What Is a Juice Cleanse?

Juice cleanse

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff  

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A juice cleanse, also known as a juice fast, is a detox diet that involves consuming vegetable and fruit juice (and often nothing else) for a short period of time, usually one to three days. Advocates believe that drinking juice floods the body with healing nourishment while also flushing toxins and waste.

It is also thought to support the body’s natural detox processes by clearing the diet of sugar, caffeine, refined foods, and other substances that can deplete energy. However, research in support of these claims is lacking and any weight lost during a juice cleanse is likely to be regained once normal eating habits are resumed.

What Experts Say

"Juice cleanses specifically lack fiber, which helps control your appetite and helps your body 'cleanse' itself. Any weight lost is likely to be gained back, and enjoying only juices will likely leave you feeling hungry."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

What Can You Eat?

Raw (unpasteurized), organic juice is the key component of a juice cleanse. Room temperature or lukewarm water may also be consumed between each juice or meal to promote elimination.

Smoothies and some healthy foods can be included or substituted for those who require more calories. Some people may opt for raw or vegan food only, while others may have gluten-free meals and snacks.

A typical cleanse has three stages:

  • Preparation: For three to five days before the cleanse, gradually eliminate coffee, refined sugar, meat, dairy products, wheat, alcohol, and nicotine to reduce headaches, cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms during the cleanse. Increase intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and fluids.
  • Cleanse: For the one to three days of the actual cleanse, drink at least 32 ounces of juice or smoothie daily. At least half should be green vegetable juice. If hunger pangs are persistent or uncomfortable, vegetable broth or a small snack such as carrots, celery, a salad, or a piece of fruit is often suggested.
  • Post-cleanse: Eat lightly for a few days, gradually adding foods back in over the course of several days.

What You Need to Know

Juice cleanse advocates claim that nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants are more readily absorbed by the body in liquid form. However, research on the bioavailability of raw juices versus that of whole fruits or vegetables is mixed.

To optimize nutrient absorption, proponents recommend drinking juice slowly rather than gulping it down. Juice is typically consumed a couple of hours apart, with the final drink of the day at least three hours before bedtime. A schedule might look like this:

  • When you wake up: Lukewarm water with a splash of fresh lemon juice
  • 8 to 9 a.m.: Juice, such as a green vegetable juice
  • 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Juice (or smoothie/cleanse food)
  • 1 to 2 p.m.: Juice (or smoothie/cleanse food) 
  • 3 to 4 p.m.: Juice, such as beet, carrot, and apple juice
  • 5 to 6 p.m.: Juice (or smoothie/cleanse food)
  • 6 to 8 p.m.: Smoothie or almond or cashew nut "milk"

During a juice cleanse, you should also:

  • Stick to light physical activity. While it’s a good idea to tone down your exercise routine during a juice cleanse, normal activities such as walking may help boost blood and lymphatic circulation.
  • Book a massage. Try massage therapy (such as Swedish massage, lymphatic drainage, deep tissue massage, and Thai massage), contrast showers, and skin brushing, which can be done as part of a regular shower.
  • Practice mind and body wellness. Stress can have negative effects on health and may impair detoxification. Allow the mind to rest by incorporating mind/body practices such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Try to get plenty of rest. Go to bed as early as you can and take naps if possible.
  • Prepare for emotions that may arise. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the liver is associated with anger, the kidneys with fear, and the spleen with worry. Proponents of juice cleansing believe that old emotions may arise and be cleansed from the system as the corresponding organs are cleansed, but evidence supporting this is lacking.
What to Eat
  • Raw, fresh juice made from fruits and vegetables

  • Almond milk

  • Gluten-free vegan meals

  • Vegetable broth

  • Raw vegetables, like carrots or peppers, to snack on

What Not to Eat
  • Processed foods

  • Meat, poultry, or dairy

  • Sugar and sweets

  • Caffeine

  • Alcohol

Fruits and vegetables used to make juices often include celery, kale, carrot, cabbage, apple, spinach, beets, and leafy greens. Avocados and bananas have low water content and don't juice well, but work well in smoothies.

Proponents of juice cleanses prefer organic produce. If it's unavailable, a fruit and vegetable wash (often available in health food stores) may help to remove pesticide residues.

Some people find it easier to make juice at the beginning or end of the day and to prepare enough for one full day. Although juice should be consumed as close to the time of juicing as possible, juice can be temporarily stored in covered glass or BPA-free cups or bottles.

Breaking a Juice Cleanse

The day after completing the cleanse, eat mostly vegetables, either raw or lightly steamed, and fruit or nuts. Portion sizes should be small and the diet should be very similar to what you did to prepare for the cleanse—no sugar, coffee, wheat, gluten-containing foods, processed foods, or dairy.

The next day, include more plant foods, such as beans, brown rice, or quinoa. Continue to add back foods that you’d like to have in your regular diet. By the fifth day after the fast, resume eating regular meals.

Some people use the days after a cleanse to try to identify their reactions to foods. To do this, keep a journal and reintroduce foods systematically, noting any changes in energy, digestion, cravings, or other symptoms.

For example, on the first day, gluten may be introduced in small amounts. Then note what happens over the 24– to 48-hour period after reintroducing each food. Dairy is another food category that is often reintroduced carefully and tested.

Consult with a health care professional prior to a juice cleanse, particularly for cleanses lasting longer than one day or for anyone with a health condition.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Improved health

  • Increased energy

  • Elimination of toxins

  • Better digestion

Cons
  • Temporary diet will not produce long-term results

  • May lead to liver, kidney, or gallbladder problems

While drinking freshly juiced fruits and vegetables may have many health benefits, consuming nothing but juice for three days or more is not necessarily healthy or sustainable in the long term. Any health benefits gained are only temporary.

A 2017 research review determined that juicing or detoxification diets work for quick weight loss, but they tend to lead to weight gain once a normal diet is resumed. 

Is a Juice Cleanse a Healthy Choice for You?

Following a juice cleanse can provide a short-term boost for starting a new healthy eating program or a quick reset after a few days of indulging, but it is not recommended as a long-term weight loss program. While following a juice fast for three days may provide short-term weight loss, it does not teach skills, like healthy meal planning and preparing, needed for sustained weight loss.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and oil each day for a healthy, balanced diet.

A juice cleanse does not adhere to USDA guidelines and it is not considered a healthy eating plan since it does not provide guidance or long-term weight management.

Health Benefits

While proponents of a juice cleanse tout the benefits of this fasting plan, there is limited research to back the health claims. However, increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetable juices can be part of a normal healthy diet.

Improved Health

Since fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, drinking fresh juice boosts the intake of vitamins, minerals, and other anti-inflammatory compounds. These micronutrients may help support immunity and improve overall health.

For example, a 2017 study found that subjects had higher general well-being scores after following a 3-day juice fast. Researchers suggested that this was partly due to the juice-based diet altering the gut microbiome.

Increased Energy

Some people report that they feel more energetic after a juice cleanse. This could be, in part, due to the energy-boosting nutrients in fruits and vegetables combined with a decrease in "energy zappers," such as sugary coffee and foods with added sugars.

Another way a juice cleanse might increase energy is by reducing dehydration. As many as 75% of Americans don't drink the recommended amount of fluids per day. This can leave you feeling fatigued. Drinking juice all day can help reduce this effect.

Toxin Elimination

An additional suggested health benefit of a juice cleanse is helping the body get rid of toxic substances. Several fruits and veggies are recognized as natural detoxifiers. Among them are cruciferous vegetables, celery, grapefruit, and berries.

Still, some researchers question how to properly test whether detox diets actually improve bodily function via eliminating toxins. Until more research can be conducted, it's difficult to say that effects this type of diet has long-term.

Better Digestion

Raw juice contains enzymes that may improve digestion. Freshly squeezed orange juice, for instance, influences pH and acidity in the digestive system. Leafy greens have also been found to improve gut microbiota.

Health Risks

A juice cleanse is a short-term fast that severely restricts calories and labels many solid foods as "unhealthy," which could lead to disordered eating. Additionally, research shows that a juice cleanse may pose certain health risks.

Kidney Stones

Many juices are made from dark, leafy greens and beets. These two foods are high in oxalate, which may cause kidney stones and other problems.

Low Blood Sugar

The juice cleanse is low in calories and may cause low blood sugar, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes and hypoglycemia. Symptoms of low blood sugar include dizziness, fainting, weakness, shakiness, headaches, and hunger. 

Bacterial Infections

Drinking unpasteurized juice or juice that has not been otherwise treated to kill bacteria can make some people sick. This is particularly a problem for people with chronic illnesses, elderly people, and young children.

If you are making your own juice, be sure to wash produce properly before juicing. Store unused juice in a tightly sealed container and drink within 24 hours. 

Children, people who are pregnant or nursing, or those with diabetes or chronic liver, kidney, or gallbladder problems should not undertake a juice cleanse.

A Word From Verywell

Fresh fruit or vegetable juice can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. But since juice lacks important dietary fiber, it should not be a substitute for whole foods.

Relying on juice alone to "detox," lose weight, or cure certain ailments is not an effective strategy to improve your overall health, nor is it backed by science. Keep in mind that any weight lost on a juice cleanse is mostly water weight and will likely be regained once you resume a regular diet.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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