Detox diets have become really popular over time, as many other fad diets have, claiming to eliminate harmful toxins from your body in just a few days. Juice cleanses in particular aim to do this by restricting your diet to juices only in order to remove all solids from your body to make you feel "great". But is it really as good as it sounds like? While it may sound really healthy and easy to do, considering you’re drinking fruits and vegetables, it’s always best to look at what experts have to say before diving into this cleansing method in order to achieve some weight loss. So keep on reading to learn more about juice cleanses!
How do juice cleanses work?
A juice cleanse is a type of detox diet that consists of extracting and drinking the juice of fresh vegetables and fruits and leaving out the solids, like the skin, pulp, and seeds, in order to get rid of the toxins in your body. You can do this with a juicer or a blender, or opt for store-bought natural fruit and green juices. Usually, the cleansing can last between one day and a whole week, but some people choose to do it for even more time, depending on which program they’re following. During this period of time, you stop eating solid foods and just focus on drinking some squeezed fruits and vegetables, even mixing some fruit juice with vegetable juice, in order to reap the benefits of this liquid-only diet.
Before you actually start with the cleanse, it is recommended that you gradually eliminate certain solid foods from your diet on the days prior while increasing your fruit and vegetable intake at the same time, this is so that your body doesn’t suffer from the sudden diet change. And this goes for after the cleanse as well, you have to gradually start eating solid foods until they’ve completely incorporated into your diet again. Having said that, there are still a few pros and cons to juicing that you need to consider before trying it:
The most popular claim about juice cleanses is that they eliminate the toxins in your body. And while they do contain plenty of antioxidants, there are no scientific studies showing that replacing solid foods with juices can detoxify the body. We already have our kidneys and liver, along with the rest of our digestive system to do the detoxification job for us without the need for restrictive diets! So, the biggest thing that juice cleansing actually does for you is helping you with short-term weight loss. Because you’re severely restricting calories, you are able to lose some water weight from your body. This weight, of course, comes back eventually, but this temporary weight loss may give you a confidence boost to try and make that a long-term change!
You may also discover food sensitivities as you slowly reintroduce solid foods to your diet again. When you cut out dairy, sugar, gluten, and alcohol from your diet your body gets a short break, and then as you start eating them again you might notice certain sensitivities that you may have overlooked with your usual diet.
Sadly, there are more cons and side effects to juicing than pros. As you may already suspect, these juices lack a lot of vitamins, protein, and fiber that come from the solid part of fruits and vegetables, as well as other solid whole foods. This can result in a serious nutrient deficiency as well as the inability to absorb the fat-soluble nutrients that remain in your diet since juices are very low in fat. According to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, even a mild deficiency of immune-enhancing nutrients like iron and zinc results in altered immune responses, so you may catch a cold or the flu more easily along with an increased risk of infection due to your immune system being weakened. 
Since juices are very rich in oxalate, an antinutrient found in fruits and vegetables, this diet can be particularly harmful to people with kidney problems. Your kidneys are in charge of getting rid of oxalate so they may have a hard time if there’s too much of it, which could result in kidney stones. Juice cleanses can also be dangerous to those with diabetes or hypoglycemia because fruits are high in fructose sugar, which could spike your blood sugar levels. You may also experience dizziness and headaches due to the low-calorie content in these juices, and your metabolism will slow down inevitably.
There’s also the risk of overeating as well, since juices aren’t the most filling meal due to the lack of protein or fiber you’ll probably feel very hungry by the end of the cleanse. So be careful with this!
What to do instead
All in all, juicing is perfectly fine if you pair it with healthy eating and a balanced diet. Replacing your actual diet with only juices can do more harm than good for you, and there are other ways to take care of your body and improve your overall wellness without damaging your body in the process. Here are a few healthy alternatives:
- Reverse your mindset: Instead of trying to detox and cleanse your body, try avoiding putting toxins in it in the first place! Your body already gets rid of them on a daily basis, but you can make its job a little easier (and make you feel way better in the process) by cutting down on processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugars. This is essentially what juicing does for you and that’s why so many people feel renovated after a cleanse, except that you still need to eat other healthy foods besides juice in order to feel better in the long run. You can opt for sugar-free and non-caffeinated drinks to ease into it!
- Fasting instead of juicing: A great alternative for juicing is intermittent fasting, which is a much better approach to a healthy lifestyle. The only restriction that comes with intermittent fasting is your eating schedule, but other than that you’re free to eat whatever you want during your eating window! The most common method for intermittent fasting is the 16:8 method in which you fast for 16 hours and then have the next 8 hours to eat. Doing this can provide several health benefits, but that is if you focus on eating a balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats from whole foods during your feeding window.
- Eat whole fruits and vegetables: When juicing, you leave out the skin, pulp, and seeds that make fruits and vegetables so healthy. Drinking a glass of apple juice doesn’t give you the same health benefits as eating a whole apple, so instead, you should incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet in order to reap the full benefits. Cut up fresh fruit for breakfast, or stir-fry some veggies to accompany your lunch.
- Exercise regularly: One of the most natural and effective detox and cleansing methods is simply working out! After juice cleanses, some people feel energized and even rejuvenated, but exercising can do that same thing for you without strictly limiting your diet. It’s a healthy way to boost your energy levels, it helps you stay in shape, and is great for your well-being!
- Partial juice cleanse: Instead of an all-juice cleanse, you can try doing a cleanse that also includes some meals and snacks in order to provide you with the nutrients that your body needs along with the benefits of juicing - the best of both worlds! You can also opt to make whole fruit and vegetable smoothies instead, which contain the nutrients and fiber that juices lack and are just as cheap and easy to make. You could even add additional ingredients such as almond milk, greek yogurt, or vanilla for extra nutrients and flavor.
The bottom line is juice cleanses aren't unhealthy, but they might do you more harm than good. If your goal is weight loss or you want to do a detox/reset to feel rejuvenated then focus on doing other things instead like the ones mentioned above, not on temporary fixes. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, eat more fruits and vegetables, or break bad eating habits, these alternatives to juice cleansing could be great for your health without the unpleasant side effects. And if you’re in it for the antioxidants, remember that your body is already doing the detoxing for you!
If you still want to try a complete juice cleanse, make sure you consult with your doctor or dietitian first to check whether you have any immediate risks. Juice cleanses should be taken seriously, and if your goal is just to lose those few extra pounds you've gained this last year, then there are many other ways to go about it that don't involve putting your health at risk And while drinking juice is great for you, you should balance it with whole foods in order to provide your body with the nutrients, vitamins, and fiber that it needs. Hopefully, this information helps you make the best decision for your body and overall health!