Why All The Fuss And Are They Safe?
Lately I’ve noticed that it seems like everyone is either talking about or doing a juice cleanse. It also seems that all the so-called “health experts” are cashing in on this trend and selling juice cleanse products. When asked, people seem to “know” a juice cleanse is good for them, but they don’t seem to know why other than what these so-called “health experts” or the Internet say is good for them. Are Juice Cleanses just a fad or do they really have some worth behind them? Let’s find out…
If you know me, I’m a big fan of making lists. I’m also someone who likes to get to the real truth of everything. Today, I decided to sit down and put together everything I know in one place—here—and really shed some light and truth behind these juice cleanses. Do they really work or not?
What is a Juice Cleanse?
Usually, an individual will make juices the primary part of their daily nutrient intake. In the case of a “Juice Fast” they will limit their diet to only fresh juices for anywhere from one day up to a week.
Claims vs. Facts
Now we get to important part…. What are the claims and what’s the real truth about these cleanses?
- They’re an easy way to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
- You get more health benefits from fruits and vegetables when they’re in juice form.
- They practically guarantee weight loss.
- You’ll feel incredible!
- A juice detox will rid your body of all of that alcohol, chemicals, and fat you’ve consumed.
- They do add lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet. The problem is: we need more than just the juice from these fruits and vegetables. Our bodies require lots of vitamins and minerals to function properly. Fruits and vegetables alone can’t provide all vital nutrients our bodies need.
- Oh sure, drinking the juice from fruits and vegetables does have some digestive benefits (you’re giving your digestive system a break from breaking down fiber). BUT… it’s the fiber in fruits and vegetables that are one of their greatest assets! Despite the claims, juicing actually removes some nutrients when it removes the fiber. There are also other vital nutrients in the skins which peeled away or strained before drinking.
- Most companies offering juice cleansing products and many juice cleanse fanatics claim an all juice diet is great for weight loss. The truth? That isn’t always true. Some of these programs might give you some temporary weight loss, but like all fad diets, what you do after the diet will determine if the weight loss is permanent.
- A juice cleanse can be dangerous! Many commercial juice cleanses—especially if they are claiming “quick weight loss”—are deficient in too many essential nutrients, basically starving your body.
- If you have blood sugar issues, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, or are undergoing chemotherapy, you should NOT partake in a juice cleanse. Ask your health care provider or a licensed nutritionist and they will agree with this point.
- Then there are the juice cleanses and products that are nutritionally poor. They can cause a number of issues: fatigue, nausea, excessive hunger, thirst, and cravings, which will follow the cleanse. Always be skeptical of any diet that requires extreme restrictions and/or cuts out entire food groups—like protein sources. There’s a reason nutrition guidelines have so many categories of food. We need a variety of real food sources so you can get all of your essential vitamins and minerals.
- And finally… Your liver, kidneys, and intestines already filter out the unwanted things you ingest and expel them through urine, bowel movements, breath, and sweat. You have our own natural 24-hour detox system. Extreme diets like some juice cleanses could be putting extra stress on your liver, kidneys, and intestines. Is that what you really want to be doing to your body?
Now here’s just one example how the juicing craze can be bad for your health.
I see this all the time in my neighborhood. There seems to be a yoga studio on every block. They are also conveniently located near a beverage seller—either juices or some variation on coffee. But when a yoga enthusiast finishes class, they are usually hot, sweaty, and in need of a pick-me-up. Should they go for a nonfat latte? No, they usually grab something like kale juice instead. Why kale all of a sudden?
Juicing and kale juice in particular is a popular beverage of choice lately. The claim is that it’s the smart choice for the health conscious person on the go. Busy moms drink it. So do yoga fans. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jared Leto and Salma Hayek drink it too. They’re juicing, so maybe you should be too? What’s easier than chugging down healthy raw fruit-and-vegetable drinks that will “cleanse” your body? You also get a speedy meal, that helps you consume more produce while also losing weight. Sounds great doesn’t it? Or is it?
Here’s Some More Facts
Juice is the new latte. About 92 million gallons of super-premium juices were consumed in 2013, up from 71 million gallons in 2007. This is according to Beverage Marketing Corp., an industry research firm. I’m not surprised. Juice is an easy way to get fresh vegetables and fruit. Consumers are conditioned by marketing companies to like anything that’s “quick” and “easy,” with unsubstantiated claims of “healthy.” Juice makes for a fast breakfast or lunch, and it’s healthful. Or is it? How could something this good be bad for you?
It can be bad for you, “if you have a chronic condition or are taking certain drugs,” says Dr. Adrienne Youdim, MD. from the Center for Weight Loss, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.
“Even if you’re a healthy person, too much juice can be dangerous,” says Carol Koprowski, Ph.D., R.D. Keck School of Medicine, USC, Los Angeles.
Perhaps, before you order a “healthy” juice beverage—especially instead of a lunch consisting of solid food—or you spend hundreds of dollars on some cleanse program, you might want to consider the following ways that juice can hurt you…
1. You Could Be Risking Dangerous Drug Interactions.
Just one example: The high vitamin K content in a spinach-kale smoothie can be life-threatening if you take blood-thinning medications, like warfarin. Such anticoagulants often are prescribed after a stroke, deep vein thrombosis or other circulatory conditions.
Kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, parsley, and mustard greens—green juicers’ favorite ingredients—contain up to 550 micrograms of vitamin K per cup, which can lower the drugs’ anti-clotting activity.
If you take anticoagulants, you should only eat a ½-cup of leafy greens a day, according to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. Eat the same amount every day, because big changes in vitamin K intake could lead to a blood clot, stroke, or death. If you’re one of the 70 million people taking cholesterol-lowering statins, stay away from grapefruit juice. The citrus fruit blocks an intestinal enzyme that controls absorption of drugs such as simvastatin or atorvastatin.
You’ll also face a higher risk of muscle and joint pain, muscle breakdown, liver damage, and kidney failure, if you drink grapefruit juice (or eat the fruit) while taking statins according to the Cleveland Clinic. Grapefruit can also interfere with drugs for high blood pressure, anxiety, allergies, and other ailments according to the Food & Drug Administration.
So as I always caution… talk to your health care provider and/or pharmacist, especially if your are on medication to find out if your prescriptions may interact with any fruits.
2. You Could Develop Diabetes
About 79 million Americans have “Metabolic Syndrome” the “pre-diabetes” according to the American Diabetes Association. That means these people have blood sugar readings that are higher than is considered healthy, but not yet high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. If you are at risk, juicing could put your over the top to full blown diabetes, because it concentrates the sugars mostly by removing the fiber according to the Harvard University 2010 study of 187,000 nurses. That study found that drinking one or more daily servings of apple, orange, grapefruit, and other fruit juices increases the risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes by 21%.
“If you have the Metabolic Syndrome, juicing could lead to blood sugar spikes because you’re getting all the sugar of fruit without the fiber. The fiber in whole fruit and vegetables slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. If you’ve been told you have prediabetes, eat the whole fruit instead. But limit daily intake to one small piece of fruit or one cup of fresh berries or melon,” says Carol Koprowski, Ph.D., R.D. Keck School of Medicine, USC, Los Angeles.
3. You Could Damage Your Kidneys.
If you have kidney problems, you need to beware of fruit and/or vegetable juices that contain high amounts of potassium. The average 8-ounce serving of Kale juice in the typical “cleanse” contains 4½ cups of chopped kale. This can be serious and potentially lethal if your kidneys are weak because of high blood pressure, severe infection, an enlarged prostate, certain drugs, or pregnancy complications. Even most lower-potassium foods are off-limits to people with kidney problems because the amounts add up quickly.
Normal adults need 4,700 mg of potassium daily to keep our hearts and muscles working. If you are healthy, your kidneys will generally excrete any excess. But that doesn’t happen if you have compromised kidneys: Potassium builds up in your blood, raising the risk of a heart attack and/or stroke. People with kidney problems should limit their intake of potassium to 1,500—2,000 mg per day according to the National Kidney Foundation. If you have experienced weakness, numbness, or tingling—all signs of potassium overdose—call your health care provider immediately says Judy D. Simons, M.S., R.D., clinical dietitian & nutritionist at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Roosevelt Clinic, Seattle.
4. You Could Harm Your Thyroid Gland.
Kale, bok choy, cauliflower, collards, and spinach are rich in glucosinolates, which form goitrin, a compound associated with hypothyroidism or insufficient thyroid hormone. High amounts of these vegetables have caused hypothyroidism in animals. One 88-year-old woman lapsed into a coma after eating 3 pounds (or 2 cups of juice) per day of raw bok choy for several months according to the Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. The researchers weren’t sure if her condition was caused by the bok choy or another problem, such as an autoimmune disease.
Eating a variety of whole vegetables daily—not just leafy green ones—is recommended according to the National Cancer Institute. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a fruit-and-veggie calculator to help you determine how much fruit and vegetables you need. Please note that there are no separate intake recommendations for people with hypothyroidism. As always, check with your health care provider before juicing.
5. You Might Get Food Poisoning.
Fresh juice can be unpasteurized. This is in an attempt to preserve taste, nutrients, and to claim that it is “healthful.” But when juices aren’t heated to 154°F for 30 minutes to kill germs, they’re more vulnerable to lethal bacteria, such as salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Toxoplasma gondii according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even if it’s bacteria-free during manufacturing, fresh juice sold in stores may be contaminated after it leaves the plant, during shipping, storage, or even in your home. If you leave a container of juice out overnight, toss it. Failure to do so, may lead to a risk of food poisoning and/or major intestinal problems according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Most store-bought, bottled fresh juices last up to 3 days if refrigerated and unopened. Drink them within a day once you’ve opened the seal,” says Koprowski.
Flash-pasteurizing—heating a juice at 160°F for 15—30 seconds—offers a longer shelf life (about 3 weeks in the refrigerator), while preserving some nutrients. Companies such as Naked Juice and Odwalla prepare their juices using this method. Products that aren’t pasteurized must say so on their labels.
6. Juice Cleanses Don’t Work!
Here’s the one I hope will cause the most controversy, because at least it will bring attention to an issue that needs to reveal the truth.
We clean out our houses, cars, offices, garages, storage sheds, etc. So why not clean out our own bodies? That’s the reasoning behind juice cleanses. They are designed to help rid your body of nasty toxins.
Forget about it!
“The practice is a waste of time and money, because your body doesn’t need cleansing. Our bodies have their own elaborate, elegant detoxification system, called the liver, intestines, and kidneys. It’s foolish to think the body can’t detox on its own,” says Dr. Youdim.
7. Juices Can Be Calorie Bombs.
“If you’re downing up to 96 ounces of juice a day to lose weight—which many fasts recommend—stop! Juicing for days to lose weight can be potentially harmful. That’s because you’re losing out on important nutrients,” says Koprowski.
“Don’t expect to get slimmer. In fact, you might gain weight, because you’re consuming more calories than you realize—mostly from naturally occurring sugar in the fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Youdim.
Some juices and smoothies are more caloric than a meal. For instance, I checked out my local Jamba Juice’s 28-ounce Razzmatazz Smoothie. It’s made with a mix of berry juice, orange sherbet, strawberries, and bananas. It adds up to 500 calories! That’s ¼ of my personal caloric requirements, lacks many of the essential nutrients my body will need, plus will not keep me feeling full for very long. And let’s not forget the natural sugars will increase my appetite for what? More sugary treats later in the day.
“Consume too many juices and/or smoothies and you can end up with a few thousand calories of juice a day!” says Simons. And still be unsatisfied.
“It can take 10—15 oranges or several pounds of carrots to make a meal of juice. Or you could munch on a couple of carrots and feel full,” says Koprowski.
8. You’re Missing Protein.
Just 8-ounces of kale juice is packed with vitamins A (3,500% of your daily recommended amount), K (4,300% of your daily recommended amount), and C (1,200% of your daiy recommended amount), plus iron, calcium, and antioxidants. But you’ll get only about 2—8 grams of protein. That’s not enough, especially if you’re drinking juice as a meal replacement. A 130-pound woman needs 65 grams of protein daily to repair cells and create new ones. A 170-pound man needs 85 grams of protein daily to repair cells and create new ones. Protein also preserves and builds lean body mass, which helps keep you healthy and even burns calories, according to Dr. Youdim.
“Fruits and vegetables [by themselves], however, are not a great source [of protein],” says Koprowski.
9. You’re Seriously Lacking In Fiber.
Juicing gives you some of the nutrients of fresh produce, but it removes the pulp and fiber, which are essential for keeping your colon in good working order, reducing your risk of heart disease, and lowering your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
“When you drink orange juice, you get vitamin C, but it’s not the same as eating an orange. The whole fruit has the vitamin plus fiber, with far fewer calories than a glass of juice. It’ll also keep you full longer,” says Simons.
10. You Pay Big Bucks.
And here’s where juicing hits you in the wallet… A daily juice habit is expensive—about $9.48 per day, or about $3,500 per year—if you buy one every day from any premium juice bar. I spent some time checking my own neighborhood in San Diego, plus went online and found the following:
- The suggested retail price of Evolution Fresh juice ranges from $2.99—$6.99 for a 15.2 fluid ounce bottle at Starbucks, according to National Public Radio (NPR).
- The fresh juice bar at Whole Foods will cost your $5.99—$9.99.
- Premium juice bars in San Diego charge $10—$15 for 8-ounce refreshers, according to Yelp/San Diego.
- Cooler Cleanse 3-Day, by Salma Hayek, sells online for $58 per day (that’s $174) for 3 days of fruits, vegetables, coconut water, and almond milk. I don’t know about you, but I can spend less for a week’s worth of healthy whole foods for two people.
Here’s My Bottom Line
Juices are better than a burger and fries. They should not be a “lifestyle choice.” When used in moderation, they can be a good addition to your nutrition program.
“But if you want to live a healthy life and prevent chronic diseases without spending a fortune, eat whole vegetables and grains, not ‘detox’ protocols,” says Dr. Youdim. And that’s good advice. Drinking your calories is never a good idea.
How Much Do You Know About Food?
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