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Do Juice Cleanses Actually Work?

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Channel: BrainStuff - HowStuffWorks
Categories: Biology   |   Health   |   Science  
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Juice cleanses are all the rage. But do they actually provide any health benefits? Cristen explains.

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Juice cleanses supposedly rid our bodies of toxins and restore our digestive systems. Depending on the specific and sometimes copyrighted cleanse, you spend a couple days to a couple weeks consuming nothing but liquefied fruits, vegetables, and maybe some nut milk.

Since lots of people are pretty bad about eating enough fruits and vegetables to begin with, this may mean that during a juice cleanse, you’d be getting more vitamins and minerals than usual.

These are substances that your body needs to turn food into energy and to grow and maintain cells. Some even have antioxidant properties, which means that they can help prevent cellular damage under particular circumstances.

The benefits of these vitamins and minerals are real, but keep in mind that your body can only process a certain amount of them at once.

After that, you’ll just excrete the rest.

Research does show that eating fruits and vegetables rich in these substances can decrease your risk of some diseases in the long run.

The key phrase: “in the long run.” The best way to reap these benefits is to consistently eat five or more servings every day. One juice binge isn’t going to do much.

Consuming nothing but juice for a few days also means that you’d get a lot less fiber, fat, and protein -- and way fewer calories -- than normal.

Fats and proteins are just as essential for healthy cellular function as vitamins and minerals. And fiber in the diet is actually part of your colon’s normal cleansing system. It absorbs water (and water-soluble waste) in your intestines and moves everything on out.

Plus, fiber can slow down your body’s uptake of sugar, keeping your blood sugar levels more stable.

Without it -- and considering the high levels of fruit sugars and the limited calories involved in a juice diet -- you’ll feel extra hungry, and may experience dizzying blood sugar spikes and crashes.

A day or two of this shouldn’t do any harm to the average person, but restricting calories and nutrients for much longer than that can trigger starvation mode: Your body doesn’t know when it’s going to get more food, so it slows your metabolism down. When this happens too often, the change can be permanent.

So is it worth it? Psychologically, maybe. You’ll probably lose a little weight due to the decrease in calories, which might be what you’re looking for. And people around the world have been using short fasts to practice mindfulness for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

But physiologically, juice cleanses don’t help clear toxins out of your body. The thing is that your liver and kidneys are natural detoxifiers.

They filter bad stuff out of your body all the time, but they need the full compliment of nutrients provided by a healthy diet in order to do so.


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