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To Juice or Not to Juice?

Learning the ins and outs of a juice cleanse will help you decide if this popular diet trend is a healthy habit to take on.

February 18th, 2013

Your Guide to Juice Cleanses

Do you really need to “cleanse” your body?
Most experts agree that your body gets rid of toxins pretty well on its own and you don’t need to live on liquids for that to happen. “The human body cleanses itself 24/7,” says Samantha Heller, R.D., exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Connecticut. “Your liver, kidneys, lungs and digestive system all work to detoxify and cleanse your body’s immune system on a daily basis.”

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To Juice or Not to Juice?

However, one expert points out that juice can help your liver do the best job possible: “Your liver cleanses your blood stream and clears out toxins that accumulate from the outside,” says Susan Blum, M.D., M.P.H., assistant clinical professor of preventive medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, N.Y. “And giving your liver the nutrients it needs—through fruits, veggies and whole foods—helps it function optimally.” So you don’t need to cleanse your liver, but you can help support the natural process by boosting your nutrient intake. That doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself for an extended period of time to make this happen. (Both of the monitored cleanse options at the Blum Center involve real food as well as juice/smoothies.)

MORE: Why Slow Food is Better Food

Considering a juice cleanse? First, define your ultimate goal to find out if juice can solve your health woes. Do you want to…

Lose weight?
Red light! Do not proceed!

If you drink only liquids for any amount of time, you will likely lose a few pounds. But, what you lose will be mostly water weight and will creep back on as soon as you start to eat real food again (sorry to burst your bubble). What’s more, going on a liquid-only cleanse for longer than three days can backfire, because it puts more stress on your body, and can affect your immune system and your ability to focus, says Heller.

SHARE YOUR SMARTS

In our YouTalk community, a reader asked: "What is your experience with juicing?" Got an answer? Don't keep it to yourself. Share your advice by posting it here.

Reset your palate?
Yellow light/Proceed with caution

Drinking fresh, healthy juice for a day or two can help you put the brakes on overeating and overindulging. However, the real test comes after the cleanse. The trick is to plan ahead before you start, says Heller. So stock your pantry with whole grains, legumes, cottage cheese and healthy sources of protein like tofu and edamame. This way, once you’re feeling refreshed and back on track with healthy eating, you’ll have good-for-you food on hand as you ease back into real food.

MORE: Banish Muffin Top With These Foods

Get more greens in your diet?
Green light/Go for it!

Adding a fresh-pressed juice or smoothie as an afternoon snack or a breakfast alternative every once in a while is a great way to get more important vitamins and antioxidants, says Lisa Drayer, R.D., author of “The Beauty Diet.” Juices can also serve as sources of beauty nutrients if they include compounds like vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are important for your body’s ability to make collagen for glowing skin.

Do you really need to “cleanse” your body?
Most experts agree that your body gets rid of toxins pretty well on its own and you don’t need to live on liquids for that to happen. “The human body cleanses itself 24/7,” says Samantha Heller, R.D., exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Connecticut. “Your liver, kidneys, lungs and digestive system all work to detoxify and cleanse your body’s immune system on a daily basis.”

Thinkstock
To Juice or Not to Juice?

However, one expert points out that juice can help your liver do the best job possible: “Your liver cleanses your blood stream and clears out toxins that accumulate from the outside,” says Susan Blum, M.D., M.P.H., assistant clinical professor of preventive medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, N.Y. “And giving your liver the nutrients it needs—through fruits, veggies and whole foods—helps it function optimally.” So you don’t need to cleanse your liver, but you can help support the natural process by boosting your nutrient intake. That doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself for an extended period of time to make this happen. (Both of the monitored cleanse options at the Blum Center involve real food as well as juice/smoothies.)

MORE: Why Slow Food is Better Food

Considering a juice cleanse? First, define your ultimate goal to find out if juice can solve your health woes. Do you want to…

Lose weight?
Red light! Do not proceed!

If you drink only liquids for any amount of time, you will likely lose a few pounds. But, what you lose will be mostly water weight and will creep back on as soon as you start to eat real food again (sorry to burst your bubble). What’s more, going on a liquid-only cleanse for longer than three days can backfire, because it puts more stress on your body, and can affect your immune system and your ability to focus, says Heller.

SHARE YOUR SMARTS

In our YouTalk community, a reader asked: "What is your experience with juicing?" Got an answer? Don't keep it to yourself. Share your advice by posting it here.

Reset your palate?
Yellow light/Proceed with caution

Drinking fresh, healthy juice for a day or two can help you put the brakes on overeating and overindulging. However, the real test comes after the cleanse. The trick is to plan ahead before you start, says Heller. So stock your pantry with whole grains, legumes, cottage cheese and healthy sources of protein like tofu and edamame. This way, once you’re feeling refreshed and back on track with healthy eating, you’ll have good-for-you food on hand as you ease back into real food.

MORE: Banish Muffin Top With These Foods

Get more greens in your diet?
Green light/Go for it!

Adding a fresh-pressed juice or smoothie as an afternoon snack or a breakfast alternative every once in a while is a great way to get more important vitamins and antioxidants, says Lisa Drayer, R.D., author of “The Beauty Diet.” Juices can also serve as sources of beauty nutrients if they include compounds like vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are important for your body’s ability to make collagen for glowing skin.

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