A well-designed juice cleanse can help you reach your health goals, whether you want to lose weight, detoxify, reduce your disease risk, or all of the above.
“The term “juicing” or “juice cleanse” usually refers to a period of 3–10 days when a person’s diet consists mainly of fruit and vegetable juices,” says Yeong-Hau H. Lien, MD, PhD. “It is widely marketed as providing health benefits, including weight loss, flushing toxins from the body, and increasing energy.”
A juice cleanse typically contains a blend of fruits and vegetables, which yield a better nutrient profile than drinking a glass of apple juice. You can buy these juices prepackaged in bottles, make your own with a juicer, or find a nearby grocery store or health food store that prepares juices.
Whole fruits and vegetables provide dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a broad range of plant metabolites called phytonutrients (or phytochemicals). But if your busy schedule doesn’t provide you the time to consume multiple servings of kale or blueberries daily, juicing may be an optimal way to meet your daily requirements.
According to MyPlate (the current nutrition guide published by the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA), any 100 percent vegetable juice or fruit juice counts as a member of the vegetable or juice group.
Why Do a Juice Cleanse?
In The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, PhD, calls juicing “a fabulous way to get most of the benefits of fruits and vegetables, plus the benefits of live enzymes contained in raw food.” Among the reasons to consider a juice cleanse include:
1. Contributes to daily serving of fruits and vegetables
Research shows most of us aren’t meeting our daily vegetable and fruit requirements. Juicing can help. One randomized controlled trial found including one to two cups of vegetable juice daily makes an effective way for healthy adults to close the dietary vegetable gap.
2. Improves gut health
Juicing gives your overworked gut a break. It provides nutrients in a more absorbable form, and the lack of dietary fiber means less work for the gut. Vegetable and fruit juices do provide prebiotic fibers including oligosaccharides that feed healthy gut flora.
3. Reduces inflammation
Research connects chronic inflammation with nearly every disease imaginable, including obesity. One study found that fruit and vegetable juice concentrate could reduce systemic inflammation and other risk factors for chronic disease in overweight and obese adults.
4. Boosts antioxidants
Vitamins, carotenoids, and phytochemicals in fruit and vegetable juices provide an impressive antioxidant boost to fight damaging free radicals. One animal study found fruit and vegetable juice could improve antioxidant capacity and prevent oxidative damage.
5. Lowers disease risk
Research shows fruit and vegetable juices can lower blood pressure and improve lipid profile, potentially reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects are partly to credit for these and other health improvements.
To learn more about the benefits of juicing, read our Guide to Juicing and Juice Cleanses.
Juicing for Weight Loss
The best juice cleanse for you depends on your condition. “If you suffer from a condition like colitis or Crohn’s disease, you may opt for juicing because the food is easier to digest,” says the Daily Health Post. “If, however, you have diabetes, you want to be able to regulate blood sugar and avoid spiking, so blending is better.”
Many people do a juice cleanse to lose weight quickly, and if correctly done, they can deliver results.
In one study, 20 healthy adults consumed only vegetable and fruit juices for three days, followed by 14 days of their normal diet. During those three days, they consumed six bottles daily of a greens, roots, citrus, lemon, cayenne, and vanilla almond blend.
On day four, researchers found a significant decrease in weight and body mass index. They concluded a three-day juice-based diet improves gut flora associated with weight loss and other health measures.
Regardless of your condition, the best juice cleanse for weight loss entails mostly vegetables with a little fruit. “Keep to vegetables with at most one fruit added,” says the Daily Health Post. “Fruit juice is high in sugar and you don’t need a lot of that at once, even if it’s from a whole food.”
Bowden agrees. “Vegetables are the clear winner,” he says.“That’s because fruit — wonderful though it is — has a lot of sugar and can play havoc with both blood sugar and insulin.”
Because they often lack protein and dietary fat, juice cleanses are not sustainable. After three days drinking nothing but juice (or mostly juice), you will likely crave real, whole foods. You want to transition back into real food slowly, so your schedule might look like this:
- Days 1–3: Juice cleanse consisting of mostly vegetables with a little fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Days 4–5: Juice cleanse for breakfast followed by a healthy lunch and dinner
You can opt to replace one meal (say, breakfast) for a few days with juice and then eat a healthy lunch or dinner.
If you go back to your regular eating routine after a juice cleanse, you will regain the weight you lost. To continue losing weight and sustain that loss, eat meals with lean protein, healthy fat, and lots of leafy and cruciferous vegetables.
Try intermittently doing a juice cleanse for three days every few weeks, which can help minimize any side effects juicing might create.
10 Ways to Optimize a Juice Cleanse
The right juice can provide many (but not all) of the nutrients found in whole fruits and vegetables. The key is adding the correct ingredients from a variety of nutrient-dense plants and avoiding high-sugar fruits.
“What you gain when you juice is the ability to absorb hundreds of nutrients, phytochemicals, phenols, antioxidants, and enzymes in a quick and easy ‘package’ that goes down easy and literally fortifies your body with as big a nutritional wallop as any food I can think of,” says Bowden.
Buying cold-pressed juices is convenient, but they’re usually more expensive and plastic bottles can be environmentally unfriendly. Making your own juice takes more time, but it saves you money and you know exactly what goes into that juice.
These 10 strategies can help you make the perfect juice cleanse to lose weight and improve overall health:
1. Read labels on packaged juices.
Some contain added sugar or other undesirable ingredients including preservatives to increase flavor and shelf life. Always read ingredients and sugar content if you buy packaged juice. One brand, innocuously called Green Machine, contains a whopping 53 grams of sugar in a 15.2-ounce bottle!
2. Zing it up.
You may not enjoy the taste of traditional green juices.. “To really liven up your fresh juice, you should add lemon and a bunch of spices and plants that you might not otherwise eat, such as cilantro, parsley, and ginger root, which provide a little kick,” says Mark Hyman, MD, in Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?.
3. Disguise vegetables you might not like in your juice.
Maybe kale isn’t your cup of tea. Throw it into your juice disguised with a little ginger or lemon and you’ll never know the difference. This works well for vegetable-phobic kids and adolescents too!
4. Drink it immediately.
While preparing a batch of juice can be convenient, oxygen exposure can lower a freshly squeezed juice’s nutrient content. If you make your own juice or buy one from a store, drink it as soon as you can. If not, store it in an airtight container in your fridge.
5. Buy organic whenever possible.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), conventional produce contains about 178 different pesticides, many of which will end up in your juice. Choose organic fruits and vegetables when possible. Otherwise, consult the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 guides.
6. Go for lower-sugar fruits.
If you use fruit in your juice, opt for berries, avocado, and coconut, which are low on the glycemic index.
7. Include clean protein.
Adding a scoop of chocolate or vanilla whey protein can give your juice a delicious flavor with an optimally absorbable protein source.
8. Add healthy fats.
Fruits and vegetables contain fat-soluble nutrients that your body absorbs better with dietary fat. Bowden recommends adding add two tablespoons of omega-3–rich fish oil to juice. As a bonus, those fatty acids will lower the juice’s sugar impact.
9. Put it all in.
“If your juicer can handle it — most can — throw the whole, unpeeled fruit in,” says Bowden. “There are hundreds of valuable phytochemicals in the peels of foods like lemons, limes, oranges, and kiwifruits.”
10. Try blending.
Consider blending rather than juicing. The Daily Health Post says blending “ensures that you eat the whole fruit or veggie that you put in, requiring less grocery shopping and resulting in more fiber making its way into your body.” One study compared juicing and blending. Researchers found whole fruits that had been blended had more antioxidants than fruit that had been juiced.
Read our blog on green juices to learn more about making the perfect juice.
Keep in mind that certain people, including those with eating disorders or blood sugar imbalances including Type 1 or 2 diabetes, should be especially mindful of juicing or blending.
Regardless of your condition, always confer with a chiropractor or other healthcare professional before you undergo any caloric-restricted diet.
With those strategies in mind, have fun with your juice.