The Trouble With Juice Cleanses

These days, juice is so much more than liquified fruits and vegetables. It's a status symbol, an offering at the altar of healthism, and a pretty pricey habit (fresh, cold-pressed super-juices can run $5 to upwards of $10 per single-serving bottle). Are we out of our chia-loving minds?

Juice makers like Evolution Fresh Chairman Howard Schultz intend to "glamorize" juice in the same way coffee has been glamorized. But people don't usually go on all-coffee diets. "Juice is a jealous god," quips Slate's Katy Waldman, in the latest article against juice cleanses. Juice devotees often don’t make it a part of their regular diet — they go on juice cleanses, excluding solid food for days on end in the quest for "detoxification," "restoring alkaline balance" and ridding the body of impurities.

"But juice cleanses accomplish exactly none of their physiological or medical objectives," writes Waldman. "They fetishize a weird, obsessive relationship with food, and they are part of a social shift that reduces health (mental, physical, and, sure, spiritual) to a sign of status." They offer quick but unsustainable weight-loss and promote an eating disordered mindset toward food.

Waldman notes that most dietitians and nutritionists don't recommend total juice cleanses. When I worked for a women's health website, I frequently heard the same thing. Not only is an all-liquid diet unnecessary in order to detox (solid whole foods will do just fine), it's also less healthy than a diet of whole fruits, vegetables, and fats can be. Juicing destroys the fiber in fruits, which is no good because fiber helps us feel full and works as a 'prebiotic,' paving the way for good bacteria in our stomachs to thrive. And without a little bit of fat, our bodies can't absorb the nutrients in fruits, vegetables, etc. as well.

There's nothing wrong with incorporating fresh juice into a healthy diet — there's a lot right about it, actually. But unless you just got your wisdom teeth out, you should probably skip the nothing-but-juice plan.

Image: Urban Remedy