Among the plethora of strange trends seen in diet culture, one that has been on the forefront for trendy gurus is the juice cleanse. Usually done without eating solid food, the user solely drinks juices, water, and coffee as they would like. The health benefits claimed from these diets seem plentify and highly beneficial, including an energy boost, body “detoxification”, improved gut health, and an overall health boost. These benefits do sound entrancing however there is a dark side to this trendy diet, it contributes to disordered eating culture and can do more harm than good in some people. While there are both positives and negatives to this diet, it is important to weigh them out and decide what is best for you.
While there is some variety in how juice cleanses are structures, there is an overall pattern to how a specific juice plan would be carried out. Juice cleanses can range anywhere from half a day to one week. Pressed Juicery, a juice company based in Los Angeles, offers a half day and full day cleanse, and offers 6 juices for their full day cleanse and they are to be consumed in two hour increments. Along with the juices, one on this plan (and any other typical juice cleanse) can only drink water, a light nutritious snack if need be (Pressed Juicery recommends a plant-based broth or some almonds), and coffee, however they do not recommend heavy caffeine consumption under a cleanse but are understanding of coffee being built into people’s routines. While this routine is tailored to the specific Pressed Juicery juices, it can be applied to other cleanses which mirror this plan. It is typical to see a 6 juice cleanse per day, which can be multiplied to suit the length one would like for their plan to last.
Given the intensive plan, fresh products, and quality juices, juice cleanses seem to offer a plethora of alleged benefits. One which may be very obvious is the high concentration of essential vitamins coming from the fruits and vegetables including Vitamin C, E, folate, and beta carotene. A boost of energy is also a common result from this routine, however it mostly comes from the digestive system not needing lots of energy since it is not digesting solid food, so the energy would go elsewhere in your body. While the increased energy and high levels of some nutrients and vitamins are benefits of juice cleanses, they are only short term, however some specific juices may give you long term benefits. Citrus-based juices, for example, may reduce the risk for heart disease, cranberry juice can help prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI), and beet juice can lower your risk of inflammation and certain cancers. While these juices do provide longer term benefits, not all juice cleanses focus on these and other juices which have these said benefits. If you are looking for these effects on your body, it would be best to seek out individual juices and incorporate them into your eating routine.
The juice cleanse websites can be persuasive in the way they sell their products and showcase their alleged benefits, but it is important to stick to the science when a product makes massive claims abouts its effects on the body. There has been no research proving that a prolonged juicing diet is beneficial to the body, however it is known that in the long run it will do more harm than good. In an article from Harvard Health detailing the risks of juicing, they reveal that juice does not have any protein, which “keeps us full and helps maintain muscle mass for a healthy weight”. Along with lacking essential protein, juices do not contain sufficient calories for the body to function, leading to temporary weight loss, low blood sugar, dehydration, weakness, and even fainting. These findings reveal a juice cleanse is not a sufficient form of food for the body and will hurt the body if one is on a sustained juice cleanse.
Not only do the benefits of a juice cleanse not live up to the hype, the talk around juice cleanse and the diet itself contributes to disordered eating habits. While diet culture as a whole largely contributes to disordered eating, juice cleanses especially given it is zero solid food and consists of low calorie fresh produce juiced into a liquid. People can become obsessed with the weight loss attributed to these programs, but it is not permanent. The way people lose and gain their weight back from these cleanses is called “weight cycling”, as explained by the Center for Discovery, an organization dedicated to eating disorder treatment. This weight cycling means people will lose weight from their cleanses, but often gain it back very quickly, meaning they would go back onto the juice cleanse they were previously on to see the lose the weight they just gained. Given this dangerous cyclical weight gaining pattern, people would continue to stay on this cleanse and finally lose the weight they keep gaining back, however a continued cleanse only leads to a damaged metabolism and possibly disordered eating habits.
Juice cleanses have been the epitome of diet culture ever since the 2000s. This trendy diet promises energy, detoxification of the body, and a plethora of vitamins and nutrients to people wanting to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle, unaware of the effects it can have on the body. Hunger, dehydration, low blood sugar, weakness, fainting, and the risk of an eating disorder are all caused from a juice cleanse diet and are strengthened the longer this diet is continued. If you truly want to feel the benefits of juices, don’t waste your money on this trendy diet for more than a day, stick to eating your fruits and vegetables found in these juices, or incorporate a juice or two throughout the day. As much as the promises provided by juice cleanses my sound, do not fall victim to it.