The truth about juice cleanses

Are juice cleanses really a quick solution to your health issues, or can they be more toxic than detoxifying? Marika Day shares her views and what she suggests instead.

Marika  Day

Marika Day

Marika Day is a nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Juice cleanses – they’re all the rage at the moment. From celebrities touting the benefits of a pre-award show detox, to Instagram influencers singing the praises of their high-tech juicers – it seems like the majority of the population decided overnight that they’re no longer going to consume anything that can’t pass through a straw. But hype aside, do they actually work?

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Demystifying detoxing

In my opinion, there’s really no need for juice cleansing. Claims that a juice cleanse offers some sort of rapid detoxification overlook the fact that our body has natural systems built in that already do that. Our liver and kidneys are our detoxifying organs and – provided we eat well – they’re incredibly good at doing their job. We don’t need to do anything external to aid that process.

I understand why there’s been a surge in popularity when it comes to cleanses, though. The marketing around them is great, which makes it an attractive option. Understandably, people feel good when they’re doing something that they think is positive for them – regardless of whether it’s actually working. That’s just human nature.

I see people wanting to do a juice cleanse because they’re looking for something that will ‘reset’ them, and potentially kick-start a change in their lives. Maybe they’re coming out of a period of eating a lot of high-fat food, or they’ve been drinking too much. Basically, they’re having a realisation that they could be being kinder to their body – and they’re trying to start the process of getting things back on the right track.

The skinny on fruit juice

It’s interesting, though. Everyone is so anti-sugar – but a juice cleanse is essentially just ingesting liquid sugar for a few days. When you drink juice, you’re missing out on all the fibre from the fruit – which is really the important part for your gut health.

You’re also not getting any protein or fat, you’re purely subsisting on sugar and the vitamins and minerals in the juice. That means that over an extended period of time, your energy levels are going to crash. There’s also likely to be a short-term influence on your hormones because they rely on the fat that we produce to function normally.

From a general health perspective, there are even more risks involved when it comes to juice cleanses. You’re potentially altering your blood sugar levels by restricting food to just juice calories ¬– which can add extra and unnecessary stress to the body. In particular, cleanses can be problematic if you’ve got an existing health issue, like diabetes or an eating disorder, and can create serious complications.

The other common trajectory with a cleanse is that you tough it out until the end, and then immediately go on a binge because you’re so hungry. In this scenario, you’re just going to end up undoing the minimal benefit you’ve achieved in the first place.

Rethink the juicer

Rather than a juice cleanse, what I would suggest is having a couple of days where you’re just eating whole foods. Eat protein from the animal or plant sources that you’re generally getting it from, try and add your carbohydrates from fruit and vegetable, and look to add fats from things like avocados and nuts. If you do that, you’re going to get the same kick-start that you would from a juice cleanse – but with a lot more balance.

If you do want to integrate juice into your diet, the trick is to have vegetable bases with one fruit mixed in for sweetness. A lot of juices have multiple pieces of fruit in them. With a standard orange juice, you can have upwards of six or seven oranges – which you wouldn’t normally eat in one sitting. That’s going to give you that sugar spike (and crash).

It’s a much better idea to get your nutrients from a fibre-filled banana and nut smoothie. The trick is to blend your fruit and veg, so you’re still getting the fibre in your glass.

Or better yet, just eat it whole.

Understanding 4490:

According to the World Health Organisation, there are four controllable lifestyle behaviours – physical inactivity, poor nutrition, smoking and excess alcohol – which lead to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, respiratory and heart disease. Non-communicable diseases are responsible for over 90% of deaths in Australia. Learn more about the risk factors and the healthier changes you can make to avoid them.

Marika  Day

Marika Day is a nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietitian who knows what the body needs to function at its best. With more than five years’ experience in the health and fitness industry, Marika's holistic approach to diet and exercise is tried and true. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.