The new year has sprung, and with it, the influx of searches for juice cleanses, also known as detox diets. They pledge to help you shed pounds quickly while simultaneously giving your skin a beautiful glow and flushing toxins from your body.
But do juice cleanses work, and should they be on your radar?
This article debunks the need for juice cleanses and explains what they are, the potential benefits and downsides of attempting them, and alternative ways you can jump-start any new healthy eating goals — without restriction.
The premise of a juice cleanse is simple: Drink only juices from fruits and vegetables over a designated period to lose weight and “detoxify” your body.
The duration of a juice cleanse can vary depending on the type you choose. They generally last anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks.
Juicing involves feeding fruits and vegetables into a juicer to separate the juice from the pulp. The machine applies a degree of pressure to extract the juice.
Nutrients, vitamins, and phytonutrients (compounds with antioxidant potential) are all present in juice, so it’s easy to glug a lot of nutrients quickly.
However, juices have much less dietary fiber than whole fruits and vegetables. This can be either a benefit or a downside, depending on your needs.
Some research suggests that restricting dietary fiber makes it easier for your body to process and absorb the juice’s nutrients, while other researchers maintain that dietary fiber is important, with several health benefits (
While eating such a restricted amount of fiber as part of a juice cleanse won’t harm most people’s diets for a couple of days, it will likely make you feel hungry. That’s because fiber helps you feel satisfied.
Juice cleanses are popular because they claim to provide a quick way to lose weight and improve your overall well-being.
Plus, powerful marketing, celebrity endorsements, and anecdotal evidence from people who have tried them contribute to their popularity.
Juicing involves extracting juice from fruits and vegetables, resulting in a loss of dietary fiber. Juice cleanses claim to help you detoxify your body and lose weight. Their popularity stems from powerful marketing and celebrity endorsements.
Current evidence suggests that most Americans eat a lot more ultra-processed food than they used to.
Ultra-processed foods include soda, packaged baked goods, breakfast cereals, reconstituted meat products, and candy bars (
Studies have shown that consumption of ultra-processed foods has steadily increased over the past two decades, while the intake of minimally processed foods has dropped considerably (
Ultra-processed foods are often nutrient-poor but energy-dense, containing high amounts of added sugar, fat, salt, and refined (highly processed) carbohydrates — all of which are linked to adverse health outcomes.
A review of 43 studies showed that ultra-processed foods are associated with heart disease, higher body weight, cancer, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and all-cause death. None of the 43 studies linked ultra-processed foods to improved health (
Other sources have endorsed these findings as well (
Juicing enthusiasts contend that juicing provides an easy way to get the vitamins and minerals that many people miss out on — especially if they’re eating highly processed foods.
What’s more, juicing may provide a hassle-free way to nourish yourself in one sitting, rather than chopping up whole fruits and vegetables and eating them throughout the day.
However, before you search for “how to do a juice cleanse,” let’s consider some more evidence below.
Juicing for health
Fruits and vegetables are high in various active compounds that benefit general health and prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease.
They are one of the most plentiful sources of phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant, immune-supporting, and antibacterial properties (
According to one review of randomized controlled trials and epidemiological research, fruit and vegetable juices (especially mixtures of the two) can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels (
These benefits are believed to stem from compounds present in the fruits and vegetables that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce blood clotting (
However, juicing fruits and vegetables isn’t necessary to obtain these health benefits.
Juicing for weight loss
People who do juice cleanses may have greater amounts of healthy gut bacteria, which has been linked to weight reduction.
In one small randomized study, a short 3-day juice-only diet altered the gut bacteria in 20 healthy people and resulted in substantial weight reduction. The weight loss lasted after the study ended (
The researchers concluded that the weight maintenance may be due to changes in the participants’ gut bacteria (
While detox juice diets may lead to weight loss, this is likely because participants aren’t eating enough (and are therefore consuming fewer calories).
Furthermore, when it comes to evidence supporting the idea that juices might help you meet your nutritional needs, it’s worth noting that many juice-related studies are sponsored by or linked to the juice industry. This raises concerns about potential bias.
Juicing to ‘detox’
There is a lack of scientific evidence to support the idea that juices cleanse your body by flushing toxins.
Even though several commercial detoxification treatments have been shown to improve liver detoxification and remove environmental pollutants from the body, these clinical studies have significant flaws in methodology and low participant numbers (
Plus, much of the promoted evidence comes from animal research, which can’t necessarily be applied to humans.
All in all, as a result of a lack of robust evidence, it’s difficult to determine the effectiveness of detox juice diets in humans.
Our bodies are typically good at flushing out harmful compounds on their own. The liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin are key organs for eliminating toxins from the body. Frankly, your body’s detox pathways are always on duty, keeping you alive.
However, you can support these organ systems to help them function at their best. A whole food, plant-powered diet (including vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains) complemented by regular physical activity can improve your body’s ability to detoxify.
Juicing for skin health
According to one study, citrus-based juices might help preserve skin health by reducing oxidative stress, which causes the skin to age more quickly (
Similarly, pomegranate juice has been shown to help prevent signs of skin aging (
However, these were both animal studies, which means the results need to be replicated in humans before any conclusions can be drawn.
It’s best to talk with a medical professional before embarking on any new diet regimen or juice cleanse.
Juice enthusiasts claim that juicing is a simple way to get the vitamins and minerals that many people lack, but there’s insufficient evidence to support these claims. Whole fruits and vegetables are usually more advantageous, thanks to their fiber content.
Most people who do juice cleanses don’t eat enough solid food to meet their energy needs.
Consider how a 10-day cleanse might make you feel: It could lead to tiredness, headaches, irritability, or other issues resulting from hunger and energy restriction.
What’s more, because juices lack fiber, they’re less filling than whole fruits and vegetables. Many store-bought juices are also high in sugar and artificial additives.
These factors may make it easier to consume a large amount of juice in a short period. As a result, you may take in more sugar than intended when consuming excessive amounts of juice.
It’s important to get enough fiber in your diet, as fiber offers a plethora of health benefits. It promotes blood sugar management, heart health, and gut health and is associated with a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer (
Juicing may increase the risk of eating disorders
Juicing is not necessarily a safe practice. It could impact your relationship with food.
For instance, some people may begin to see certain foods as solely “good” or “bad,” rather than recognizing that a balanced diet can include all types of foods. Some people may also develop disordered eating patterns.
An obsessive preoccupation with health-promoting foods such as fruits and vegetables and an avoidance of foods considered “less healthy” can lead to orthorexia nervosa, a restrictive eating disorder (
Additionally, some research suggests a link between juice cleanses and eating disorders (
If you find yourself caught in a food-related loop — preoccupied with food or your body size, feeling guilty about your food choices, or struggling to stop attempting restrictive diets such as juice cleanses — consider consulting a healthcare professional for support, as these could be signs of disordered eating.
Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, age, socioeconomic status, or other identities.
They can be caused by any combination of biological, social, cultural, and environmental factors — not just by exposure to diet culture.
Feel empowered to talk with a qualified healthcare professional such as a registered dietitian if you’re struggling.
You can also chat, call, or text anonymously with trained volunteers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline for free or explore the organization’s free and low cost resources.
Juice cleanses aren’t recommended. Frequently relying on such restrictive diets is especially problematic.
The fact is that these diets are not sustainable long-term, and the potential benefits aren’t impressive, especially once you factor in the price tags of store-bought juices.
Instead, you may want to try some of these strategies to support your health:
- Limit your sugar intake by focusing on fiber-rich whole fruits and vegetables. If you are going to juice, increase the proportion of vegetables to fruits, because vegetables are typically lower in sugar.
- If you’re a drink devotee, consider smoothies because they have more fiber than juices.
- If your current diet is centered on fast or ultra-processed foods and convenience meals, overhauling it may seem overwhelming. Instead, you can try adding one fruit or vegetable each day until it becomes part of your daily routine and build up from there.
- Focus on finding foods you enjoy rather than trying to drastically change what you eat overnight. For instance, pairing new foods with familiar favorites can make the experience less daunting.
- Notice when feelings or situations trigger emotional eating. Then, you can learn how to manage these in other ways.
- Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. That’s a more sustainable way to handle cravings and manage portion sizes.
- Take a closer look at your relationship with food. Are there any signs of disordered eating (such as an obsessive focus on dieting, restricting or purging behaviors, food fears, or stress related to food)? If so, seek professional help.
- Eat plenty of vegetables throughout the day. Fill half your plate with vegetables at mealtimes, and when hunger strikes, snack on raw vegetables and fruits. You can cut them up ahead of time to make them easier to grab quickly!
- If you’re not a fan of vegetables, experiment with new recipes to find those that appeal to your taste.
A nutritious diet filled with whole foods is key for optimal health and disease prevention. Juices can complement your diet, but they shouldn’t replace solid food.
There is a lack of scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of juice cleanses.
Juices lack fiber, which offers a slew of health benefits. Fiber helps with blood sugar management, protects your heart, and has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Juice cleanses are not suitable for everyone, and they might lead to an unhealthy relationship with food or to eating disorders.
You can support your health in other ways. For example, you can try to cut back on sugar, increase the amount of vegetables you eat, enjoy whole fruits more often, limit ultra-processed foods, and practice mindful eating.
Just one thing
Our culture thrives on quick-fix solutions, and we’re eager to test them out on our health and well-being. Indeed, it’s easy to be persuaded by the promise of a miraculous juice cleanse that will help you lose weight and rid your body of toxins.
But these claims don’t hold true. It’s much more beneficial to learn and practice healthy living habits than it is to try crash diets or juice cleanses.
After all, maintaining good health may require long-term behavior adjustments, and following the latest health craze can have consequences. Implementing a healthy lifestyle is well worth your time, because your health should be a priority.