Drinking your meals sounds like heaven for some, and hell for others -- but Julie McClure is on a mission to convince either side that it's exactly what they need.
Benourished, McClure's company, is in the business of nutritional cleanses, offering up a variety of meal options to fulfil people's daily caloric intakes. While there are salads and snacks available, the big push is for juice cleanses, a trend that has not been without its controversy.
Medical professionals against the practice emphasize the body's natural cleansing systems and insist there's no reason to try out these regimens -- particularly if they're being used as dieting tactics.
The Master Cleanse, a program based on a book published in the 1940s, is the one often discussed in reference to juice cleanses. It has also, however, added to the controversy, given its focus on laxatives and one juice consisting of lemonade and cayenne pepper.
From McClure's perspective, however, cleanses are less about weight loss, which comes mostly from losing water weight, and much more about nutrition.
"Our philosophy is to give your digestive system a break for a few days," she explains. "Particularly with the standard North American diet, people are eating foods that irritate the body. So we just want to flood you with nutrients in a very clean diet so that more of your energy can be dedicated to your repair and catching up."
The company offers programs of all-juice or juice and food combinations, ranging from two days to a full week. The juices are hydraulically pressed for maximum nutritional value, and include products with names like Zesty Lemonade juice (for better circulation) and Maca Magic snack bar (to balance energy without caffine).
SEE: 10 of the most cleansing ingredients for your system included in Benourished's products. Story continues below:
Maple syrup, found in Benourished's Almond Bliss juice, contains manganese and zinc, which are good enzymes for detoxification and help the immune system immensely. Zinc can help prevent against damage caused by LDL cholesterol, while manganese assists with antioxidant defenses.
Ginger is known for being a great solution to nausea, but it's also included in cleansing juices thanks to its stimulation of the digestive tract. The root, in any of its form, can help move things out of the intestines, as well as aid in gas pains.
They're the colour of the blood, and that's no coincidence -- beets are used by athletes as a post-recovery juice because they're great for red blood cells, thanks to being a rich source of vegetarian iron. It's also great for liver detoxification. But watch for beeturia, which occurs in 15% of the population. It's harmless, but can turn urine or feces pink or red -- so it can be a little scary to see in the washroom.
Julie McClure, owner of Benourished, is a believer in chlorophyll as an energy booster. She tends to rely on Swiss chard, as well as other leafy greens, for its high 'dosage.'
Pineapple is multi-purpose in its usefulness. It's anti-inflammatory in nature, which helps during cleanses, but the bromelain found in the fruit and the stem specifically helps with digestion by breaking down proteins. The vitamin C found in pineapple also helps the immune system.
Aloe vera may best be known as a healer when it comes to sunburns, but few people know that when ingested, it's also a laxative, albeit a gentle one. It helps cleanse food 'residue' from the digestive tract to help it work more efficiently.
"Camu-camu berry is what they call a superfood," explains McClure. "It's a berry that's said to be one of the richest sources of vitamin C. One of the things I've seen quoted in terms of the berry is that one berry can have 30 to 60 times the amount of vitamin C as an orange."
To replace the caffeine people usually get in coffee, McClure adds a white tea to their plan. White tea is the highest tea in antioxidants, and McClure makes sure to use an organic option, as tea is one of most sprayed crops. She notes green tea is also great for detoxing.
This root vegetable from Peru is considered an adaptogen for helping balance energy levels in the body -- doctors have found that the nutrients within it help the endocrine system, the adrenal glands and the thyroid, as well as regulating the metabolism and boosting energy levels.
Cinnamon is the sweetest thing to happen to flavourings -- after all, it literally makes things taste better, it helps with blood sugar regulation, and it's a carminative, which helps with bloating.
Side effects on the first or second day of a cleanse can include headaches, symptoms of a cold and low energy, and some people have complained of nausea. But the benefits, McClure notes, include feeling less bloated, feeling generally lighter, brighter eyes, glowing skin, and better sleep.
"Sleep’s been a big one," she says. "I think you’re taking out a lot of the stimulants and it’s very clean eating, so you sleep soundly."
For those diving into the cleanse, she recommends phasing out dairy, meat, eggs, gluten, refined sugars, alcohol, coffee, corn and soy beforehand -- the major allergens McClure says irritate the digestive system.
Though McClure says none of her clients have had adverse reactions to the cleanse, she does warn against those who are pregnant, breast-feeding, have a compromised immune system or have diabetes doing a cleanse. And she tells all clients to let their GPs know about any changes in diet.
McClure, who studied naturopathic medicine and credits nutrition with helping her get over a chronic migraine condition, stresses the importance of changing your diet slowly. "Even adding a Green Alkalizer juice [based on leafy greens] to your normal diet is a major step forward if you're used to a lot of processed foods."