The Truth About Juice Cleanses

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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The Truth About Juice Cleanses

Detox. Shed weight. Purify your body. These are some of the marketing claims designed to make you feel you’ll be light and ethereal after a juice cleanse. Short of shedding those pounds, undergoing a prolonged “cleanse” in which you down glass after glass of juice and eat no solid food is not a solid foundation to a healthy diet.

Extracting truth from juice cleanse claims

Juice cleansing diets have many names–Master cleanse, detox diet, juice fasting to name a few–but they basically have you drink nothing but juice lasting for a period of days up to months. They promise to:

  • Help shed weight in record time, and
  • Detoxify the body of harmful chemicals

With juice cleanses, weight loss can be drastic and fast because you’re losing mostly water rather than fat. Solid foods containing starchy carbs and fiber (think bread, grains, whole fruit and veggies) hold onto water so when you get rid of them water is lost, too. If it’s sustainable weight loss you’re after, juicing is a poor solution since you can’t get all your nutrients long term from just drinking juices. Juice cleansing is actually just another kind of yo-yo diet.

As for shedding toxins, our liver, colon and kidneys work hard to detoxify us everyday and we don’t need juicing for that to happen. Though enthusiasts claim that juicing can remove more toxins there’s no scientific evidence to back this up.

Weighing the potential perks and pitfalls

On the perk-side, juicing concentrates micronutrients from fruits and vegetables (vitamin C and A, some B-vitamins like folate, phytochemicals and antioxidants) and delivers it in a sweet liquid form quickly absorbed by the body. The pitfalls to juicing, however, outweigh the perks.

  • Fast absorption of sugar  Like those vitamins and antioxidants, natural sugars extracted from fruits and vegetables are quickly absorbed into the body. Fruits and some vegetables have a fairly high sugar content to begin with allowing us to create juices with as much sugar as soda. Drinking juice can spike blood sugar which is unfavorable, especially for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
  • Missing out on fiber  Most juice cleanses are packaged as extracted juices. To make extracted juices,most of the plant’s fiber and pulp is removed from the juice during production. This seems counterproductive since fiber is a big component of why we’re advised to eat fruits and vegetables in the first place! Fiber blunts pesky sugar spike from eating fruits, makes us feel fuller and keeps us regular.
  • Losing out on fat and protein  Most fruits and vegetables don’t contribute much to protein and fat intake but for weight loss purposes, both these nutrients are important since they help you feel more full and satisfied after a meal. Foods containing protein and fat carry higher levels of micronutrients that fruit and veggie juices are lacking like calcium, iron, zinc, and so forth.
  • Expensive  Juicing, especially with organic produce, costs more than eating solid food. Two pounds of carrots can last you a week or more but will only make about 16 ounces of juice. Plus, you’re getting a crazy high dose of water-soluble micronutrients (think vitamin C) outstripping your needs. In the words of a biochemist I know, “you’re making very expensive pee.”

Juicing responsibly

While juice cleansing isn’t on our radar for sustainable weight loss, no one can deny the refreshing taste from a glass of juice. If you’re eating a balanced diet all around there’s no reason to cleanse. You can fit juice into your life moderately (about 4 ounces per day) and enjoy it with other healthy foods If you do choose to do a cleanse, limiting it to a few days is safest as long-term juice cleanses may lead to certain nutrient deficiencies. If you enjoy drinking juice, we’ll be featuring an article on a healthier way to juice coming up soon so stay tuned.

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.


45 responses to “The Truth About Juice Cleanses”

  1. Avatar JofJLTNCB6 says:

    Well said.

  2. Avatar TR0berts says:

    What do you know? One of the promoted blogs found on MFP actually makes sense for once.

    • Avatar alphamancer says:

      That’s totally your opinion, I find them very insightful for what they’re meant to accomplish: Educating the newbies from the lies spread by the fitness mafia lol

  3. Avatar Tiffany Erickson says:

    This is a decent article for most cleanses but there are a few cleanses out there that are actually very healthy and safe and effective. It’s important never to go without protein for the cleanse days as well as making sure never to go more than two days without solid food. Doing this type of cleansing is actually very very effective in the long term and helps the body to shed more toxicity than it canon its own. It’s clear that our bodies are overloaded and weren’t ever meant to detoxify the amount of toxins our environment has placed on them. Not all cleanses are created equal and I wouldn’t put so much clout into bunching them all together. But don’t take one person’s word for it alone, do your own research and see where the difference actually lies.

    • Avatar JofJLTNCB6 says:

      Name a single toxin that is eliminated by drinking only juice that won’t be eliminated while continuing to eat food.

      I’ve done my research and can’t find even one. Surely if you believe in the effectiveness of some cleanses, you’ll be able to give the name of at least one toxin. Surely, right?

  4. Avatar Ken says:

    You guys know nothing about human physiology and nutrition save what the medical industrial complex has indoctrinated you in.

    This article is offensive.

  5. Avatar katasha says:

    Juicing is not a yoyo diet because it is not a diet. Its actually a prep for the real diet. Speaking for myself only: I have a food addiction and juicing helped me understand the value of a meal and the thought process of what your putting in your body for the benefit of life. I used to eat for ANY reason I could think of but now I do it only when I’m hungry! I appreciate my body more now and I pay better attention to what goes inside. So if your juicing and reading this, congratulations and starting your new life and cheers!

  6. Avatar Friendlyjj says:

    Been filming a documentary for over a year and a half about diet and the correlation between mental health, processed food, and clean eating. Juicing was a great addition to help reset people’s diet for future success. It is a short term addition and can assist in long term lifestyle decisions.

    Juice is great when it is vegetable based. Adding an apple or lemon is a great way to avoid too much of a green taste. Fruit juices do contain large amounts of sugar. And though it is not processed sugar, too much is never good! In the end you will receive, carbs as well as protein from these juices. But keep in mind, everything in moderation.

    Unfortunately there are just too many opinions out there. Eat clean and follow both micro and macronutrient intake, and you’ll find success.

    Lifestyle over yo yo any day

    Good luck to all you aspiring healthy people and healthy people alike!

  7. Avatar Kim says:

    Speaking for myself and my experience with a 7 day juicing.
    The site I used provided a variety of flavored (can’t think of a better term) juices, categorized by different colors.
    I chose using a different juice for each meal, yes it was a PITA. Constantly making juice to last out the day.
    I did add a protein drink once a day, I tried added protein powder to a juice once… yuk!
    Anyway, my result…
    During the juicing I had no known change of demeanour, no fatigue, light head etc. I’m not much in touch with my physical feelings anyway.
    For the 7 days I did not get hungry to the point of breaking down and cheating.
    Of course there was frequent urination, I seemed to slow down on bowel visits. But when I did… Whoa, it smelled horrendous!
    At the end, I did loose 20 lbs of what ever weight. Be it water, fat, colon…. I am happy to have went from 190 lbs to as low as 163 and am now stable at 170 plus/minus a few pounds through out the day.
    I am 61yo male, 5’11” and still holding. The juicing was my 2014 New Years Resolution.
    Regardless of how people respond, reply, encourage or discredit articles, go with YOUR instincts!

  8. Avatar Lisa E says:

    Trihn Le- Thank you for blogging with actual science instead of silly BS/dieting woo! We need more of this! Very good article- PLEASE keep this sort of evidence-based writing up!

  9. Avatar Thecat says:

    Hello, while I appreciate the science behind your article there is a part of me that has been drawn to this juicing for weight loss as I have read many testimonies of people who have not only lost lots of weight but have been able to stop taking some of their medications as per their doctor. The juicing program I refer to is the green juice smoothie diet by a Register Nurtiionist and she put together her program for juicing for a time period but you do eat ONE FULL DINNER with healthy and balanced meal with protein,healthy carbs and healthy fat sand you can also snack on fruits and veggies throughout the day. So what are your thought on this program???

  10. Avatar Libby says:

    I’ve lost 46 pounds in four months with juicing & hemp protein supplementing a raw vegan diet. I have been faithful to calorie reduction diets in the past & lost nothing. I attribute the ability to lose with healing inflammation in my gut. Juicing started me down a sustainable path that has also produced rapid weight loss & better health. I have energy. I feel good. And Im smaller than I’ve been in over 10 years. (I didn’t lose 46 pounds of water.)

  11. Avatar soulgirl says:

    I couldn’t imagine not eating and surviving on juice only. Whilst replacing one or two meals is acceptable, I know several people that have lost weight very quickly only to regain twice as much when they stopped. I guess as with any lifestyle change unless you can maintain it will have little benefit. Liked the article 🙂

  12. Avatar Gloria says:

    I’ve been on weight loss smoothies, what i put in my blender, isn’t squeezed into juice, I am drinking my Kale, Cilantro, ginger , spinach, celery, honey, apple, lime juice, avocado, kiwi, and 1/2c orange juice for liguid, I’m feeling full, all day as well energized. Then for supper i have a balanced meal of protien, veggies, and dairy, and small amount of carbs. So in all my food is just blended together to drink, instead of eating. which i feel is better, for i am getting all the nutrients, and vitamin from my smoothies, and also it’s to the person on which way they feel is better for them, i just feel the smoothies make me fuller, then juicing. On top of it just in 4 weeks, i have lost 5 lbs, which is better to lose slow, for i sure don’t want to put it back on, if you lose it to fast.

  13. Avatar guest says:

    I lost 60 lbs in 6 months eating small meals, homeade smoothies, and juicing. I would always add protein powder to the smoothies and after a few days my stomach shrunk so much that I didnt have to eat very much to feel full. I finally learned that i needed to blend the fruits and veggies and not juice them so that id still get the fiber instead of just straight sugar. Thats the most important thing.

    • Avatar snowrosie says:

      I’m thinking of buying a Ninja AIQ that does just that, skin and seeds and all into a drinkable mixture. Based on your success it sounds like it might be a good idea to add it to my trying to diet and loose 120#’s this year.

      • Avatar katerrr says:

        A cheaper option is the Nutribullet. I LOVE mine! (bought for $80.) It pulverizes everything, so you can make smoothies containing everything from carrots to almonds. Just a recommendation. 🙂

  14. Avatar Spunky says:

    Thank you for the info….I needed to refresh my memory on how a balanced diet and exercise is key to weight loss. It seems we’re always looking for the quickest way to lose weight, when all we need is a helpful reminder…..plain old fashioned common sense is the long term fix with anything in life…

  15. Avatar Chunkette says:

    How does smoothies campare to juicing as it does include the pulp, fibre that juicing doesnt?

  16. Avatar Greg Dahlen says:

    for a while now I’ve been pushing the masai diet. The Masai are a people in Kenya who are famous for living only on products from the cow: milk; beef; and blood that they extract from their cows without killing them. The Masai also follow an important rule: “If a man eats meat and drinks milk on the same day, he is a glutton.” Therefore every day, I, who follow the diet, have to choose whether it will be a milk day or a meat day (so far I haven’t found a source for blood.) While I like meat, I prefer milk, so basically I’ve been living on fluid milk products for the last six years. Most days I drink perhaps a gallon (3.5 liters) of some kind of milk, usually skim, and that’s all I eat or drink. Sometimes I have some cream, or half and half, or some other kind of milk: 1%, 2%, or whole. I have done very well on this diet, I am six feet, one inch and this morning weighed 151 pounds. On my last physical, my PCP told me I am in the top 3% of people my age healthwise, which I attribute to the diet (my PCP is very aware of my diet.) I believe this diet would be excellent for everyone, and am particularly interested to see if it might help people with various diseases, including biggies like cancer and AIDS, and have been pushing the medical establishment to test it.

  17. Avatar Anthea says:

    Juicing maybe. But I have a NutriBullet so everything I put in mine, I drink. Fibre and all. I’m loving it. Supergreens in the morning. Helps me with my busy day. Feeling much better for it.

  18. Avatar James W says:

    I think i will take up juicing. . . . . . just as soon as i work out how to juice a bacon double cheeseburger and fries

  19. Avatar Dade Dyana says:

    Hi Trinh,
    Juicing is definitely expensive. I’ve found that the big losses that result from juicing are usually always made right back up. How many benefits can one really get from the juicing? I know the fiber is gone, but are they any benefits to continuing to juice?

  20. Avatar Craig Williams says:

    I feel the views that are being given are always going to be diverse as it depends the responsibility of the person using this method.
    Personally I feel juicing alone isn’t the best. Adding smoothies I feel adds the necessary fibre to help stabilise the uptake.
    But like I said it’s only seen as harmful as people use the method for too long. It’s not a diet, it’s a tool to help the body clean out the gut, Cleanse out the toxins and establish a better environment (due to the high nutrient intake) to help healing at a cellular level.
    This is due to all the high processed foods eaten, alcohol drank, large quantities of gluten digested

    • Avatar Craig Williams says:

      This should only be used for short term use to help reboot and improve the bodies digestive effectiveness of foods, nutrient absorption, and kidney and liver ability to shift toxins from our body.
      Then you can restart with a far superior diet with more greens and water, less dairy, less gluten products, less caffeine, less processed sugar rubbish, more good fats, and appropriate protein and carb sources.
      You’ll feel more reenergised after it, as the body is using less energy to deal with a poor digestion system and fighting against the toxic environment

  21. Avatar Aj says:

    I have kidney stones ,
    Which natural juice should be best for me?
    Male 31

  22. Avatar louie valencia says:

    Hello!! i just wanna say, I’ve done a 60 day juicing fast and lost 62 pounds, It was difficult starting but i endured, I did the 80/20, viggie being 80% and the 20% fruits in my juice. I felt good had lots of energy, mentally I needed this I always gave up on my diets I needed to give my mind a push to the extreme and yes my body to juicing help me to be focused, motivated, determined not to cheat myself with bad food,, help me to take on the next step in my life.. this is my opinion I’m not a doctor I don’t no the science to this so I did it to find out, maybe I messed up my body but personally I felt good, i feel great now eating healthy meals losing weight and building muscle I was 283 pounds after the juicing I was 221 pounds, now 4/5 months later I’m 193 and juicing help me to get there but I understand there better ways but juicing was good for me

  23. Avatar Huckleberries says:

    You are soooo wrong on this one. The stored fat we have is from the Acidic foods we eat & juicing is Alkaline which causes our body to shed the Acidic stored fat. People lose huge amounts of weight from juicing & it’s not all water weight! It is one of the healthiest ways to lose weight & restore your health if you are sick. Do your own research on this & you’ll find testimony after testimony from those who have done it. It has reversed Cancer faster than anything else. I was so sick that I didn’t think I was going to make it & I heard a guy on YouTube say he treats diabetics with raw fruits & vegetables but mostly fruit. I tried it and it brought me back to life. I am juicing now & feeling great & losing weight that I couldn’t lose for 25 years.

  24. Avatar Huckleberries says:

    Living food brings life to your body! Dead food brings death & disease. Juicing is fast absorbing nutrients. Smoothies are slower & food is even slower but they all work if the food is living!

  25. Avatar A says:

    I’m always a little confused when dieticians cite the removal of fiber during the juicing process as a bad thing, because that’s the whole point of juicing. I think it is confusing to beginners when health professionals suggest that drinking smoothies (blending instead of juicing) is “better” because you’re getting the fiber as well. Not having to break down the fiber in vegetables/fruits is what allows the body to absorb the “good stuff” so quickly.

    If you’re exclusively juicing without eating solid foods for an extended period of time, that’s obviously unsustainable. If you’re juicing oranges and apples and carrots and beets, your blood sugar is going to spike. But if you wake up and have a green juice with a little lemon with your breakfast, good on ya. In my experience, juicing increases my cravings for healthy foods. You can always add the fiber back in to omelettes, sauces, smoothies… whatever!

  26. Avatar Shellyfae says:

    One of the benefits of juicing that I don’t see addressed in your article is the benefits of fighting cancer. The Truth About Cancer documentary series shows this. It’s a great series to watch and learn. The Juice Lady had a website about juicing and how it aided her in her cancer. Nothing should be exclusive in dieting but juicing should definitely be incorporated!

  27. Avatar Anshu says:

    thank you for sharing this article. Btw I am a regular myfitness pal user and a stock photographer and was really happy to see my image used here 🙂

  28. Avatar Gina says:

    Thank you, Trin, for the sane advice.

  29. Avatar Franken Beans says:

    You’re a retard.

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