Juice cleansing or detoxing is super trendy as a quick way to lose weight and cleanse the digestive tract, but is it actually healthy or just another diet fad? The answer is not so simple.
Myths about juice cleansing
There are some benefits to juicing. However, according to Meagan Ballard, a registered dietitian at INTEGRIS, “the benefits are minimal.” Much of the hype around juicing is based on insufficient research and misinformation. Here are a few of the biggest juicing myths.
- Juicing is a healthy way to lose weight fast. While juicing can help you lose weight, it’s simply because the clean vegetables and fruits have fewer calories than most processed food. However, juicers strip fruits and vegetables of their fiber. Without enough fiber and protein, juicing can result in increased irritability and will leave you feeling hungry throughout the day. In some instances juicing can actually result in weight gain. To produce enough juice for a full serving, you have to process much more fruit than you would typically eat in one sitting. All of the natural sugar from the fruit is concentrated in the juice. Depending on what you put in your juice and what else you consume throughout the day, juicing can actually cause weight gain due to these excess sugars and calories.
- Juicing cleanses your digestive system. Juice cleansing has become a popular way to “reset” the digestive system by consuming only juice for up to a week. “A liquid-only diet requires a lot less work from your gut,” Ballard says. “However, eating a plant-based, whole-food diet for a week provides the same benefits, and you’ll feel less irritable and fuller.” While juicing can pack a variety of micronutrients into your diet, it strips beneficial fibers found in the peel of most fruits. These fibers aid in digestion. Ballard recommends eating whole fruits and vegetables rather than juicing, in order to reap the digestive benefits of the nutrients and fiber.
- Juicing is healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables. While juicing does allow you to pack a lot of fruits and veggies into a small portion, it negates one of the main benefits of consuming those fruits and veggies. “Fiber is good for gastrointestinal health, heart health, and prevention of colon cancer,” Ballard says. Eating whole fruits and vegetables throughout the day can provide the same amount of nutrients without missing out on the fiber.
Benefits of juicing
So, does juicing have any benefits? Yes, but it shouldn’t be the first step in achieving a healthy diet. “Juicing can be beneficial to pack micronutrients into an already healthy diet,” Ballard explains. “Think of it more like taking a multivitamin, but it shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement.”
Instead of using juicing as an extreme diet or cleanse, Ballard recommends focusing on maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet first. Then, you can try incorporating juicing into your diet for additional benefits.
Better alternatives to juicing
Because the benefits of juicing are minimal, Ballard recommends eating whole fruits and vegetables instead. The recommended amount of fruits and vegetables per day is five to nine servings. If you don’t like fruits and veggies or feel like they are too expensive, try incorporating a few of these tips to get you started on a healthier diet.
- Buy frozen fruits and vegetables. If you’re just starting to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your diet, you might find that they’re spoiling too quickly in the fridge. Ballard recommends buying frozen produce, as long as it isn’t stored in fruit juice, added sugar or gravy. Never boil frozen foods to reheat, because they lose many of the good nutrients in the boiling process.
- Shop produce sales. Keep an eye on when different produce goes on sale, and plan out your weekly meals to take advantage of low prices. This can help you add variety to your fruits and veggies while saving money.
- Add variety to your prep. Vegetables, and even fruits, can be cooked in a variety of ways including steaming, sautéing, grilling and baking. Try periodically switching the way you prepare your veggies to keep it interesting, so you don’t get tired of eating the same things. Ballard also recommends going for a variety of different colors in your produce. This will help you get a balanced amount vitamins and minerals from different fruits and vegetables.
- Try one new fruit and vegetable each week. If you are picky or tend not to enjoy healthy foods, start with the few fruits or vegetables you do like. Then add one new fruit and vegetable each week, so you can discover what you do and don’t like.
Another good alternative to juicing is smoothies. Blending your ingredients instead of juicing them provides the same great nutrients without stripping the fiber. You can also add a variety of beneficial ingredients to a smoothie for a healthy and filling option.
“I would recommend smoothies over juicing, but it’s really important to watch what you’re adding in,” Ballard says. “Avoid adding high-sugar, high-calorie liquids, flavored yogurt or fruit that contains added sugar.”
Instead, you can add a few of the following healthy ingredients for a nutritious smoothie:
- Water, almond milk, or 1% milk
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Flaxseed or chia seeds
- Protein powder
- Leafy greens
- Frozen or fresh fruit
It’s important to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. However, going on a juice cleanse can be frustrating and extreme, and could leave you feeling hungry, tired or irritable throughout the day. If you are looking for a way to clean up your nutrition or lose weight, try a more sustainable healthy option like replacing snacks or dessert with whole fruits and veggies or blending healthy ingredients into a nutritious smoothie.