Juice Cleanses: Are they really that cleansing?

Juice was a childhood favorite of mine. I remember my mom greeting me with a bright green, Juicy Juice juicebox complete with an Arthur theme after pre-school. The sugar-saturated beverage put me on a thirty minute sugar high (which I’m positive drove my mom absolutely crazy), followed by an energy crash bigger than the 2008 stock market.

Flash forward to 2016, and juice is no longer something anxious mothers use to satiate their boisterous toddlers. Today, juice is the epicenter of the latest diet fad: the juice cleanse. During a juice cleanse, individuals drink nothing but preselected juices for as little as two days to as long as a week. The juice cleanse claims that the average everyday lifestyle and diet can make one feel tired, bloated, and under-the-weather due to the buildup of internal stress and toxins, which can be reversed by a rejuvenating juice cleanse that detoxifies and refreshes the body.

Juice cleanses may be marketed as the solve-all-cure-all of everyday maladies, but do they live up to the hype? In fact, are they even healthy at all? Turns out the answer is no. Juice cleanses aren’t that great for your body, though they probably won’t hurt you either. Regardless of whether or not you plan on partaking in this diet fad, it’s important to know the facts regarding juice cleanses.

For starters, your body doesn’t need to detox by going on a special diet for several days. Various molecules, enzymes, and organs in your body constantly detoxify your bloodstream and your organs. In fact, that is the sole function of the liver and kidneys. Everyday functions like pooping, breathing, and sweating help detox your body as well. Furthermore, refraining from eating anything “toxic” for a few days doesn’t magically reverse years of poor diet choices, nor does it change your lifestyle forever. During a juice cleanse, people might feel lighter and less bloated, a phenomena mainly due to loss of water weight. A juice cleanse can’t remedy years of fast food runs and binge drinking, nor will it permanently alter someone’s diet for the better.

Nutritionally, juice cleanses again fail to deliver supernatural results. Many of the nutrients in fruits and veggies are lost during the juicing process. One such incredibly important nutrient is fiber, which is critically  important for the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, can prevent certain cancers, and helps you feel full. Fiber is found in the pulp and the skin of fruits and vegetables, otherwise known as things that often don’t make it into the juice. Fruits and vitamins also lack many essential amino acids that are necessary for your body to manufacture certain proteins. They also lack the fat necessary to metabolize fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A. In addition to lacking necessary nutrients, juice is comprised of unnecessary chemicals such as  sugar; during a juice cleanse, a person’s blood sugar is elevated significantly, forcing their body to produce more insulin and leading to extreme sugar highs and lows. Finally, most juice cleanses cap out at less than 1,000 calories, with very few calories coming from healthy  sources such as carbohydrates. The juice cleanse prescribed to make people feel lighter and happier  leaves merely a feeling of perpetual hunger and fatigue

Last but not least is the financial impact of a juice cleanse. The unpasteurized designer juice industry is currently valued at five billion dollars, and it’s predicted to increase by four to eight percent every year. A single bottle of juice at the popular New York City juice bar chain Juice Press costs $13.07, while a bottle from Whole Foods costs $10. The BluePrint juice cleanse costs a whopping $75 a day for only a portion of the required daily nutrients. Juice cleanses are only affordable for a certain percentage of the American populace, namely the celebrities and lifestyle bloggers that clog our Instagram feeds. In reality, juice cleanses further perpetuate the stereotype of unhealthily thin, perfect bodies by encouraging an unhealthy relationship between people and food, all while putting an astronomical price tag on the perfect body.

Now that I’ve made juice cleanses sound pretty terrible, I’ll end this piece by saying that a juice cleanse won’t hurt anybody but your wallet. For a reasonably healthy person, nutritional and caloric deprivation for a few days won’t do much long-term harm. However, the reasonable alternative to a juice cleanse is leading a moderately healthy lifestyle. Definitely easier said than done, but still not that hard to do. Eating a balanced diet that includes fruits, veggies, complex carbs, and proteins will provide you with all the nutrients you need to feel full and energized, and yes you can sneak in a few cheat meals or a drink on the occasional day. A juice cleanse won’t set you on the path to health and fitness, only you can do that.

Stephanie Smelyansky is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College. Contact her at stephanie.smelyansky@yale.edu.

(Featured image from the Food & Health Youtube Channel.)


One Comment

  1. yllesa said:

    Hi Stephanie! Thank you for this healthy and delicious idea, I’m looking forward for another juice tips. Thank you and good day!

    April 18, 2016