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A juice fast is when you exclusively drink juices or other clear liquids (like water and pure leaf tea) for a designated amount of time. (Sorry, but vodka and gin don’t count.)
Many people consider a juice fast for weight loss, to boost their nutrient intake, or both. Pure juice contains lots of minerals, phytonutrients, and vitamins. For some people, drinking kale is a lot easier than downing an entire bowl of it.
Juicing is also thought to give your digestive system a siesta since the process removes a lot of the fruits’ and vegetables’ fiber content that can cause bloating and discomfort.
Fans of juicing also say it:
- boosts the immune system
- removes toxins from the body
- spurs weight loss
Science doesn’t fully back up or disprove these claims, but it does raise some red flags.
Toss whole fruits and veggies into a juicer to extract their liquid goodness. Cleanses vary, but most suggest drinking at least three juices per day, along with ample amounts of water. A fast can last anywhere from 3 to 10 days.
Here’s an example of a typical juice cleanse daily plan:
|When to drink||What to drink|
|wake up||12 oz hot water with lemon or herbal tea with lemon|
|breakfast||16 oz orange juice|
|midmorning snack||16 oz coconut water or clear broth|
|lunch||16 oz green juice|
|afternoon snack||16 oz yellow juice|
|dinner||16 oz green juice|
|dessert||16 oz blue/purple juice|
|bedtime||16 oz herbal tea|
Most plans suggest using a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to provide a variety of nutrients:
|red||tomatoes, watermelon, beets, cherries, plums, chiles, red bell peppers, red apples, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries|
|orange||sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, papaya, oranges, grapefruit, butternut squash, and cantaloupe|
|yellow||pineapple, carambola, yellow peppers, and mango|
|green||kale, lettuce, green peppers, kiwi, green apples, pears, honeydew melon, celery, green grapes, and broccoli|
|blue and purple||blackberries, blueberries, black currants, elderberries, figs, purple grapes, purple carrots, purple peppers, and black currants|
Most doctors aren’t cool with people only drinking juice. Here’s why.
Sometimes, fat is good
Juicing doesn’t provide essential protein or fats for your body to build and maintain muscles. Your brain also relies on fats to perform. So juicing can result in a lack of energy and an inability to focus.
Juice contains a lot of sugar. The average apple has 19 grams of sugar. (To put that in perspective, a 1/2-cup serving of vanilla ice cream has about 14 grams of sugar.) So if your juice has 4 apples in it, you’ll be swimming in sugar, which can lead to weight gain and blood sugar swings.
Stick to an 80/20 ratio: 80 percent veg and 20 percent fruit per juice.
Leafy veggies are amazing for you. Research shows they’re jam-packed with nutrients and are an excellent source of vitamin K. But they’re also high in goitrogens, a substance that can inhibit your iodine absorption. This can reduce thyroid function or cause a goiter (an enlarged thyroid).
Raw green vegetables contain more goitrogens than cooked veggies, and juicing condenses a lot of them into one drink. If you have a predisposition to thyroid issues, talk to your doctor before chugging green juice on the daily.
Your body needs time to adjust to the #JuiceLife. Here are some possible side effects:
- blood sugar spikes
These issues should go away after a couple of days. But if you experience the following symptoms, stop the cleanse ASAP and call your doctor:
- low blood pressure
- explosive, consistent diarrhea
Keeping your cleanse safe
Folks who should chat with their doctor before consuming raw, unpasteurized juices include:
- pregnant people
- older adults
- peeps with diabetes
- kiddos who are still growing
- people with weakened immune systems
Other juicing safety tips
- Wash your fruits and veg before juicing.
- To avoid the growth of harmful bacteria, make only what you can drink in one sitting.
- Clean your juice machine on the reg. Most juicers collect pulp and can quickly become breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria.
- Set realistic health goals. Juice cleanses don’t result in healthy, sustainable weight loss, and any weight fluctuation is likely the result of losing temporary water weight. Instead, consider scientifically supported methods.
Studies show long-term juicing can increase your risk of kidney problems, immune system deficiencies, and malnutrition. The whole point of a cleanse is to feel better, not to throw your entire system out of whack.
Remember learning about the food pyramid in elementary school? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends a diverse diet consisting of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. It’s all about balance. A juice fast doesn’t fall under the USDA’s guidelines.
For healthy weight loss, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming around 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 for men. Keep in mind, this varies a lot depending on your age, sex, weight, and activity level.
IMPORTANT PSA: Always listen to scientists and medical professionals over social media influencers.
If you’d like to safely incorporate fresh juice into your diet, here are some recipes to consider.
Green juice usually includes leafy vegetables like lettuce, kale, and spinach. Celery, cucumbers, and broccoli are also popular additions. For a hint of sweetness, incorporate a green apple or a juicy pear.
You can make a wholesome-AF green juice with the following ingredients:
- 3 cups kale
- 1 medium green apple
- 1 large cucumber
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 handful of parsley (stems included)
Beets are the bomb. Studies show they can reduce inflammation, improve mental function, and control blood pressure.
If you live far away from Schrute Farms (’sup, “Office” fans?), you can probably find them at your local grocery store. Not into it? Add ginger and carrots to round out the beetiness.
The Minimalist Baker has a stellar beet juice recipe made with apples, carrots, ginger, and (of course) beets.
You might be thinking, “Why would I want to drink a potato?” Fair enough. But sweet potatoes actually make irresistibly yummy juice.
Pair your sweet potato juice with pumpkin for a fantastic combo. Try this:
- 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
- 1 cup cubed pumpkin
- 6 carrots, peeled
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
Buying juice can be mighty pricey. If you’re spending big bucks on store-bought ginger shots and celery juice, it might be time to invest in a juicer of your own. You’ll save a ton of $$$ in no time. A lot of machines are surprisingly affordable and very easy to use.
Centrifugal force juicer
This is the most popular type of at-home juicer. Just pop your produce into the tube and bam! Instant juice.
|super easy to assemble and clean||oxidation creates foamy top layer|
|ultra fast, so it’s perf for an on-the-go lifestyle||due to speed, quality of juice is diluted|
|can fit a wide variety of fruits and veg||noisy|
|won’t take up too much room on your counter||good for only small batches of juice, and juice separates quickly|
|affordable||not great for leafy greens or wheatgrass|
Recommended centrifugal force juicer:
Breville BJE820XL Juice Fountain Duo Dual Disc Juicer
This is also known as a slow juicer. A gear crushes the produce against a plastic screen or stainless steel mesh. If your main focus is nutrient retention and fiber, this type of juicer is a solid choice.
|greens (e.g., kale, wheatgrass, and spinach) work great||a smaller chute means more prep work (like chopping the produce beforehand)|
|high juice yield||bulky|
|can be used to make baby food, nut milks, and nut butters||large amounts of pulp|
|will process frozen fruits||can be pricey|
Recommended masticating juicer:
Aicok Slow Masticating Juicer
This is the big cheese of juicers. This type of juicer works in two steps. First, it mashes up the fruits and veg. Then, it slowly presses the juice out with thousands of pounds of pressure, filtering out most pulp.
|minimal juice separation or breakdown||requires reusable or single-use bags to collect pulp|
|great yield from leafy greens||hard to clean|
|little to no foam||bulky|
|pure juice with less than 1 percent pulp||most expensive type of juicer|
Recommended juice press:
Breville 800JEXL Juice Fountain Elite 1000-Watt Juice Extractor
Twin gear juicer
This type of juicer separates produce using two gears. The juice really packs a nutrient punch with tons of fiber, vitamins, and enzymes.
|can also make sorbet, nut butter, baby food, and pasta dough||slow|
|great nutrient yield||lots of pulp|
Recommended twin gear juicer:
Tribest GSE-5000 Greenstar Elite Cold Press Complete Masticating Juicer
Making juice several times a day for 3 to 10 days is a big time commitment. Brands like BluePrint make it easier for you.
They offer a wide variety of juices and cleanse packages so you can buy your juice in bulk. This is less pricey than buying individual bottles from the grocery store. Another perk: They deliver.
Bottom line: Prepackaged cleanses are about convenience. They don’t offer any health or weight loss benefits you can’t achieve with your own DIY juice.
Juicing (in small doses) is delicious and a fab way to boost your nutrient intake. But juice fasting isn’t exactly healthy and doesn’t lead to sustainable weight loss or better overall health.
To get the most out of a juice “fast,” ditch the fasting and instead enjoy a small portion (4 to 8 ounces) of juice with a few meals per week.