Celebrities love juice cleanses: Kim Kardashian, Blake Lively, and Gwyneth Paltrow are fans of cleanses like Reset Cleanse and Blueprint Cleanse, and Real Housewife Bethanny Frankel has her own line of Skinnygirl daily cleanse packets. But is this a trend with real benefits, or just an expensive version of that morning glass of OJ?
Juice cleanses seem like an intuitive way to improve health, HuffPost Canada blogger Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says — it appears to make sense that our bodies would need help getting rid of toxins, and that juices made from healthful fruits and vegetables would be a good thing to consume. But the reality is that they just aren't a good choice, said Freedhoff, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute.
"In a sense they prey on society's desire for both convenience and ease, and not thinking. They're based on pseudoscience," he says. "At best they'll provide a person with short-term weight loss. At worst they can cause really serious complications." Those potential complications, Freedhoff notes, include electrolyte disturbances and health problems for diabetics.
That hasn't stopped some celebrities from signing up for juice delivery services, which can run $80 or more per day. Goop founder Paltrow has written about juices from Organic Avenue in NYC on her site. In Canada, Total Cleanse offers juice cleanse programs around the country, saying that their cleanses will give you an energy boost, improve sleep, and up weight loss. But Paltrow's own trainer, Tracey Anderson, is on the record as being against juice cleanses. "I 100 per cent hate them," Anderson told Allure. "I think it’s a really unfortunate trend, and it’s not a sustainable weight-loss program."
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The boring truth, Freedhoff said, is that there just aren't any shortcuts to weight loss and better health: it takes work. Juice can be a part of a healthy diet, he said, with one important rule: make it at home with a juicer or blender that uses the entire fruit or vegetable instead of one that simply extrudes the liquid. Discarding the pulp when you use fruit and veggies to make juices and smoothies gets rid of all the fibre, which is a key part of why those foods are so healthful in the first place. And many of the vitamins and antioxidants found in produce are in the pulp and skin, so keep them makes for a healthier drink on the whole.
Finally, while there are juice bars out there that fit Freedhoff's suggestions, watch out: many use added sugars and just liquid juice or purees, not the whole fruit, which means that you're probably missing out on a lot of what makes fruit so great for us in the first place and consuming a lot of the sugars we should all cut down on.
Here are the 12 best fruits and vegetables to use if you're going to blend your own homemade juices and smoothies
Kale: This vegetable is full of health benefits, including iron and folate. If kale is a bit intense for you, try spinach instead: it's easier to blend smoothly because it's not as tough, and it's a bit sweeter.
Pineapples: This tropical fruit is said to help with protein digestion, thanks to the presence of an enzyme called bromelain.
Cranberries: Here's an old wives' tale that actually has some research behind it: cranberries contain a compound called proanthocyanidins, which can help prevent UTIs by getting bacteria out of your urinary tract.
Blueberries: These little blue berries are filled with antioxidants, the kind that make wine good for our hearts. Other berries like raspberries and strawberries are also a healthy choice for juices.
Cabbage: Surprised? Cabbage is actually a popular juice ingredient due to its water content, its low cost, and its vitamin C and folate.
Celery: You may have written celery off, but it's actually a good way to get extra potassium in your diet, and its high water content makes it an ideal vegetable for juicing.
Carrots: The humble carrot is popular for a reason other than its great taste: it's full of beta-carotene, which our bodies turn into vitamin A. They're also a good juice base because their natural sweetness can help to mask stronger-tasting ingredients like kale or wheatgrass.
Wheatgrass: Ever wonder what those grassy tasting shots are supposed to do for you? These grasses contain vitamins like C, E, and K. It's hard to digest, though, because of its high cellulose content: start small when adding it to your diet.
Lemon: Nutritionists say that lemons are an alkalizing fruit that will help to counteract the effects of acidity in the body. They also contain vitamin C, which will help with the absorption of non-heme iron from vegetables like spinach and kale.
Beets: Beets are sweeter than you might expect them to be, making them a delicious choice for juices and smoothies. They're also a good source of antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Include the beet leaves when you're blending the veggie up: they've got iron, calcium, and beta-carotene!
Cucumbers: This fruit is perfect in the summer as a refreshing, cool-tasting base for juices and smoothies.
Stinging Nettles: Stinging nettles don't feel very good against your skin, but they're good in your belly: they contain iron, vitamin C, and potassium, among other nutrients. You can also boil them to make an infusion and drink it like tea.