Are Juice Cleanses Good for You? An Expert Weighs the Pros and Cons

A nutritionist reveals the truth about following this trendy diet strategy

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Drinking juice is in.

No, not like the tasty fruit juice your mom used to pack in your school lunch.

We’re talking about the raw, typically green kind you’ll find at a trendy fitness boutique’s shake bar or in the beverage section at a hip farm-to-table café.

Of course, there are different levels at which you can engage with this increasingly popular trend. Some constrain their juice consumption strictly to post-workout recovery or include it as part of a nutritionally-charged breakfast.

But then, on the other end of the spectrum is what’s referred to as a “juice cleanse,” or an allotted period of time where a person’s diet consists of nothing but juice.

Much in part thanks to celebrities who have touted this “diet method” for its ability to produce fast weight loss results, juice cleansing has become increasingly popular.

But is subsiding on nothing but liquefied fruits and vegetables for even just a few days really a smart diet strategy?

We talked with Dana Kofsky, a certified nutritionist and corporate wellness consultant, to find out.

The Active Times: Are there any benefits to following a juice cleanse?
Kofsky:
I would say that there are not many pros to juice cleansing. Most people want to go on juice cleanses to release weight. It can help drop pounds on the scale but it is not the best way to drop weight nor is it sustainable. Others look at it as a great way to get there their vegetables in for the day. Although there is some truth to that statement, the fiber is removed from the vegetable and you're left with all the sugars. Most people who do not care for vegetables are opting for juices that contain fruit because they taste better, but doing that increases the sugar levels.

So, aside from the downsides you just mentioned, what are some of the negative effects and risks, if any, associated with following a juice cleanse?
Many juice cleanses involve consuming no protein at all, or have very low amounts of it. People need a daily supply of protein to build healthy muscle, to regenerate muscle following a workout and to build immune cells.

Because of the significant drop in calories, there’s a significant chance that it will send the body into starvation mode, meaning it will try to conserve calories by slowing down the metabolism. Many people while cleansing, commonly experience side effects such as headaches, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings and hunger pains.

Is there anyone in particular who should definitely not follow a juice cleanse?
Yes, I would highly suggest people with diabetes do not follow a juice cleanse. Juicing can potentially wreak havoc on blood glucose levels. The same is true, however, for people without diabetes.

As a nutritionist, would you say juice cleanses are “healthy”? Why or why not?
I would say juice cleanses are “unhealthy.” People receive way more benefits from eating whole fruits and vegetables. Juicing cannot be considered a well-rounded “diet” and it’s not a sustainable lifestyle. I work with my clients on creating a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle complete with all food groups that benefit each individual's body and a lifestyle that they can sustain.

Juicing is something that people do for short term, quick fixes. Everything in life worth having is worth working for. A quick fix usually doesn’t get to the root of the problem. There is a belief that supplementing a meal for juicing for long periods is good, but your body is not getting everything it needs on a daily basis like proteins and fats.

In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions about juice cleanses?
It’s just the “in” thing to do at the moment. The biggest misconception is that it’s just as good for you as eating whole fruits and vegetables. When you juice fruits and vegetables you strip out the fiber, causing a more rapid spike in blood sugars and insulin levels.

More Reading:
6 Simple Steps to Better Digestive Health
Healthy Foods that Protect Your Brain
5 Staple Foods Eaten by the World's Longest Living People

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