I don’t believe in juice fasts or cleanses. That is a statement from a person who has been juicing since 2017! I have done 1 week up to 30 days juicing programs, where I only drink juices.
Let’s start by understanding what is a juice fast or cleanse. The idea is that for a period of time you only drink juices made from fresh fruits and vegetables. The promise is that you will have more energy, sleep better, improve digestion, fewer cravings, clearer skin, and then also the big one: lose some weight.
While the concept is great, it is in the execution where things go wrong. Let’s go into what goes wrong with juice fasting.
Problem 1: The myth that juice fasts or cleanses detoxify the body.
This is the first myth I want to address, and that is that juice fasts or cleanses detoxify the body. This is simply not true. A juice, or any food for that matter, cannot detoxify the body.
The body is amazing, and it does a great job to remove toxins that enter the body: your skin provides a barrier to harmful substances, your airways trap and expel noxious particles, and your intestines remove harmful organisms, the liver filters out toxins in the blood, and the kidneys help to filter out toxins via urine. These are the body’s natural detox pathways: breath, urine, sweat and bowel movements.
The liver plays an important role in the detoxification of the body. The problem is that most of us are exposed to toxins every day. I don’t think there is a person who is not exposed to toxins in one way or another. With the toxins coming into the body from just about every angle, and certain chemicals put more strain on the body to clear it, and your body can become overloaded with toxins. Your body can only do so much to clear toxins, and then your body can struggle to clear toxins effectively.
So the body works to detoxify the body, all the time. Juicing cannot detoxify the body. When you go on a juice fast or cleanse, or any type of “detoxing diet”, you are just removing the foods that typically add to the toxic load on the body, such as coffee, dairy, gluten, and alcohol. With fewer toxins entering your body, your body can detox more effectively.
So here is my advice: when a person or company promotes a detoxing diet or detoxing juice fast, be very careful. Juicing cannot detoxify your body. Just eat less junk and reduce your reliance on coffee, dairy and sugar. Focus on eating more real food, and eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. And your body will do what it does automatically, and you will feel better, more energized, and sharper.
It really is that simple.
Problem 2: Most juice fasts don’t provide enough fiber
Most of the juice fasts or cleanses that I have seen being sold, consist of juices that have been cold-pressed and all the insoluble fiber has been removed. Cold-pressed juices still have soluble fiber, which is great, but it is not enough fiber if you are doing a period of drinking only juices.
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, The Paleo Mom, wrote a fantastic series of blogs about fiber in our diets, called The Fiber Manifesto (click here if you want to read more: The Fiber Manifesto Part 1). There is a few key points that I want to highlight:
- Fiber comes from the cell walls of plants, and our digestive tracts are not able to break down fiber. It passes through the digestive tract, mainly intact.
- Fiber has two main functions in the body: first, it adds bulk to stool making it easier to pass. Second, it feeds the probiotic bacteria that live in our digestive tracts.
- Fiber also has other effects, like regulating peristalsis of the intestines, stimulating the release of hormones so you feel more full, slowing down the absorption of simple sugars into the bloodstream (thereby regulating blood sugar levels), and binding various substances in the digestive tract (such as hormones, bile salts, cholesterol, and toxins).
- Diets rich in fiber have many health benefits, including reducing your risk of many cancers, cardiovascular disease as well as overall lower inflammation.
- The source of fiber is important. Diets high in vegetables have the highest health benefits, and to a lesser extent, fruits and nuts. The health benefits are not experienced with diets high in cereal grains.
Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber has very different functions in the body. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material in the gut and tends to slow the movement of material through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber tends to speed up the movement of material through the digestive system, and some types of insoluble fiber increase stool bulk by absorbing water (which is believed to help in regulating bowel movements and managing constipation).
We need both soluble and insoluble fiber for optimal health. Insoluble fiber plays an important role in the digestive tract and is also one of the most important dietary factors in suppressing ghrelin (the hunger hormone) after a meal.
Many of the juices promoted in juice fasts or cleanses do not have insoluble fiber. This is where I am concerned. What is the impact on your health if you are removing all forms of insoluble fiber?
Problem 3: Juice fasts don’t include healthy fats.
Fats are important for brain development, making hormones and helping with the absorption of certain vitamins (such as vitamin A, D, E and K). Fats also helps us to feel fuller for longer.
You may have heard of the term “essential fatty acids”. Focus on the word “essential”. This means that the body cannot make these fats and we have to get it into our bodies via food. There are two essential fatty acids, namely omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids are very beneficial for your health. It helps to improve heart health, supports mental health, decreases fat in the liver, and helps to fight inflammation.
- Omega-6 essential fatty acids are primarily used for energy, but these types of fats are also pro-inflammatory.
Most juice fasts or cleanses have no fats in them. So if you are doing a juice cleanse for a period of time, you are not supplying your body with the fats that it needs to function optimally.
Problem 4: Juice fasts usually don’t include a source of protein
Proteins provide your body with the essential amino acids that it needs to keep healthy. Amino acids are the building blocks of cell and muscle structure. There are 20 types of amino acids, and nine of them are essential (meaning that your body cannot make them, you need to take it in from your food).
The best sources of protein are meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and soy-based products. Beans, nuts and lentils also contain protein, but it is incomplete, meaning that each have some of the essential amino acids, but not all of them.
So, if you are doing a juice fast made only from fruits and vegetables, you are not giving your body the proteins that it needs.
The right way to do a juice program
The four reasons I listed above are my concerns around juice fasts or cleanses. It can do serious damage to your health if you do a juice fast or cleanse for a few days.
However, I have done 30-days juice-only programmes, and I do believe that there are huge health benefits if you do a juice-only programme the right way. So when I do a juice-only programme, whether for 3, 7 or even 30 days, the following principles are important:
- Include insoluble fiber by blending in avocado, nuts, seeds or banana.
- Include healthy fats daily by including avocado, nuts and seeds.
- Include a protein source, like hemp seed protein powder, pea protein powder or collagen.
This way I can still get all the amazing benefits of juicing while making sure that I support my body by providing it with all the nutrients it needs. In the programmes that you will find on this website, you will always have sources of insoluble fiber, healthy fats and plant-based protein.
If you are considering doing a juice fast or juice cleanse, ask the following questions:
- Does the programme include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and more vegetables than fruits?
- Does the programme include insoluble fiber?
- Does the programme include a source of healthy fats?
- Does the programme include a source of protein?
This website is not intented to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. This website and its emails are not intended to substitute for medical advice and it is not a substitute for working with a licensed doctor or health professional. Please be aware Adele du Rand is not a medical doctor, so please consult with your licensed medical doctor or health professional before you make any changes to your diet. The suggestions on this website and its emails are not meant as an alternative to medical treatment, so please DO NOT stop taking any medications you are taking. Always be your own health advocate and listen and feel to how your body responds to certain foods. Please do not ingest foods that you are allergic to or have an intorance to.