Celery, cucumber, green apple, ginger, cilantro and lime juice | Source: Getty Images

The Truth About Juice Cleanses: What Nutritional Science Has To Say

Around 2015 and 2016, every celebrity and their designer dog seemed to be on a juice cleanse. Posting photos of themselves sipping on startlingly green juices post-workout with the accompanying #fitspo, Instagram was no stranger to the resurgence of the juice cleanse or juice fasting diet trend back then. Although the diet, which typically sees meals replaced entirely by juices over the course of a few days, is significantly less popular now, misconceptions around juice cleansing’s ability to detoxify the body still remain.

With the proposed benefits of a faster metabolism, a boosted immunity and a healthier digestive system, juice cleansing is positioned as an effective way to wash away the evidence of boozy weekends and sugar-fuelled binges. But what does nutritional and dietetic science have to say about the juice cleansing diet? Can it really detoxify your body, improve your gut and make you feel more energetic, as many juice companies and alternative health clinics claim juice cleansing can?

What does a juice cleanse do?

Typically, a juice cleanse involves the substitution of food with juices packed with fruit and vegetables over the course of around three to 10 days. During this time, many people experience fatigue, headaches and stomach and bowel upsets as a result of suddenly following a diet devoid of protein, fats and fibre- particularly when only fruit and vegetable pressed juices are consumed during the cleanse.

If weight loss is a goal, then yes- research shows that a juice cleanse can lead to short-term weight loss by virtue of being extremely low calorie. However, according to an article published by Dietitians Australia, while fad diets like a juice cleanse often lead to fast weight loss most of it is ‘water and lean muscle, rather than fat.’

Does a juice cleanse detoxify the body?

One of the many proposed benefits of juice cleansing is the ambiguous phrase: it detoxifies the body. What toxins juice cleansing companies are referring to remain equally ambiguous and in terms of the science, a review of detox diet research highlighted that no randomised controlled trials have actually been conducted to assess the effectiveness of commercial detox diets.

Our biggest challenge was that commercial detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove, or the mechanisms by which they eliminate them, making it difficult to investigate their claims.

Professor Hosen Kiat, Head of Cardiology Macquarie University in an article from Macquarie University

In an article published in The Conversation, Associate Professor of Nutrition at Deakin University, Tim Crowe, recognises that, fortunately, our lungs, liver, kidney and digestive system are all great waste and toxin removers, negating the need for juice cleanses to flush out toxins. This is echoed by Dietitians Australia.

Multicoloured juices and smoothies of fresh vegetables, fruits and berries, top view | Source: Getty

Are there any benefits to a juice cleanse?

Anecdotally, some people who’ve followed a juice cleanse diet report feeling an increased sense of wellbeing in terms of gut health and energy levels after juice cleansing.

While a large portion of the nutritional science community highlights the risks associated with juice cleansing, there are plenty of avid juice cleansers who cite the anti-inflammatory compounds and high vitamin and mineral content of fruit and vegetable juices as beneficial to their health. There is also some research that links juice cleanses to the promotion of beneficial bacteria within the gut.

But in terms of weight loss, detoxifying the body and promoting health and wellbeing, moderately incorporating fruit and vegetable juices into your diet can offer some of the benefits of a juice cleanse without the risk the arguably extreme diet can pose to your health.

Green d\etox celery blend | Source: Pinterest

What are some of the best juices?

Apart from being Instagram-worthy, cold-pressed juices also offer a fast and easy way to get your fruit and veg in on the go. With that said, many cold-pressed juices contain high amounts of sugar so checking to see the sugar content of juices is important if you’re looking for a relatively healthy juice.

In terms of ingredients, kale offers plenty of antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C that is worth including in your juice. Carrot is another vegetable that offers plenty of vitamin A and is also a good choice for juicing in terms of its subtle sweetness too. Celery and cucumber, both high in water content, are also great additions that have long been popular in the juicing world, along with lemon and ginger for that added zing to your juice.

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