Are Juice Cleanses Healthy or Harmful For You?

Are Juice Cleanses Healthy or Harmful For You?

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There is no question that Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables. With chronic diseases at an all-time high, the quality of a standard Western diet needs to change. While there is no “best diet,” there are certain pillars in nutrition that can be staples in a diet to optimize quality of life. 

Fruits and vegetables provide a wide variety of benefits. Primarily, fruits and vegetables provide dietary fiber, which can help improve satiety, boost immune and gut health, and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease. Additionally fruits and vegetables provide a rich array of vitamins and minerals that support the digestion and absorption of nutrients and cellular energy support. More recently, antioxidants have been a subject of interest in the nutrition world. Essentially, antioxidants are phytonutrients, commonly found in fruits and vegetables, that neutralize damaging compounds that attack DNA and cell membranes to become stable.  These compounds are called free radicals or radical oxygen species, and can be formed from extreme exercise, stress, and poor diet. 

If fruits and vegetables are so imperative to health, then why do people have a hard time achieving the recommended daily servings? It may be a combination of cost, taste, convenience and confusion as to which type to buy and how to store and prepare. To eliminate confusion, Kroger Health offers “Fresh Picks” for a variety of fruits and vegetables on how to pick, prepare, and store, as well as additional tips and recipes. 

If whole-fruits and vegetables are not for you, juicing may be an option. Juicing provides a convenient way to get the recommended servings plus the benefits mentioned above. However, as a word of caution, juicing should not replace your normal eating habits. They can certainly compliment your meals or even act as a snack, but to substitute your meals with 100% juicing can be dangerous. 

While fruits and vegetables do provide a plethora of nutrients, they do lack other essential dietary requirements. In nutrition, essential means that the body cannot make something, so it must be consumed through the diet or supplementation. A prime example of this are nine essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Fruits and vegetables contain very little, if any, protein, so if juicing were to replace food, you could be deficient in protein which can result in deficiencies and wasting if prolonged. Fruits and vegetables are also not very calorically dense. And if your goal is to lose weight you do need to create a caloric deficit, restricting too much can be counterproductive because your metabolic rate slows down as you lose weight and your body goes into starvation mode. This process is known as adaptive thermogenesis. Calories are your energy source, and if you do not have enough fuel in the tank, your body will not perform optimally. Pure juicing can also lead to a deficiency in a host of other key nutrients such as essential fatty acids (omega-3s), and key micronutrients such as B12, zinc, selenium, iron, vitamin D, and calcium. In recent studies, there was also a case report of oxalate neuropathy, which is damaging to the kidneys if you have a pre-existing renal condition. 

Currently, there is no evidence-based literature demonstrating the effectiveness of juicing over a traditional diet. Furthermore, the lack of standardization of duration and criteria for juicing can be challenging for people to optimize what to include in their juicing regimen. Lastly, because juicing is not a sustainable lifestyle practice, it does not teach permanent behavior change to adapt a healthy lifestyle. Pure juicing may be a quick fix to lose a few pounds, but that is typically water weight and can be gained back very quickly.  

Due to the lack of substantial peer-reviewed evidence, long-term change, and a host of the potential complications and nutrition deficiencies dangerous effects of solely juicing, it is not recommended to completely replace your meals with juicing. Juicing can be a convenient way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, but to sacrifice the joys of eating real food is not necessary to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. 

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

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