One of the trendiest diets as of late is the juice cleanse. Everybody and their brother seems to have tried a juice cleanse these days, from college students, to working parents, to Hollywood celebs. For the longest time, it took little convincing for people to hop on the blender bandwagon, because of the purported health benefits to juicing. But can there ever be a healthy juice cleanse?
Not according to registered dietitian, Mackenzie Gordon. I originally reached out to Gordon for some tips on what healthy juice cleanse works best for college students. I got a lot more valuable information than I expected from her negative response.
As it turns out, not only is a healthy juice cleanse nonexistent, juice cleanses in general can be really harmful to our bodies. By starting a juice cleanse, we're sacrificing vital nutrients that our bodies need, for a detoxifying service that our bodies do naturally anyway.
According to Gordon, "our bodies work naturally as detoxifiers. They turn molecules such as waste products that our body makes along with environmental toxins and removes them from our bodies." Our bodies help to get rid of endotoxins (products made as a result of our own metabolism) and exotoxins (products that are introduced outside of the body).
The human body is able to get rid of these toxins through natural detoxification, although the rate at which each person's body does this really depends on "lifestyle, diet, health status, and genetics." If the number of toxins in the body is greater than the number that the body can push out, these toxins are often stored as fat cells in soft tissue and bone. Gross.
So, why doesn't Gordon think a healthy juice cleanse exists? She doesn't recommend them to patients "due to the little scientific evidence available promoting their effectiveness." But, if so many celebrities swear by these juices, there has to be at least one that's worth giving up solid food for, right?
Sorry, no bright and shining examples here. Rather, Gordon gave an example of a really dangerous cleanse to dissuade any would be juicers: the Lemonade Diet, aka, "The Master Cleanse." No, this isn't a way to cleanse "Becky with the Good Hair" out of your life, but a crazy fad diet that's been around since the 1970s.
This diet consists of nothing but salt water, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and laxative tea. If it sounds crazy, that's because, well, it is crazy, and can really mess up your body.
Common side effects include increased cravings, tiredness, irritability, and some other, ahem, "private concerns." All of these symptoms point to signs that your body isn't getting enough calories or nutrients. Diets like the Lemonade Diet often cut out entire food groups in an attempt to lose weight, which is just not sustainable over time.
So what can you do to detox, but avoid severe nutrient loss, or worse, fatal electrolyte imbalances? According to Gordon, the answer is a lot simpler than you'd think.
"In order to stay healthy and let our own bodies detoxify themselves, I recommend a balanced healthy diet. Eating a balanced plant-based diet packed with various fruits and vegetables and low amounts of saturated fat is the best way to promote natural detox pathways and live a healthy life."
To really amp up these detoxifying powers, Gordon also recommends increasing fiber intake to 25-38 grams a day, increasing water intake, eating more cruciferous vegetables (berries, artichokes, and garlic are your new BFFS), and eating more probiotics every day.
So, it is definitely 100% possible to detoxify your body and feel better overall as a result. You just have to let go of the idea that you can detox using a juice cleanse. And if the advice of a licensed dietitian didn't convince you, just imagine how amazing it would be to be able to chew your food rather than taking it all in through a straw.