We’ve been taught to think in extremes when it comes to food. Take any ‘diet’, once you start you are either “on” the diet or you are “off” the diet – there is no in between. So, when our jeans start to feel a little tight, or we feel a little foggy from summer parties, or just want to detox for whatever reason, often the first thing out of our mouths (or friends’ mouths) is:
I need to do a cleanse.
This often results in looking up one of those pre-packaged 3-day juice cleanses. First of all, #expensive. Secondly, these cleanses are often chalk-full of promise, “tons of nutrients!”, “increased energy!” and above all, “WEIGHT LOSS”. Yes, that deserved capitals because doesn’t it feel like they are screaming it at you?!
SO…We start sippin’ away for the next couple days, waiting to feel AMAZING…
Now, I’m not saying juices are “bad” for you by any means. I’m talking about the extreme no-food-only-juice type of cleanse. I’ll also let you in on HOW to pick the right juice.
When it comes to ‘juice cleanses’, there are many reasons why we eat WHOLE foods and why these are just as effective in helping our body’s natural cleansing process.
Your liver is your body’s #1 detox organ. It has over 500 jobs, many of which revolve around taking toxins out of your body and processing them out through one of our detox pathways (sweat, urine, stool, breathing, etc.) These juice cleanses usually boast being especially great for your liver. Here’s the scoop on why cleansing via only juice is not the quick-and-forever-fix that it promises to be:
No Fibre (And Very Little Protein)
One of the most important aspects of detoxing, energy and weight loss is FIBRE. We need fibre to help balance our blood sugar because it slows the rate that natural and artificial sugars raise our blood-glucose levels. When we ingest sugars along with fibre, we experience more sustained energy as opposed to that spike-crash that comes from eating sugar alone. When we juice produce, you are essentially removing all the fibre so that you are left with, yep you guessed it – Straight. Sugar.
Further, fibre is CRUCIAL for detoxing because it binds to toxins and carries them out through our stool. When we don’t get enough fibre to help push along our digestive process and bind to these toxins, they end up circulating through our system and not being expelled properly. This can lead to constipation, toxic build up, and in more severe cases hormonal imbalances because we clear xenoestrogens out through our stool.
Protein is necessary for energy, mood and muscle building/retention. We need to ingest protein, especially the essential amino acids, to ensure our bodies are stocked with adequate levels and things keep running smoothly. While there is some protein in fruits and vegetables, you cannot get a complete protein profile including the essential ones through juicing. This is another reason why juice cleanses send you on a blood sugar rollercoaster as protein, like fibre, helps to slow the rate that food raises your blood sugar. The lack of protein on juice cleanses is often what makes you people feel lightheaded, low energy and dizzy.
Blood Sugar Disaster (And Weight Gain)
When you eat sugar in the absence of protein, fibre and fat, it skyrockets your blood sugar and requires your pancreas to release more insulin than it normally does. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone that helps bring sugar from your blood into your cells to be used as energy. Insulin has a couple places to store sugar once your cells are satisfied (i.e. your liver and muscles) but once these are also packed with stored sugar, your body begins to store sugar as fat cells. This is why eating sugar in excess is a recipe for weight gain.
SO, cleanses which promise sustainable weight loss while essentially funneling sugar into your body make no sense. Most of these juices are extremely high in fruit and lower in vegetables (because they want them to taste good). So, while you may not be eating a lot of calories on paper, the quality of what you are eating is having a very different effect on your body. You are far more likely to store fat on a juice cleanse than if you were simply to eat those fruits and vegetables in their whole form, fibre and all!
Unsustainable Weight Loss
Your body is smart – all it wants to do is keep you alive. So, when your body thinks you are starving, it immediately goes into survival mode. It takes every piece of food that you ingest and works hard to turn it into fat (stored energy). Therefore, after “starving” for 3 days you may have lost some water weight but the second you eat real food again, your body wants to turn it into fat FAST. This is why the term yo-yo dieting is so real – your weight goes down on extreme diets and then yo-yos back up when you eat (usually even higher than it was before). Yo-yo dieting can extremely mess with your body’s metabolism. The best way to achieve sustainable weight loss is to eat whole foods consistently and focus on feeding your body lots of fibre, fat, protein and vegetables at every meal.
You’re Not Absorbing The Vitamins
This one is a doozy. Aside from juice cleanses promising crazy weight loss results, the next thing they love to promote is how many vitamins/nutrients your body will get. Even on the labels of the juices you will see things like “100% of your daily Vitamin A”. Here’s the thing. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins. This means that your body literally cannot absorb them without the presence of some fat. So, while your body may be flooded with vitamin A from all those carrots in your juice,
You. Are. Not. Absorbing. Any. Of. It.
Not even a tiny bit. Fat is crucial for many other reasons (fighting inflammation, balancing blood sugar, brain health) but also for helping our bodies assimilate nutrients. You know the saying, you are what you eat? More accurately, you are what you absorb.
Why You Should Choose Organic/Cold-Pressed (No, It’s Not Just a Trend!)
As conventional produce grows, it gets sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. The problem is that only a small amount gets sprayed onto the surface of the plants while the rest falls onto the leaves and most of it into the soil. Then, the plants uptake all of their water and nutrients from the soil. As such, the plants grow with pesticides inside of them and not just on the surface. When you juice conventional produce, you are removing any shred of insoluble fibre that helps carry those toxins out of your body. Not to be dramatic, but drinking non-organic juices is a lot like funneling pesticides straight into your body. If you are going to juice, ensure that the produce used was organic.
While cold-pressed juices may seem like a trend, there is some real value behind it. Most juicers will heat the fruits and vegetables as they juice them to get the most out of them in the fastest amount of time. The catch; enzymes and certain vitamins are extremely sensitive to heat. When we heat juices, you kill off a lot of those natural enzymes. These enzymes are a huge reason why raw foods are so beneficial to our bodies. Opting for cold-pressed juice ensures that you are getting those live enzymes and vitamins which remain intact.
HOW TO JUICE RIGHT
I’m not trying to talk you out of ever drinking juice again, I just want you to drink smart. When you drink juices, opt for green ones with little to no fruit in them and try to eat them alongside something with a little fat. For example, a handful of walnuts, some hard-boiled eggs or an avocado. A good rule of thumb for juicing is to eat your fruits and juice your vegetables. Some of my favourite things to juice are parsley and cilantro which bind to heavy metals and carry them out of the body or celery which has been proven to help fight digestive inflammation and protect the body against ulcers. A favourite juice combination of mine goes something like this: Celery, Parsley, Kale, Romaine, Ginger & Lemon. If you’re going to add fruit, try something like a green apple which is naturally lower in sugar.
The main thing I want you to take away from this post is that juices can be used in conjunction with a healthy diet to promote great results. They should not be used as a 3-day starvation/quick fix. Basically, eat real food and your body will thank you in the long term.