Juice Cleanses: Are They Worth It?

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TOTAL CLEANSE DETOX
Total Cleanse's juice cleanses come in a variety of types, like energize, revitalize and refresh. | TheKit.ca

By: Karen Kwan, TheKit.ca

I recently tried a juice cleanse, namely, the Energize version from Total Cleanse. It consisted of six juices a day, and I chose to try it for two days because:

1) I didn't think I'd be able to do much longer than that, nor was I willing to suffer for any longer than a weekend.
2) I wasn't going to forego running (vigorous activity is not recommended while on the cleanse) for more than a couple of days either.

After I tried the cleanse, I was curious to see what a registered dietitian would have to say about it, so I asked Nicole Yuen, an RD based in Toronto, to weigh in.

She began by telling me that while she's sure people have lost weight on this cleanse, a healthy, varied diet and exercise would provide the same benefit, or more so, and the effects would last longer. 'Fantastic,' I thought, as this is exactly what I believed going into the cleanse (I had a hard time believing my body would be better off being on the couch drinking these juices rather than eating fairly reasonably and actually exercising).

And her assessment?

"Overall, I wouldn't recommend this diet," she says. "In the short term for a healthy individual, there is no added benefit compared to a healthy, varied diet that includes adequate hydration, fruits and vegetables, low fat protein and fibre (i.e. whole grains, nuts and seeds)."

And upon closer look at the actual cleanse juices, Yuen broke down the problematic points for me:

Low in calories. At a total of about 1,100 calories per day, this is much lower than most requirements (a young, moderately active female would need somewhere between 1600 to 1800kcal/day).

Low in protein. The amount of protein per juice ranged from 0.1 grams to 7.1 grams per bottle. Plus, the cleanse may not provide a varied amount of protein to obtain all the essential amino acids for muscle repair/function and body function.

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High in carbohydrates. The main energy source here is carbohydrates, from 26.6 grams to 64.8 grams -- specifically sugars. This accounts for more than what is recommended on a daily basis. A sugar, regardless of whether or not it is natural, is still absorbed by your body as a sugar, and having too much can put you at risk for various diseases -- not to mention an unhealthy diet. Eating whole fruits and vegetables gives you added benefits that juice may not.

Low in fibre. Juices, especially those without pulp or seeds, do not have much fibre in them. Soluble and insoluble fibres are both important in gastrointestinal health.

The same nutrients. These juices may have some vitamins, but if you were to consume the same juices for a prolonged period of time, this may put you at nutritional risk, especially as they do not contain certain vitamins.

Sugar content. The juices do contribute to your overall fluids, intake but since they can be high in sugar, you are better off drinking plain water to achieve this requirement.

So, now knowing all this, would I try another juice cleanse? I would consider it, but again only for a short period of time. I wouldn't say I felt positively energized or had greater mental clarity, but I did feel leaner (I don't own a scale, so I'm not certain whether my weight fluctuated at all).

Besides, it meant I didn't have to cook nor clean any dishes all weekend long. That's a bonus in and of itself.

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