Here, Nutritionist, Nadine Hutton, takes a look at one of the most popular detox methods: juice cleansing or juice fasting.
What is juice fasting?
Juice fasting, is a diet consuming only fresh fruit and vegetable juices for duration of 3-30 days.
Advocates of the juice fast claim that it gives your digestive system a rest, allowing your body to focus on other important biological activities and therefore helping you lose weight and detox. Other health claims include curing chronic pain, depression and arthritis.
What does the science say?
From a scientific standpoint the health claims of juice fasting rely purely on anecdotal evidence, and many health professionals consider this type of diet potentially dangerous. “Long-term fasts lead to muscle breakdown and a shortage of many needed nutrients”, says Lona Sandon, Dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Our bodies rely on macronutrients like fat and protein for almost every biological activity. Protein is required for growth, repair and immune function. Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Vitamin D, which rely on fat for absorption, are required for immunity and brain function, and a deficiency of fat in the diet can lead to lowered immunity, brain function, metabolism and hormone imbalances. Another element lacking in juice, is fibre; the indigestible part of food that serves important functions, such as slowing the absorption of sugars into the blood, stimulating the mechanical action of digestion, and helping lower cholesterol. Lack of fibre combined with high sugar levels of the fruit based juices can lead to hunger and mood swings.
Claims that the energy you save on digestion gets diverted to other metabolic processes have absolutely no biological reasoning. The human digestive system is designed to metabolize food, it does not need a rest, and in fact fasting slows your entire metabolism down, not just your digestive system. So in the long run this will make it more difficult to lose weight, and although people can quickly drop pounds on these diets; according to recent research published in the journal of the American Psychological Association the majority of people regain all the weight they lose on any diet, especially the highly restrictive varieties.
As to claims of detoxing there is no evidence that this type of diet is necessary or helpful. “Your body does a perfectly good job of getting rid of toxins on its own,” says Dr. Nasir Moloo, a gastroenterologist in Sacramento, Calif. The juice diet would give your body a rest from processing ingested toxins such as alcohol and preservatives, but no more effectively than a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and high quality proteins. There are ways you can support your body’s detoxification mechanisms to be more effective, which we shall look at in a future post.
The juice fast can upset blood sugar, potassium and sodium levels in the body, and should be avoided by those with certain health problems such as diabetes, heart or kidney disease or women who are pregnant or nursing. Dietitians and health professionals are also concerned that this type of fasting diet can encourage eating disorders.
If you are looking for a magic bullet solution to health problems or to atone for seasonal overindulgence, juice fasting is definitely not the solution. However it is not all bad news, and in moderation juices are an excellent way of acquiring vitamins, minerals and those anti-ageing phytonutrients.
The main thing to take away is that juices should be an addition to, and not a replacement for meals and a part of a balanced healthy diet.
Why not try adding one of these juices to your diet this month!
For Immunity: carrot, ginger, kale, apple, lemon.
For Skin: cucumber, mint, watermelon, celery.
For General Cleansing: kale, beetroot, celery, apple, carrot, ginger, lemon.
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