Juice cleanses and other all-liquid detox diets are often glorified as “cure-alls.” Many promises are made with “quick-fix” program marketing that provide several days or weeks of juices for a hefty fee. These companies dole out hope for feeling and looking better FAST with colorful drinks and clever branding. Many people hear about these programs and try to create their own at home.
Desperation for a solution to a weight management or health problem can lead to drastic measures like these. Don’t be fooled by the hype! I have researched heavily and speak from many years of experience as an integrative health practitioner when I say: these fad diets can do more harm than good. In this article, I will help you understand why these liquid-only juicing protocols should be avoided unless prescribed by a trusted professional who can provide you with guidance on what steps you can take on your own to look and feel better.
One of the first glaring deficiencies apparent in these juicing diets is the lack of protein. Protein is made up of amino acids, and there are many at work in the body, but nine of them are categorized as “essential” because they cannot be synthesized in our bodies and must be provided through diet to support baseline levels of health.
Fruits and vegetables are usually the only foods used in the juices and contain very little protein. They are famously lacking in essential amino acids. This is one of the reasons why vegetarians and vegans are careful to ensure they supplement or combine grains, legumes, and other plant-based sources to fulfill this requirement, because there are health implications when intake is consistently low.
You need a daily supply of protein to build healthy immune cells and maintain muscle tissue in the body. (1) This becomes especially important as you age because sarcopenia, the natural gradual loss of muscle, starts to take effect. Our bodies lose anywhere between 3-8% of muscle mass every 10 years after age 30. (2) Taking weeks or months out of the year to slash protein intake is not going to support the integrity of your lean tissue while the clock is ticking and indicates that at least part of the weight loss seen from a juice fasting calorie deficit could be from losing muscle. (3)
Another detriment to skimping on protein is the way it interferes with the benefits of exercise. Exercise is one of the greatest allies for you when you are pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Juices alone certainly do not contain enough to reach the values required to repair and build muscle tissue after exercise. (4)
My final grievance about the lack of protein is critical to your quality of life: without protein to lower the glycemic load of the copious amounts of carbohydrate consumed from the juices, your blood sugar spikes and crashes soon after, leaving you feeling tired, cranky, and extremely hungry for the duration of the protocol. (5) Adequate daily protein intake not only preserves muscle when you are in a calorie deficit, but it greatly influences satiety - your ability to feel full and satisfied. (3)
Since juices consist almost entirely of carbohydrates, they are also lacking in adequate dietary fat. Nuts, seeds, eggs, oils, meats, seafood, and avocado are some healthy fat sources excluded from juicing protocols. Like proteins, fats have some “essential” components that can’t be created within our bodies so must be consumed in the diet. Essential fatty acids affect many aspects of our wellbeing and a deficiency would be apparent. Functions of this nutrient include cell signaling, brain health, hormone synthesis, and immune response. They also have well documented anti-inflammatory properties. (6)
Also similar to protein, fat helps lower the glycemic load of carbohydrates - so satiety, mood, and energy levels are affected negatively. In fact, supplementation with essential fatty acid, specifically omega-3, has been shown to ease symptoms of many mood disorders including depression and anxiety. (7) For these reasons, I feel it is important not to eliminate this extremely crucial element of a normal healthy diet without clinical supervision.
The process of turning fruits and vegetables into juice yields a liquid portion, having stripped away all the pulp to create a drink from something you would normally have to chew. The part that is thrown out contains a majority of the dietary fiber.
Purposely eliminating fiber from the diet for extended lengths of time is very concerning. Fiber is required to slow down digestion, so the essential nutrients can be properly absorbed (slower digestion also means increased feelings of fullness!). The lack of chewing involved in juicing is also theorized to affect the absorbability of the vitamins and minerals. (8)
The American Dietetic Association recommends at least 25g of fiber a day for women and 38g for men. (9) There are so many benefits to consuming adequate amounts of fiber, including reduced risk of chronic illness such as coronary heart disease. (10) A landmark study from 2015 even found a that higher fiber intake reduces risk of breast cancer. (11) These are advantages you won’t want to miss!
Juice cleanses are essentially a “crash diet” disguised as a healthful miracle cure. After all you’ve learned here, I think you can agree that is overblown and doubtful. There are better tactics you can employ to accomplish the desired outcome. Rather than taking extreme measures in the hopes of that “quick-fix,” focus on behaviors that can be altered gradually that will yield long-lasting and sustainable results for you.
The key is to implement these in a realistic way for your lifestyle and schedule! Remember you don’t want to punish your body, you need to nourish it with love to align with the vibrant energy you crave.
If you are still feeling called to detox your system, please take a moment to explore my one-on-one consults. Together, we can determine your needs and develop a plan that is personalized to you.
1. Sebrell, W. H. (2009). The New Recommended Dietary Allowances. Nutrition Reviews, 26(12), 355-357. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1968.tb00849.x
2. Paddon-Jones, D., & Rasmussen, B. B. (2009). Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 12(1), 86-90. doi:10.1097/mco.0b013e32831cef8b
3. Leidy, H. J., Carnell, N. S., Mattes, R. D., & Campbell, W. W. (2007). Higher Protein Intake Preserves Lean Mass and Satiety with Weight Loss in Pre-obese and Obese Women*. Obesity, 15(2), 421-429. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.531
4. Campbell, B., Kreider, R. B., Ziegenfuss, T., Bounty, P. L., Roberts, M., Burke, D., . . . Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1), 8. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-8
5. Moghaddam, E., Vogt, J. A., & Wolever, T. M. (2006). The Effects of Fat and Protein on Glycemic Responses in Nondiabetic Humans Vary with Waist Circumference, Fasting Plasma Insulin, and Dietary Fiber Intake. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(10), 2506-2511. doi:10.1093/jn/136.10.2506
6. Yates, C. M., Calder, P. C., & Rainger, G. E. (2014). Pharmacology and therapeutics of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in chronic inflammatory disease. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 141(3), 272-282. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2013.10.010
7. Grosso, G., Pajak, A., Marventano, S., Castellano, S., Galvano, F., Bucolo, C., . . . Caraci, F. (2014). Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Treatment of Depressive Disorders: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. PLoS ONE, 9(5). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096905
8. Dhillon, J., Running, C. A., Tucker, R. M., & Mattes, R. D. (2016). Effects of food form on appetite and energy balance. Food Quality and Preference, 48, 368-375. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.03.009
9. Gorman, M. A., & Bowman, C. (1993). Position of The American Dietetic Association: Health implications of dietary fiber. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 93(12), 1446-1447. doi:10.1016/0002-8223(93)92252-s10. Farvid, M. S., Eliassen, A. H., Cho, E., Liao, X., Chen, W. Y., & Willett, W. C. (2016). Dietary Fiber Intake in Young Adults and Breast Cancer Risk. Pediatrics, 137(3). doi:10.1542/peds.2015-1226
10. Wu, Y., Qian, Y., Pan, Y., Li, P., Yang, J., Ye, X., & Xu, G. (2015). Association between dietary fiber intake and risk of coronary heart disease: A meta-analysis. Clinical Nutrition, 34(4), 603-611. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2014.05.009
11. Farvid, M. S., Eliassen, A. H., Cho, E., Liao, X., Chen, W. Y., & Willett, W. C. (2016). Dietary Fiber Intake in Young Adults and Breast Cancer Risk. Pediatrics, 137(3). doi:10.1542/peds.2015-1226