There has been a lot of hype around juice fasting recently. It seems like every Hollywood actress is touting the amazing results of their own juice fast. Many celebrities are even selling their own juice fasting book, video or product line. But, do they actually work, and are they healthy?
There are a number of different versions of juice fast available, but they are all based on replacing some or all of your meals with fruit or vegetable juices. In the most extreme cases, you drink nothing but juice – no solid food at all. In others, you replace some of your meals with juices, while eliminating certain substances (like meat, sugar, alcohol and caffeine) from the meals you do eat.
Juicing has a certain appeal. After all, fruit and vegetable juices are all natural and full of vitamins. But there is a downside. Most juice extractors on the market today separate the juice from the flesh of the fruit or vegetable. This means that they remove all the natural fiber. And, a juice diet can be expensive, since it can take a large volume of fruits and vegetables to make a relatively small amount of juice (see juicer versus blender below). Fruit juices can also contain a large amount of natural sugar, too, and some juices can be relatively high in calories.
Here’s the big one, though. There’s almost no evidence that juicing provides any medical benefit at all. In fact, there have been no clinical studies that validate the cleansing or health properties of juice fasts. According to Dr. Bennett Roth, chief of gastroenterology at UCLA Medical Center, “The concept [of juicing] has no basis in scientific support.” This doesn’t stop supporters from championing the benefits, though.
That said, we have tried juicing ourselves, and we enjoy it. If done right, juices can taste great and, when they replace less healthy alternatives, juices can help you eat healthier. If you decide to try juicing, here are some tips you should follow:
Be reasonable and strike a balance. Can humans live on juice alone? Yes, but you probably don’t want to. You will likely get better results, have more energy, and avoid the common side effects of “all juice fasts” (headaches, irritability, loss of energy) by replacing a meal or two each day with juices rather than eliminating all solid food from you diet. Moderation is important with any change in eating habits if you want to make long-term, sustainable changes to your health.
Don’t expect miracles. Juice fasts are not the solution to all the world’s ills. There are lots of claims of miraculous cures, but be very skeptical. Most initial weight loss is a result of water loss and reduced calorie intake (because juices often have fewer calories than the solid foods they replace). They can be healthy, though. Especially if the juices replace other, less healthy foods like soda, fast food, and sugary snacks.
Use a professional-grade blender, not a juicer. There are lots of juicers advertised these days, but juicers extract the juice and leave all the healthy fiber behind. We prefer a professional-grade blender like the Vitamix. It liquefies the whole fruit or vegetable so you get all the vitamins and nutrients, and you don’t throw anything away. This makes for a more filling and healthier juice.
Use a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. When juicing, it’s easy to find a mixture you like and just stay with it. But, your body needs a wide range of healthy foods to ensure it gets all the vitamins and nutrients it needs. Make sure you try different mixtures and use a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.
If you want to really “fast” with juice, only do it for a few days. Even Dr. Oz, a champion of juicing, recommends that you go on a juice fast for no more than a couple of days at a time. In spite of claims that “juicing is a way of life,” most people will be much happier eating a variety of healthy foods, including juices. And, if you approach your own juicing this way, you will still be able to eat with friends, go out to restaurants, and enjoy family meals when you’re not fasting.
The bottom line is this: Juice fasts can be healthy, if done in moderation and you follow the tips here. So, give it a try!
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