Are juice-only detoxifying or damaging? We ask two nutrition experts
Every year around this time, slimming fever starts to take hold as the weather cools and the festive season approaches. Some expats are determined to go home for the holidays looking more slender than when they arrived, while others staying in the city aim to squeeze into a designer outfit for a seasonal party. As a result, it’s not only exercise regimes that increase in popularity: diets come under scrutiny too. Some opt for a total overhaul of their eating habits, while others plump for every nutritionist’s nightmare: the crash/starvation diet (we’ve all been there).
But what about the classic juice cleanse or “liquid fast”? This involves drinking only fruit and vegetable juice for a set period: claimed benefits range from aiding weight loss to eliminating toxins from the body, while some even promote themselves as an alternative medicine. But do juice diets work, and are they any good for you? We asked two Gulf-based nutritionists to share their views.
For (in some cases)
Kaya Peters, whole food nutritionist and holistic health practitioner ‘While juice detoxes can be detrimental for some people, they can be very good for others. For those who live an extremely toxic lifestyle, with an abundance of refined products, intoxicants, sugars, and so on, a juice diet can be very helpful, especially if they suffer from syndromes that traditional Chinese medicine classifies as “liver stagnation” or “heat”.
‘Juices are detoxifying, and will help you lose weight very quickly, although the weight usually returns straight after returning to normal eating.
‘[These programmes] suit people with a robust constitution, congested livers, a history of substance abuse and overeating of heavy, greasy foods. People who have unstable mental conditions could possibly benefit from a juice fast, mainly because of the so-called spiritual aspect: not eating for several days can help you to turn all your senses inwards and focus on the bigger meaning of life. This can be a powerful experience. ‘Detoxing can definitely be beneficial, although I still believe a holistic approach is much more effective in the long run. We need to be educated about proper nutrition, exercise and taking care of ourselves in better, gentler ways.
Against (in all cases)
Allison van Camp, nutrition consultant ‘I don’t recommend juice fasts for anyone – I think they are at best unnecessary, and at worst potentially dangerous. It’s a romantic notion that if you drink just fresh juice, your cells will start to regenerate, weight will drop off and your body will expel lurking toxins. Based on a lack of scientific evidence, and what I know of the human body, I find it hard to believe. The body is already designed to excrete toxins, neutralising or eliminating them using the liver, kidneys, colon, lymph system and skin. ‘If you normally eat junk every day, you’ll probably see some benefits from a juice fast, but generally this type of dieting is little better than other fad diets. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables alone is detoxifying, and the fibre of whole plant foods plays an incredibly important role – but when you juice a plant, you eliminate the fibre.
‘As far as weight loss goes, this isn’t exactly rocket science. It’s hard to drink all your energy needs in the form of juice. One cup of orange juice contains about 120 calories, so you would need to drink 16 cups a day to reach 2,000 calories [the recommended daily amount for an average adult woman]. Based on that, it’s no surprise that many will lose weight on a juice fast, but whether that weight will stay off is another question. If a person returns to their normal eating habits afterwards, then the answer is no.’
One to try
If we haven’t managed to completely put you off, here’s a recipe from Jason Vale ‘the Juice Master’ of 7lb in 7 Days fame to get you started
• ½ lime – peeled • 2 Golden Delicious or Royal Gala apples • ¼ pineapple • ¼ medium cucumber • ¼ ripe avocado • 10oz of fresh wheatgrass • 1 level tsp of spirulina • 1 capsule of acidophilus bacteria powder • Ice cubes
Juicy Instructions Juice the apples, pineapple, cucumber and lime. Put the avocado flesh into a blender along with the ice, wheatgrass, spirulina, and the friendly bacteria powder. Blend everything until smooth, pour and enjoy.
The juice diet: our experience
We limited our diet to juice for three days: here’s what happened
Day 1: The first day on a three-day juice cleanse starts well: the breakfast smoothie is refreshing and tangy. By 4.30pm, however, we’re feeling lightheaded and pretty weak as we head off to try a CrossFit session.
Day 2: We suffer from heartburn all morning, followed by headaches all afternoon. We’re told this is the toughest day but, once we’ve got through it, apparently day three will be a breeze. During the afternoon, we crack and eat a bag of nuts.
Day 3: Less than three full days in and we’re already sick of the once enjoyable and refreshing juices, and have found it hard to concentrate on work in the mornings without the help of coffee and solid food. All the drinks are quite sweet, and we’re soon craving savoury treats.
Unable to face any more juice, we skip the final two drinks of the day and stick to hot water and lemon instead.