If you yourself haven’t done a juice cleanse, you probably know someone who has. Juice cleanses are super popular, and can conjure an "everyone's doing it" that might make you jump in head first without considering the details and digging into the proven nutritional benefits vs. the myriad myths.
Juice cleanses are not magic, but they can be good for us.
After a stressful time, a week of irregular eating, or a trip on which the usual attention to one’s diet flies out the window (hello, culinary vacation), a cleanse can be a time to pause and reset the body and digestive system.
However, five days of drinking juice (and nothing but) is not a cure-all. Here's how to get the most out of your juice cleanse, and not screw up your digestive system in the process.
Juice bars are popping up everywhere, offering their own juice cleanses, and even more cleanses are available online. “Any program you undertake is a boost, a gift to your body,” Lianna Sugarman, founder of LuliTonix, says.
If you’ve never done a cleanse it is important to not jump right into a three-day cleanse. Go easy on yourself and test the waters by picking a cleanse you feel you will enjoy, or go slow by starting with a partial cleanse, like this Cleanse Til Dinner, or a cleanse that combines juice with food.
Since juice is abundant, it’s important to pick juice of the best quality. If possible, avoid high pressure processing (HPP), which is great for convenience, but is not, Sugarman explains, “living food in the same way as truly raw juices and blends are.” The health enzymes and probiotics that make juicing healthful and beneficial are only found in the raw options.
Don't Forget Fiber
When juices are cold-pressed, the process removes the fiber that makes fruits and veggies good for us to begin with. Fiber is extremely important to a healthy diet — it aids in weight management, helps keep us full for longer, and promotes regular and healthy bowel movements. “Choose a cleanse that utilizes blended greens. And, a little good fat is helpful for energy and absorption of nutrients. Think chia or avocado,” Sugarman says.
One thing that won’t help — obsessing over getting it right. If you are doing a cleanse that is six juices each day, but feel absolutely famished (or worse, faint) by your third juice, listen to your body and have a snack (even just a handful of mixed nuts). Sugarman says to remember, “even if you do embark on a regimented, multi-day program, you need to do it keeping your body in mind — everyone is different.” If you want to drink the sixth juice at the slated time of the fourth, don’t berate yourself. Make the cleanse work for you.
Remember, Cleansing is Not Dieting
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a three-day juice cleanse is a good way to lose weight. Sure — you might see a flatter tummy or a few pounds shed after a few days of flooding your body with nutrients and "cold turkey"-eliminating junk food, but if you think of the cleanse as a path to weight loss, it won’t stick.
A cleanse can, however, be a jumpstart or a way to get back on track after an indulgent vacation or week of stress-eating. As for what a good cleanse can do, Sugarman says, “A cleanse will align your body more closely with what it needs — thus making it work more efficiently and recalibrating your desires.”
Don't Force Yourself to Starve
To that end, if you find yourself starving (your body isn’t used to just juice, after all), you will actually trigger cravings, Katrine Van Wyk, Holistic Health Coach and author of Best Green Drinks Ever says. “I’m actually not a huge fan of just drinking juice, but rather recommend including juices and smoothies as part of a healthy lifestyle,” she says.
If you find yourself developing cravings during the cleanse, you will be more likely to binge once it’s over — when your body goes from starvation to bingeing, you will gain any weight you lost, and then some, right back, Van Wyk says.
Avoid Too Much Fruit
While fruit is great, when it’s pressed, the fiber is eliminated and not much is left but sugar. Sure, it’s natural sugar, so it’s not quite like eating six chocolate bars — but it’s still not great. If you don’t like the taste of juices made from just greens, try to aim for ones that only have one fruit source such as apple to add sweetness, rather than juices that are five fruits and kale.
Take Your Time
“Digestion begins in the mouth,” Sugarman says. “Juices and blends are not tequila shots. Drink slowly, even chew a little to activate the digestive enzymes that help to absorb the nutrients.”
No Need to Suffer
”Remember than any program you undertake is meant to be a supportive one," Sugarman says. "Don’t torture yourself. Remember that your goal is self-love, not hate. Focus your mind on all the amazing things that the program is feeding your body, rather than viewing it as a penance, or a trial by fire to suffer through.”