Juice Cleanses: Are They Worth It?

Total Cleanse Detox

First Posted: 12/18/11 09:14 PM ET Updated: 12/19/11 07:40 AM ET

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.

See the top ten detoxifying foods from naturopath Dr. John Dempster. Story continues below:

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  • Beetroot

    You can't beat beets! Beets are full of vitamins B3, B6, C and beta-carotene. They're also a valuable source of iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium -- all necessary to promote optimal detoxification and elimination. Beets also support good gallbladder and liver health -- organs that are paramount for breaking down and removing toxins. The high amount of fibre in beetroot improves digestion and helps eliminate bodily waste.

  • Sea Vegetables

    Often known as seaweeds, these amazing foods house powerful antioxidants that help to alkalize the blood and strengthen the digestive tract. The algin in seaweeds absorb toxins from the digestive tract in much the same way a water softener removes the hardness from tap water. Sea vegetables offer the broadest range of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean -- the same minerals that are found in human blood. Dulse is my personal fave.

  • Dandelions

    Dandelions are considered a powerhouse food full of nutrients that are essential for anyone regularly eating the "Standard American Diet" (SAD). They're a rich source of minerals and provide a variety of phytonutrients. They're super antioxidants that support cleansing of the digestive tract and offer great liver support. Try adding dandelion leaves to your salad.

  • Broccoli Sprouts

    Broccoli is part of the powerhouse brassica family of vegetables. Broccoli contains important phytochemicals that are released when they're chopped, chewed, fermented, cooked or digested. The substances are released then break down into sulphorophanes, indole-3-carbinol and D-glucarate, which all have a specific effect on detoxification. Broccoli sprouts can actually provide more benefit than regular broccoli as they contain 20 times more sulfurophane. Add these to your salads and get creative with them in your meals.

  • Flaxseeds

    One of my favourite "superfoods," flaxseeds serve many purposes. When detoxifying your body, it's essential to ensure toxins are eliminated properly. Ground flaxseeds provide a wonderful source of fibre that helps to bind and flush toxins from the intestinal tract. They're also a great source of health promoting omega 3 oils. Try consuming two tablespoons of gound flaxseeds in lemon water every morning

  • Lemons

    Who doesn't love lemon? This wonderful fruit stimulates the release of enzymes and helps convert toxins into a water-soluble form that can be easily excreted from the body. Drinking lemon water, which is alkaline-forming, first thing in the morning will help to balance out the acidity of foods we've consumed. Don't forget to add your ground flaxseeds to enhance toxin removal.

  • Garlic

    No detox plan should be without some garlic: It's a powerful antiviral, antiseptic and antibiotic. Ridding your body of these pathogenic microbes can reduce endogenous (made by your body) toxins. The vital sulphuric compounds garlic contains makes it an essential detoxifier.

  • Artichoke

    Artichokes are not only a very tasty food, they're also incredibly healthy. Artichokes have been shown to increase bile production and purify/protect the liver. They also have a mild diuretic effect on the kidneys, ensuring proper removal of toxins once the liver breaks them down.

  • Turmeric

    Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which gives it its yellow color. The rate at which your detox pathways function depends on your genes, your age, lifestyle and a good supply of nutrients involved in the detox process. Curcumin is used a lot in Ayurvedic Medicine to treat liver and digestive disorders.

  • Apples

    Apples are full of wonderful nutrients. You get fibre, vitamins, minerals and many beneficial phytochemicals such as D-Glucarate, flavonoids and terpenoids. All of these substances are used in the detox process. One flavonoid, Phlorizidin (phlorizin), is thought to help stimulate bile production which helps with detox as the liver gets rid of some toxins through the bile. Apples are also a good source of the soluble fibre pectin, which can help detox metals and food additives from your body. It's best to eat only organic apples as the non-organic varieties are among the top 12 foods that've been found to contain the most pesticide residues.

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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