Elisabeth Bernard | Food and Health Editor
It’s the reason juicers are common household items, it’s the topic of many “Poosh” articles and it ensures shelves of pre-packaged juices are empty the first week of each January, but what exactly is a juice cleanse?
Most people define a juice cleanse as a type of diet or detox in which someone only consumes juices made from fruits and vegetables in place of meals. The cleanse typically lasts for a week or two and light snacks can be eaten while on the diet. Those who support and advertise juice cleanses claim that they help detoxify your body and lose weight, but participating in this trend could have more negative implications than positive to your physical and mental health.
Consuming a diet consisting only of juices lowers your caloric intake but not sustainably. According to a 2017 study in the “Current Gastroenterology Report,” the intake of calories from juice cleanses is drastically lower than a typical person’s diet, meaning that while you may lose weight temporarily, you will likely gain it back just as quickly.
Not to mention, while in this deficit, you’re more prone to side effects of low blood sugar and energy levels such as headaches, irritability, fatigue and dehydration.
A 2018 study titled “Impact of Dietary Fats on Brain Functions” published in “Current Neuropharmacology” explains that restricting several food groups also leads to insufficient intake of essential proteins and fats, which are necessary in supporting physical processes and brain function within the body. Many celebrities are now speaking out about their negative experiences with cleanses and extreme dieting, including actress and comedian Mindy Kaling. In May 2022, Kaling told “InStyle” that the pressure to diet before big events left her “in a state of deprivation.”
Despite these risks and studies proving that juice cleanses are not effective long-term, many people try this diet because of claims that it detoxes your body, keeps you hydrated, improves kidney health, increases chlorophyll levels and improves overall focus. Below are a few ways you can achieve these goals in a healthier, more sustainable way.
If your goal is detoxifying:
According to a 2014 review in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, there is insufficient evidence that detox diets in humans are necessary or effective, with the exception of a few errored studies and studies conducted on animals. The concept of “detoxifying” is a widely believed myth, but this review explains increasing your intake of fluids and maintaining a balanced diet effectively aids in the body’s natural ability to detoxify. This natural detoxification is all possible through the liver, so if you really want to ensure your body rids itself of toxins, taking care of your liver is key.
Dr. Thomas Aloia, in an article titled “4 Detox Myths: Get the Facts” by Heather Alexander, explains that you can take care of your liver by being conscious of how much fat, sugar and alcohol you consume.
If your goal is increased consumption of chlorophyll:
Yes, the same chlorophyll you learned about in middle school biology class can help with issues like treating anemia and healing wounds or infections, according to a 2008 review organized by Andhra University in India. Chlorophyll may yield several other health benefits like increased energy and hormonal balance.
Juice cleanses are successful in increasing a person’s intake of chlorophyll. This is because the greens in the juices inherently contain high levels of chlorophyll, meaning that you don’t need a juice cleanse to reap the benefits of chlorophyll, you just need to consume more greens alongside the other typical foods in your day-to-day diet. An article published in “Medical News Today” lists foods that contain potent levels of chlorophyll, including spinach, collard greens, broccoli, green cabbage, asparagus, green beans, peas and matcha green tea.
If your goal is increased focus:
Despite claims that juice cleanses can improve focus and decrease “brain fog,” detox diets often lead to underconsumption of calories and healthy fats. This side effect actually increases brain fog and can be detrimental to short term memory and focus, but if you’re a fan of seafood, good news.
A 2017 study published in the National Library of Medicine shows a connection between high levels of omega-3, found in salmon, tuna, herring and sardines, and blood flow in the brain, resulting in better functioning cognition and brain function. If you’re not into fish, omega-3s are also found in flaxseed, nuts and soybeans. Similar to the effects of omega-3s, dark chocolate or cacao can increase blood flow to the brain and improve memory, according to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
If you’re still looking for options, eggs, peanuts, avocados and berries all include vitamins or unsaturated fats that assist in improving brain function.
Moral of the story:
As summer rolls in, it’s easy for many people to feed into the toxic concept that we need to look or eat a certain way in order to get a “bikini body.” Myths about detox diets and juice cleanses appeal to women looking for a way to improve their health, but in reality, these diets have negative effects on mental health and can lead to patterns of disordered eating. Summer is a great time to dedicate some extra free time to your health, so incorporating some of the foods above into your diet could meet your needs. Most of all, summer is a great time to relax and eat whatever makes you feel good.
Elisabeth Bernard serves as our Food and Health Editor. This is her first year with Alice. She is a self-proclaimed “foodie” who loves to try new things. Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, Elisabeth is a rising junior studying Political Science and English with a minor in Spanish.