Shaw Dietician Weighs in on Juice Cleanses
Some of us can't go more than a few hours without eating. Others are willing to try just the opposite, a “juice cleanse” that can last a few days or even an entire month. Cleansing has been a part of healthy eating and living for decades, but recently juice cleanses have risen in popularity due to the availability of high-quality juicers, documentaries on the subject such as “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead,” and celebrities who endorse or run their own juice cleansing companies.
Those who regularly juice cleanse believe it's a great way to get rid of toxins and improve digestion. Chiropractor and owner of Healthy Habits in Avon, Tom Crisofulli has been herbal cleansing since the mid-'80s, but he finds juice cleanses to be more efficient and easier to follow.
“It's almost like changing the oil in your car,” Crisofulli said. “It's better for the engine, helps clean out the toxins (so) your body can work better, and helps the tissues suffer less trauma. It's also nourishing. You're filling the body with proper nutrition so the body can work like it's supposed to.”
Healthy Habits offers a week-long juice cleanse where participants drink six different juices per day. Drinking juice all day sounds pretty sweet, but a big part of juice cleansing is making “green” juices comprised of mostly vegetables. Live for Balance in Edwards (formerly Finis Boni) also offers a seven to 10-day juice cleanse program.
“So many people hear the word ‘juice' and automatically assume it's going to be some sugary cocktail,” said Liz Ziegler, holistic health coach and owner of Live for Balance. “The juice cleansing I focus on is based on vegetables and low-glycemic fruit (grapefruit and berries are two examples).”
Both Ziegler and Crisofulli juice cleanse about once every season. Ziegler said after doing a juice cleanse she notices a difference not just physically but also emotionally.
“My mood is awesome,” Ziegler said. “My stomach always feels 100 percent better and I crave healthier foods after (cleansing). It shifts your mindset into healthier approaches.”
The risks of juice cleansing vary depending on the person, the type of cleanse they're doing, and for how long. Crisofulli said some people experience a mild detox headache or flu-like symptoms because their bodies are releasing toxins at such a fast rate. Ziegler said those with blood sugar issues or imbalances should consult their doctor before starting a juice cleanse.
Fast results that might not last
There is some debate about whether or not juice cleansing improves one's overall health in the long run. Melaine Hendershott, registered dietitian with the Shaw Regional Cancer in Edwards, thinks our bodies are already designed to clean out toxins on their own.
“If we give (our bodies) the proper fuel, then they can cleanse themselves,” Hendershott said.
Hendershott is not opposed to juice cleansing, but she recommends the average person limit their cleanse to three to five days. Cleansing longer than this could deprive one's body of essential vitamins and nutrients.
“Juice cleanses can be missing a lot of nutrients,” Hendershott said. “Nutrients are defined by things that require us to live. (With cleansing) you could see some fatty acid deficiencies in about two weeks. In general it's not very safe to do a long term juice cleanse.”
Hendershott thinks an easier approach to cleansing would be to focus on developing healthier habits for two weeks. She advises people to drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water daily, get at least eight hours of sleep per night, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods.
“Instead of juicing vegetables, put them on your plate and eat them as raw foods,” Hendershott said. “Avoid red and processed meats, refined grains, and added sugars at that time. For some people it might be more of a challenge. It's easy to say ‘I'm only juicing for three days rather than actually changing my lifestyle.' You have to prepare these foods as opposed to washing some vegetables and throwing them in a juicer.”
Juicing to increase daily fruit and veggie servings
Hendershott said one benefit to juicing is that it can concentrate a vegetable's nutrients. For example, it's easier to consume 15 juiced carrots than it is to eat the same number of carrots whole.
“(Juicing) gives you a higher number of whatever ingredients you're making the juice out of,” Hendershott said. “But you're missing out on fiber (when you juice). Fiber is important for cleansing the bowel and it keeps you fuller longer.”
Currently there is little research suggesting a link between juicing and preventing disease. But there are studies showing that increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in one's daily diet could improve health and prevent heart disease and cancer. A Harvard-based Nurses' Health Study followed 110,000 men and women for 14 years and found that those who averaged more than eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day were 30 percent less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke. Another report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that eating non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, garlic, onions and fruits might protect against several types of cancers. Juicing could help some people increase the number of fruits and vegetables they get in their diet each day.
Cleanse yourself of bad habits
Those who like juice cleansing see it as a way to get back on the healthy eating track and give their bodies a break.
“Our busy lifestyles affect our stress and the way we're choosing to eat,” Ziegler said. “This is a moment to reset, recharge and re-balance (ourselves).”
For those who really can't stomach a day without solid food, maybe cleansing yourself of bad eating habits is the way to go.
“If you want to try (juice cleansing), try it,” Hendershott said. “But if you want to concentrate on a fully clean diet for two weeks, than that's going to actually help in the long run because it's a newly formed habit.”
Until there's research revealing that one can actually eat too many fruits and vegetables, people will continue to seek out quick and easy ways to add them to their diet. If the juicing trend continues, we may even find Bugs Bunny tossing carrots into his newly-purchased Vitamix blender. Even if you're a rabbit who loves carrots, you have to admit they do take an awful lot of time to chew.