How to Do a Juice Cleanse the Healthy Way, From an RD
With the warm weather here to stay, you're probably looking o eat healthily and focus your meals around the fresh produce of the season. If you're also eager to kick start your summer weight loss or hit reset on your gut health, a juice cleanse may be the way to start. Research has shown that a short stint of 3 days of juicing, even for a fraction of your meals, can help to jumpstart both weight loss and gut health, and study subjects saw improvements even two weeks later. According to the study, which followed subjects for 17 days, a three-day juice-based diet resulted in increased weight loss and healthier gut microbiota, and the healthy bacteria stuck around for 14 days after the juicing period was over.
Although getting plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet is always a good idea, especially when you are seeking fiber to help offset inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy, and processed foods, some juice cleanses can get a little extreme, especially if you substitute meals for juice. To kick off a healthy period of adding juice to your diet, we compiled a list of five tips to help you do a juice cleanse in the healthiest way possible and reap all of the nutritious benefits of juicing.
How to Make Fresh Juice
There are two different common juicing methods:
- Squeezing the juices from the fruits and vegetables and removing them from the pulp
- Blending all the edible portions of the fruits and vegetables, including the pulp
Many juice cleanses prefer that you squeeze the juices instead of fully blending, but this process can wind up removing good-for-you fiber. When it comes to fiber, it’s recommended that women get at least 21 to 25 grams per day. Men should bump it up a little more at around 30 to 38 grams per day.
Research indicates that fiber is a key component in keeping our intestinal microbiota healthy, which is likely one of the main reasons the juicing study participants had improved gut health. Some of the signs of not eating enough fiber could be the reason behind wanting to start a juice cleanse in the first place. This includes stomach issues and irregular bowel movements.
The addition of fiber can also prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar. Juicing without the pulp leaves the vitamins, minerals, and naturally occurring sugars but removes the fiber, so nothing is slowing the digestion process down. Juice without pulp or fiber allows sugar to be absorbed in the bloodstream quickly and utilized by the body, so keep the fiber to slow down absorption and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
How Long Should I Do a Juice Cleanse?
The length of juicing can range all the way from 24 hours and up to 10 days—sometimes longer. Unfortunately, the longer your juicing cleanse goes (especially if you’re solely juicing and not eating alongside it), the higher the risk that you may experience some unwanted side effects.
For starters, the lack of two macronutrients—protein and fat—can leave you feeling exhausted and lethargic. Plus the fat-soluble vitamins, that are found in sources such as spinach, mango, and carrots, need fats to absorb into the bloodstream. This could lead to you not being able to utilize as many vitamins and minerals as you would expect from a juice of greens, which have plenty of nutrients and vitamins to offer.
If you’re doing a solo juice cleanse without the addition of solid foods, chances are you’re not eating enough calories. According to the three-day juice cleanse study we previously mentioned, participants were consuming around 1,300 calories per day. This is hundreds less than adults should be eating, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Depending on various factors, women typically need between 1,600 and 2,200 calories per day and men are closer to 2,000 to 3,200 per day. Getting less can backfire and make it harder to lose weight in the long run.
If you’re constantly consuming fewer calories than your body needs, you may find yourself feeling sluggish and your metabolism will slow down to preserve the energy that you are providing. Pairing up juicing with food can help to ensure you’re getting enough calories and essential macronutrients. And the juicing will help the gut health microbiome reset, so you're likely to benefit from even a juice a day, or two, along with eating a diet rich in plant-based foods.
Juice at Home Instead of Buying Programs
Stick to making juice at home instead of buying them from online sources. Not only does this ensure that you’re getting the freshest of the fresh ingredients, without any additional added sweeteners or preservatives, but some companies may include laxatives or other gut-stimulating ingredients to their cleanses, which are artificial and unhealthy long-term.
Drinking a juice cleanse that promotes using the restroom more often than normal can lead to loss of nutrients and dehydration. It may also cause an electrolyte imbalance, which could cause muscle weakness, fatigue, lack of focus, or in more serious cases even lead to cardiac arrest and seizures.
Many companies also promote their products by making claims that they can prevent/reverse disease, but there is limited research to back up any such health claims.
On another note, it’s important to only make enough juice for one sitting. Freshly squeezed juice is prone to bacteria build-up, and the longer it sits the more it loses its nutrient punch.
Check With Your Doctor Before a Juice Cleanse
Starting a juice cleanse isn’t for everyone, and it should always begin after getting the go-ahead from your doctor or health care provider. For example, those with kidney disease should avoid juicing altogether since it can overtax your kidney function. Our kidneys and liver are the organs that actually "detox" our body without is needing to remove solid foods.
The National Kidney Foundation states that the boost of antioxidants from juicing can help to decrease inflammation, but you still need to be cautious. Those who have decreased kidney function are usually recommended to limit fluid intake, plus certain nutrients that cannot be filtered effectively such as potassium (found in oranges, bananas, mangoes, and strawberries).
Those who are on blood-thinning medication should also sit juicing out unless they avoid foods that are high in vitamin K including leafy greens. Consuming too much vitamin K at one time can counteract blood thinners, which are usually given to those who have circulatory conditions or after a stroke.
Bottom line: Juicing can be a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, but it can wind up being extreme if you do it as a replacement for meals. If possible, pair it up with a healthy plant-based diet that is rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Plus always check in with your doctor to ensure it won’t impact you negatively.