While some companies claim that pressed juicing delivers up to four times the nutrients of other juices, nutritionists say that juice itself can't replace a balanced diet of whole foods. “It’s better to get plant foods in their whole form because a lot of wonderful fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals that you’re not eating. What’s left behind by juicing may actually be the best part,” Joan Salge Blake, nutritionist, clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and author of Nutrition and You, says.
Andrea Giancoli, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson and dietician who specializes in vegetarian diets, agrees. “Oftentimes, what’s happening when you juice is that you’re removing a lot of the plant fiber, which is something we want to have,” she says.
As an occasional detox, though, can't a juice cleanse give your body a break? Actually, that's not necessary, says Salge Blake. “Your body is so smart,” she says, “and thank goodness — because we oftentimes do silly things and don’t eat correctly. And that’s why we’re so grateful that our body is so smart and is able to adapt." According to Salge Blake, the body's organs and systems clean themselves — without the help of a juice cleanse. Giancoli agrees, saying, “There’s no need to do something like a detox. Our body does that on its own.”
More importantly, says Salge Blake, going on a juice cleanse isn't a risk-free endeavor. She points to dangers in fully absorbing these programs and the nutrients they provide, as some don’t include enough protein to sustain a woman throughout the day. “You need a certain amount of dietary protein coming in to maintain your lean muscle mass," she says. "If you don’t eat this protein, your body starts breaking down the protein you already have, to use it for things it really needs like red blood cells and the nervous system." In addition, she says, this process could be potentially fouling up your metabolism — exactly the opposite of what many detox-ers are looking to accomplish.
Still, while juice cleanses have yet to receive unanimous support among nutritionists, doctors, and dietitians, the fever for detoxing shows no signs of slowing down. If you're interested in committing to a three- or five-day plan, make sure you talk to your doctor about its nutrients and whether you need to supplement with a little caloric, protein, or fiber intake to make sure you get complete nutrition. Yes, it's one extra step for those who want to do a cleanse — but what good is downing 20 pounds of veggies if it's not helping your health?
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