What Is a Juice Cleanse?

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juice cleanse
A green vegetable-based juice is a key part of a juice cleanse. Matilda Delves/Moment Open/Getty Images

A juice cleanse is a type of detox diet that involves consuming vegetable and fruit juice for a short period of time, such as one to three days. It is also sometimes called a juice fast.

There are many different varieties of juice cleanses. Some involve homemade juice made with fresh fruits and vegetables run through a juicer or pulverized in a blender, while others require store-bought juices.

Some programs include one or more smoothies per day to provide protein, fat, and other nutrients for energy and to curb hunger, or even vegan meals and snacks.

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

Background

The concept of making juice from fruits or herbs for health benefits has been used through the ages. After the invention of the first modern juicing machine in the 1930s, alternative health practitioners began recommending juicing as a cure for a number of ailments.

Fruits and vegetables are filled with vitamins and minerals, and juicing extracts those nutrients making them easier to digest. Drinking juice is believed to flood the body with healing nourishment while also flushing toxins and waste.

According to proponents, a juice cleanse supports the body’s natural detox processes, clears the diet of sugar, caffeine, refined foods, and other foods and substances that can deplete energy, and jumpstarts a more healthful way of eating.

How It Works

During a juice cleanse or fast, it is recommended to drink only juice or smoothies for the duration of the cleanse, which is typically one to three days. A typical cleanse has three important stages:

  • Preparation: For three to five days before the cleanse, you will gradually eliminate certain foods, such as coffee, refined sugar, meat, dairy products, wheat, alcohol, and nicotine to reduce headaches, cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms. It’s also recommended to increase your intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and fluids during the pre-cleanse.
  • Cleanse: For the one to three days of the actual cleanse, it is recommended to drink at least 32 ounces of juice or smoothie with at least half being green vegetable juice.
  • After the fast: Once the fast is over, it is recommended to eat lightly for a few days, gradually adding foods back in over the course of several days.

While the fast is said to improve health, you may not feel so great during the fast. 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 activity such as walking can help to 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 During Fasting: According to traditional Chinese medicine, the liver is associated with anger, the kidneys with fear, and the gallbladder holds frustration. Proponents of juice cleansing believe that old emotions may arise and be cleansed from the system as the corresponding organs are cleansed.

    What to Eat

    Raw, organic juice is the key component of the cleanse. It's nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants are in an easily absorbable liquid form. Vegan, gluten-free meals and snacks may be included for people requiring more energy, who are new to juice cleansing, or want a less extreme experience.

    Smoothies and vegan food can be included or substituted in more gentle juice cleanses. Room temperature or lukewarm water may be consumed between each juice or meal to promote elimination.

    Compliant Foods

    • 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

    Non-Compliant Foods

    • Processed foods

    • Meat, poultry, or dairy

    • Sugar and sweets

    • Caffeine

    • Alcohol

    Fruits and vegetables used to make the juices often include celery, kale, carrot, cabbage, apple, spinach, beets, and leafy greens.

    Avocados and bananas have a low water content and don't juice well, but work well in smoothies. Be sure to remove the pits of peaches, apricots, cherries, and other fruit, apple seeds, carrot and rhubarb tops, and tough skins of kiwi, pineapple and mangos before juicing.

    Organic produce is best, but if it's unavailable, a fruit and vegetable wash (often available in health food stores) may help to remove pesticide residues.

    People often find it easiest to make the 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 stored in covered glass or BPA-free cups or bottles.

    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. For certain people, a modified juice fast that includes a salad each day for lunch or dinner may be recommended.

    Recommended Timing

    During a juice cleanse, it is recommended that you drink juice or smoothies every few hours during the day. Here is a sample schedule:

    A Typical Day on a 3-Day Juice Cleanse

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

    To optimize nutrient absorption, juice cleanse 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 being at least three hours before bedtime.

    Breaking the Fast

    The day after completing the cleanse, eat mainly 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—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, you should 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. For example, try having a glass of milk or a few pieces of cheese.

    Recommended Products

    Juice cleanses can be done at home using a juicer or juice press. Cleanse programs are also available in many cities at local juice bars, larger chain stores such as Whole Foods Market, Costco, or Target, or can be ordered online from companies such as Blueprint Cleanse or Pressed Juicery.

    Here's a closer look at some of the more popular store-bought juices:

    Pressed Juicery

    Pressed Juicery is a Los Angeles-based company that offers fresh, cold-pressed juices that can be shipped nationwide or purchased at their retail locations. They offer three preset cleanses with six 16-ounce drinks each day:

    • Cleanse 1 is designed for first-timers and people who need a higher caloric intake due to their activity level or hunger concerns. The most filling of the three cleanses, Cleanse 1 contains two almond milk beverages and four juices.
    • Cleanse 2 is Pressed Juicery's most popular cleanse. It includes five juices and one almond milk beverage.
    • Cleanse 3, for green juice lovers, has four green juices, one drink made with aloe vera, coconut, and cucumber, and one almond milk beverage.

    Each of the three cleanses are available in one-, three-, or five-day options, or you can customize your cleanse using any combination of drinks. The cleanse is $49 per day, or $149 for a three-day cleanse, not including shipping. Orders are placed online and the juices are delivered in insulated shipping coolers with plenty of cold packs

    BluePrint Cleanse

    BluePrint Cleanse offers a juice cleanse that’s “liberated from the rigid dogma and new-age aesthetics of the raw food universe and made more accessible to more people.” The juices are made using Pascalization, an innovative technology which sterilizes without the use of heat (pasteurization) or preservatives, allowing the juices to stay raw. 

    They offer six preset cleanses with six 16-ounce drinks each day that can be ordered online:

    • The BluePrint OG (Renovation) is the classic mainstay to help with digestion using organic fruits and vegetables. Juices include Kale It Up (2), Beet Blast, Lemon Reset, Pineapple Power, and Nut & Bolt.
    • The BluePrint OG (Nut-Free) is the nut-free cleanse, containing the same juices as the Renovation, but with two Lemon Resets and no Nut & Bolt.
    • Balancing Act (Foundation) is designed for balance, wellness, and energy and has lots of greens. These juices include Pineapple Power, Kale It Up (3), Lemon Reset, and Nut & Bolt.
    • B. Promiscuous has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The juices that come with this cleanse are Beet Blast, Lime Kick, Watercress Warrior, Nut & Bolt, Lemon Reset, and Kale It Up.
    • Drink Pretty is all about antioxidants. This cleanse includes Nut & Bolt, Pineapple Power, Apple Ginger Go, Beet Blast, Lemon Reset, and Rocket Launch.
    • Keep It 100 is a low-sugar cleanse. Juices include Watercress Warrior (2), Lemon Reset, Kale It Up, Dandelion Drive, and Nut & Bolt.

    BluePrint's juices are 100 percent USDA certified organic, as well as certified gluten-free, non-GMO, and kosher. They are dairy-free, vegan, and have no added sweeteners.

    A three-day cleanse costs $195 plus FedEx overnight shipping (for example, $30 for shipping to Boston). A one-day cleanse costs $65 plus shipping, and a two-day cleanse is $130 plus shipping.

    Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended before a juice cleanse, particularly for cleanses lasting longer than one day or for anyone with a health condition.

    Pros and Cons

    Like any diet, the juice fast has its benefits and drawbacks.

    Pros

    • Improved health

    • Increased energy

    • Eliminate toxins

    • Better digestion

    Cons

    • Temporary diet will not produce long-term results

    • May lead to liver, kidney, or gallbladder problems

    Pros

    Proponents of the juice cleanse or fast claim many benefits, including: 

    • Better Health: Since fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, drinking fresh juice boosts intake of vitamins, minerals, and other anti-inflammatory compounds that boost energy, immunity, and overall health. 
    • Removes Toxins: Juice fasts are said to flush toxins from the body, although there is limited scientific evidence to support it. 
    • Improved Digestion: Raw juice contains enzymes that may improve digestion. In fact, research shows a juice-based diet can alter intestinal microbiota to improve weight loss in as little as three days.

    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.

    Cons

    A juice cleanse isn't right for everyone. It should not be undertaken by children or if you're pregnant or nursing or you have diabetes or chronic liver, kidney, or gallbladder problems. Other concerns include:

    • Kidney Stones: Many juices are made from dark, leafy greens and beets, two foods that are high in oxalate, which may cause kidney stones and other problems. 
    • Low Blood Sugar: The juice cleanse is low and 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 will 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. 

    In addition, the diet is low in calories and may temporarily boost weight loss, but it is unlikely to be sustained in the long term. According to a 2017 research review, juicing or detoxification diets work for quick weight loss, however, they tend to lead to weight gain once a normal diet is resumed. 

    How It Compares

    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.

    USDA Recommendations

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations and tips for a healthy, balanced diet which should include a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and oil.

    The Juice Cleanse does not adhere to USDA guidelines and it is not considered a healthy eating plan.

    The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1,500 calories per day for weight loss, but this number can vary a lot based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. Use this calculator to determine your personalized daily caloric needs.

    Similar Diets

    The Juice Cleanse is more of a fast than a diet. Similar plans include:

    • Cabbage Soup Diet: The main focus of the cabbage soup diet is a homemade soup that is eaten several times a day. The diet also includes other foods that can be eaten on specific days.
    • Grapefruit Diet: Another diet with a promise of quick weight loss, the grapefruit diet is a 10-day plan that encourages eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice with every meal.
    • Master Cleanse: A popular, short-term liquid diet, the Master Cleanse centers on drinking salt water and six to 12 glasses of a special homemade lemonade made from freshly squeezed lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. 
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