What Is a Juice Cleanse?

A short-term diet that's meant to detoxify, but can put health at risk

Juice cleanse

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff  

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is a Juice Cleanse?

If you've heard of juice cleanses and wondered what they are and if they actually work in the ways advocates claim, it's wise to read up on the current research and evidence available. Like so many other fads, juice cleanses come and go in popularity, especially around the New Year and spring.

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

Juice cleanse advocates claim they 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 you may lose during a juice cleanse is likely to be regained once you begin eating as you normally do.

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

The 7-Day Diet Plan

A typical cleanse lasts for one to three days but is usually preceded by a preparation stage (three to five days) and a post-cleanse transition back to a solid-food diet (two to three days).

  • Day 1: In the preparation phase, gradually eliminate coffee, refined sugar, meat, dairy products, wheat, alcohol, and nicotine to reduce headaches, cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms during the cleanse.
  • Day 2: Continue eliminating the listed foods. Increase intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and fluids.
  • Day 3: Consume minimal amounts of restricted foods, and further increase intake of fruits, vegetables, and fluids.
  • Day 4: Once the cleanse begins: 8 oz. green vegetable juice; 8 oz. smoothie with almond milk and berries; apple (if hunger pangs are persistent or uncomfortable); 8 oz. green vegetable juice; 8 oz. vegetable broth; 8 oz. carrot, beet, and apple juice
  • Day 5: 8 oz. green vegetable juice; 8 oz. smoothie with coconut milk and pears; small salad without dressing; 8 oz. green vegetable juice; small portion of carrots and celery; 8 oz. ginger, apple, and cucumber juice
  • Day 6: Post-cleanse, eat lightly. Gradually add foods back in over the course of several days.
  • Day 7: Continue to add calories and previously restricted foods in small amounts.

What You Can Eat

Raw (unpasteurized) organic juice is the typically recommended for a juice cleanse. You can make your own juices or buy them pre-made. Room temperature or lukewarm water may also be consumed between each juice or meal to help you "flush" out toxins (not proven through science).

Proponents of juice cleanses prefer organic produce. 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 juice cleanse is a short-term fast that severely restricts calories and labels many solid foods as "unhealthy." This approach can be triggering for people who are recovering from disordered eating.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables used to make juices as well as raw vegetables to snack on include:

Nut Milks

Nut milks are often used during juice cleanses to provide additional nutrients and variety. They are drunk alone or mixed with fruits and vegetable juices.

  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Coconut milk

Gluten-Free Whole Foods

Gluten-free vegan meals and snacks may be suggested if you are hungry during a cleanse, while you are preparing for a cleanse, or as you transition off a juice cleanse.

  • Whole grains
  • All fruits and vegetables
  • Soy products such as tofu
  • Beans and legumes

What You Cannot Eat

The strictest juice cleanses restrict all solid food, as well as any liquids not made from the compliant fruits, vegetables, and nut milks.

Animal Products

All animal products are excluded from juice cleanses, including dairy, eggs, and foods eaten on a vegetarian diet.

  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Fish

Non-Nutritive and Processed Foods

Part of the cleansing process involves removing processed foods and those that do not provide nutrition.

  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Sugary drinks or sweets
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol

How to Prepare a Juice Cleanse & Tips

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

Proponents recommend drinking juice slowly rather than gulping it down to optimize nutrient absorption. Juice is typically consumed a couple of hours apart, with the final drink of the day at least three hours before bedtime.

Example of Restrictive Juice Cleanse Schedule

  • 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, 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, everyday activities such as walking may help boost blood and lymphatic circulation.

One recommendation is to 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.

Additional mind-body practices are often encouraged, along with a juice cleanse. 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.

It's a good idea to 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.

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

Breaking a Juice Cleanse

The day after the cleanse, eat primarily raw or lightly steamed vegetables, 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 adding back foods 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 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, gluten may be introduced in small amounts on the first day. 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 of the Juice Cleanse Diet

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 fresh fruit and vegetable juices can be part of a 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 this was partly due to the juice-based diet altering the gut microbiome.
  • Increased energy: Some people report feeling more energetic after a juice cleanse. This could be partly 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.
  • Reduced dehydration: Another way a juice cleanse might increase energy is by reducing dehydration. Many people don't drink the recommended amount of fluids (9 to 13 cups daily). This can leave you feeling fatigued. Drinking juice all day can help reduce this effect.
  • Toxin elimination: 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 improve bodily function by eliminating toxins. Until more research can be conducted, it's difficult to say what long-term effects this type of diet has.
  • 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.

Cons of the Juice Cleanse Diet

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.

  • Promotes unhealthy eating habits: A 2017 research review determined that juicing or detoxification diets work for quick weight loss but tend to lead to weight gain once a regular diet is resumed. A juice cleanse 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.
  • May cause 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.
  • May cause 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. 
  • May cause bacterial infections: Drinking unpasteurized juice or juice that has not been otherwise treated to kill bacteria can make some people sick. This is mainly a problem for people with chronic illnesses, older people, and young children. If you are making your own juice, wash the 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.

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 various vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and oil daily 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.

A Word From Verywell

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

Relying on juice alone to "detox," lose weight, or cure specific ailments is not an effective strategy to improve your overall health, nor is it backed by science. Remember that any weight lost on a juice cleanse mainly 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 significantly affect your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.