Juicing and juice fasts have become popular in recent years. You may have seen juice bars popping up in your neighborhood, or watched documentaries about how juicing has helped people lose weight and feel great. A juice fast is a period of time when you only drink juices or sometimes other clear liquids, like water and tea.
Is this type of diet all hype or is there some credibility to the claims you’ve heard? Here’s more about the purpose of juice cleanses, how to do them, safety concerns, and some tasty recipes to try.
Juice fasting is also referred to as juice cleansing. Many people who undergo a juice fast aren’t just trying to lose weight, they’re also looking to beef up the nutrients in their bodies.
Juicing is a process that extracts the juices from whole fruits and vegetables. What’s missing from juice is the fiber that’s found in the pulp. While fiber is a healthy part of your diet, some people have digestive issues when they consume too much. Read more about the risks of consuming too much fiber.
Pure juice contains most of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables. People who juice say it gives their digestive systems a break while allowing them to better absorb a great deal of nutrients. Others swear by juicing as a way to:
- boost the immune system
- remove toxins from the body
- lose weight
Some people even claim that juicing helps reduce the risk of cancer, though there’s no evidence to support this claim.
Before you switch on your juicer, it’s important to select quality ingredients for your recipes. Many people suggest choosing organic fruits and vegetables so that their juices contain fewer pesticides and other chemicals. From there, it’s a matter of deciding how long to do your fast.
Joe Cross from Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a documentary about his juicing journey, claims to have lost 100 pounds on a 60-day juice fast. He offers a variety of juice cleansing plans in his New York Times best-selling book The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet and on his website. The juices included in his plans are generally 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruits.
His 3-day reboot juice fast is structured as follows, also noting to drink plenty of regular water throughout the day alongside with your juices.
|When to consume||What to drink (in ounces)|
|Wake up||8 oz. of hot water with lemon or ginger|
|Breakfast||16 oz. orange or red juice|
|Mid-morning snack||16 oz. of coconut water or vegetable broth|
|Lunch||16 oz. green juice|
|Afternoon snack||16 oz. yellow or red juice|
|Dinner||16 oz. green juice|
|Dessert||16 oz. purple or orange juice|
The juice color (i.e. red juice) generally contains ingredients of that same color. The idea is that eating a variety of colors means you’re getting a variety of nutrients. For example:
- red juice may contain beets
- orange juice may have sweet potatoes
- yellow juice may contain fruits like pineapple and yellow bell pepper
- green juices often have a mix of kale, cucumber, or celery
- purple juices have ingredients like purple grapes or blueberries
Side effects from juice fasting may include:
These symptoms typically go away on their own as your body adjusts. Stop the fast and contact your doctor immediately if you experience:
- severe diarrhea
- low blood pressure
- extreme dizziness
Before you go on a strict juice fast, understand that most doctors don’t recommend drinking only juice. There are several reasons why.
Drinking only juice may be rich in vitamins and minerals, but it lacks protein. Your body uses protein to build and maintain muscle. When you’re drinking only juices, you may lose weight, but some of that weight may come from healthy muscle.
Juices may contain more sugars than you think, which can possibly lead to weight gain. Not only that, but since juice lacks protein and fat, it may lead to severe blood sugar swings as well.
Juices loaded with green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, or collards may also lead to health issues. These veggies contain what’s called goitrogen. Goitrogen is a substance that can affect your body’s absorption of iodine. If you get too much goitrogen, it may result in slowed thyroid function.
Food safety can become a concern with certain ingredients. People who should speak with their doctors before consuming raw, unpasteurized juices include:
- young children
- someone who’s pregnant
- older adults
- those with weakened immune systems
You should clean all fruits and vegetables before juicing to avoid bacteria and other contaminants.
Only juice what you can finish in one sitting. Fresh juices can grow bacteria in a short period of time. If there are leftovers, store them in a clean, airtight container in your refrigerator. Discard anything you haven't consumed after 24 hours.
Also make sure you clean all your juicing equipment well after juicing. Most juicers will collect the pulp of the processed fruits and vegetables. These bits of lodged food can grow bacteria. Scrub your juicer and all its parts well and consider sanitizing in your dishwasher between uses.
Juicing can be a fun way to experiment with new fruits and vegetables, and flavor combinations. If you’re new to juicing, consider starting with a few recipes, and then add or remove ingredients as you get more comfortable with juicing and want to try new flavors.
If you decide to follow a juice fast, it’s important to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables to maximize your vitamin and nutrient intake. Experimenting with new recipes can also help keep you from getting bored with the juices you’re drinking.
Green juices are a great way to “eat” your greens. They often contain kale or spinach, as well as cucumber. You can also add in other green vegetables like celery, broccoli, or romaine lettuce. One or two green apples or pears add a mild sweetness. You may also consider adding a piece of ginger.
Here’s a green juice recipe you can try.
Beets may help control blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and more. Consider drinking 100 percent beet juice, or soften the beet flavor with other ingredients.
Try this recipe that combines beets with apple, ginger, and carrots.
Sweet potatoes make a surprisingly delicious juice base. This simple recipe pairs sweet potato with pumpkin and orange for a new take on orange juice.
There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that drinking only juice is any healthier than consuming lots of whole fruits and vegetables. If your current diet doesn’t include a lot of raw fruits and veggies, juicing may be worth a try. You may also consider blending fruits and vegetables into smoothies. Blending provides your body with all the good vitamins and minerals, as well as the healthy fiber that may help you feel fuller and feed your gut bacteria.
Incorporating juices and smoothies into a well-balanced diet will give your body a full range of fats, carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.