic. Maybe you want to start eating a healthy breakfast each morning, or perhaps you’d like to replace your mid-day junk-food indulgence with a smoothie.