The concept of consuming 20 pounds of body-cleansing fruits and veggies in a day can seem a both uplifting and daunting. On one hand, with that kind of fuel, who wouldn’t feel like a bionic superhero, teeming with the energy to leap buildings (or at least roles — from parent to office champ to lover) in a single bound? But chewing through 20 pounds of veggies? Who’s got the time?
That's where juice comes in. Cold-pressed juice companies such as BluePrint Cleanse, Pressed Juicery, Ritual Cleanse, and Red Carpet Cleanse are having a major moment, appealing to health-concious consumers and celebrities seeking good taste and convenience. They absorb the work of shopping for, cleaning and preparing organic veggies and fruits by blending concoctions crammed with good-for-you foods like spinach, kale, romaine, celery and lemon, to consume on the go.
What’s more, many of them deliver one, three- and five-day cleanses that claim to detoxify your body, de-fuzz your mind, and restore vitality. All those healthy ingredients without even having to think about what’s for dinner? It’s enough to make juice cleanses seem like a no-brainer. If you can afford the 70ish dollar-a-day charge, why not simply drink your calories with a numbered sequence of vegan and raw-food drinks?
Juice devotees swear by the idea, with some saying that an occasional cleanse can be nothing short of life-changing. "Cleansing makes me feel more energetic, consistent, clear-headed, and lighter overall," says Jessica Kill, 37, a partner at Popular Press Media Group in Beverly Hills. "It gives me better skin and digestion, but most importantly, I like that I'm putting clean, natural, living food into my body. Like my mentor, Dr. Susan Udry, says, 'Dead food feeds dead cells. Living food feeds living cells.'"
Similarly, Patty Jeydel, a 31-year old legal recruiter from New York City, who adopted a vegan diet a year and a half ago, says juice gives her more a.m. pep — and keeps her on a healthy nutritional path, too. “I've never had a strong reaction to caffeine, but the greener the juice [I drink], the more I feel what I imagine coffee drinkers feel every morning," she says. "I attribute my increased energy, along with my greatly improved disposition and complexion, to my rehabilitated digestion, which is never better than when my day begins with a large dose of hydrating chlorophyll."
There's little doubt that juice cleansing is popular among its growing number of adherents. But, can cleanses truly work body magic — leading to weight loss, clearer thinking, and glowing skin? To find out, we turned to some nutrition experts.
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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