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Why You Don’t Need A Juice Cleansing Diet This Week, This Month, Or Ever!

If you feel like some back-to-basics eating is in order due to being overweight or from being a victim of highly processed convenience foods (ie packaged snacks and some fast foods), we get it. But do me (and yourself) a favor and forget the “detox” plans of the juice or soup cleanse variety. Why? Because they don’t actually work, they’re unsustainable, and the very nature of several day juice cleanses is bad for your health.

“A myriad of ‘detoxification’ regimens have now flooded the market based on the traditional but unproven concept that our body needs help getting rid of unwanted toxins,” says Sharon Horesh Bergquist, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Emory School of Medicine. “The reality is that your body is a detoxification machine, fully built with its own elaborate way of ridding toxins and unwanted chemicals.”

In fact, you may be surprised by the body’s innate mechanisms for nixing unnecessary materials from our systems. “Residing in your digestive system, respiratory tract, and skin, immune system mediators are ready and armed to catch invaders and turn them over to your liver,” explains Dr. Bergquist. “Your liver then filters and neutralizes toxins and hands them over to your intestines and urine to eliminate them from your body.”

As it turns out, the best way to support these multifaceted mechanisms is by feeding our bodies the right way—with adequate calories, sufficient hydration, and foods that are high in fiber and healthy fats.

Soup and juice cleanses limit your caloric intake by design, but that doesn’t make them healthy or even weight loss-promoting. Diets low in calories can leave you feeling weak and, if done for too long, may negatively affect your metabolism. “Without adequate protein and calorie intake, your body may switch to breaking down muscle for energy,” Dr. Bergquist says. “Over time, that can slow your metabolism.”

Also less-than-ideal: “When we juice foods, we remove all of the fiber from the fruits and vegetables, leaving the sugar behind, which can in turn create blood sugar spikes and leave you ‘hangry’ with a headache,” adds Amy Shapiro, RD, a New York City-based dietitian with Daily Harvest. “People often say headaches are a sign of detoxing but they aren’t, you’re just hungry.”

Cleanses meant to flush out the intestines are equally bad. “While they intend to clear out retained stool, they may inadvertently clean out the healthy, good bacteria in the gut as well,” says Dr. Bergquist. “Without adequate fluid intake, the loose, watery bowel movements can leave you dehydrated and depleted of essential electrolytes.” Yikes.

Perhaps the main problem with “detoxes,” though, is the fact that they’re meant to be quick fixes, which usually means they’re unsustainable in the long term. “Many cleanses don’t provide support on how to eat after you finish the program,” says Shapiro. Not only does this tend to result in feelings of failure post-detox, but it also means there’s nothing stopping you from binging on all the foods you so diligently avoided for the last 72 hours, because why not?

Many of us do need structure when it comes to getting back on track with our eating habits, and that’s A-OK. Instead of choosing a liquid-only meal plan, experts suggest opting for a regimen that eliminates processed foods to help you cut back on salt, added sugars, and saturated fats.

Instead of prescribing juice cleanses, Shapiro gives detox-interested clients daily plans that include nutrient-dense meals like smoothies, loaded salads, roasted veggie bowls, and fruit and nuts as snacks. Tea and water are allowed all day long, while soda, coffee drinks (other than organic black coffee, if tolerated well), and alcohol are off-limits.

Dr. Bergquist also encourages patients to eat simply when they want to reboot their diet. “Reintroduce foods closest to their natural form,” she says. “We know from an abundance of studies that the healthiest dietary patterns in the world are those that include whole or minimally processed, plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and spices.”

Finally, if your historically poor diet is making you feel a case of the guilts or physically bogged down, know this: “What’s done is done, remove the guilt, enjoy the experience, and then go back to healthy eating,” Shapiro tells clients. “Take a break from desserts every night or don’t open a bottle of wine at home; only enjoy a drink when you’re out. Make sure half your plate is filled with veggies at every meal and aim for three to four workouts a week. We get results from the choices we make most of the time; small blips or indulgences don’t mean we have poisoned our bodies and need to detox them.”

Does this sound familiar?? I routinely preach that good health, weight loss, a positive body image— these aren’t found from radical diets, juice cleanses, ridiculous workout regimens, or suddenly switching to a vegan diet. More than likely, you simply need the education and will to make some positive changes to your eating and exercise habits. Very few of us need a 100% complete overhaul of our diets. We simply need to make better choices and be more cognizant of what we put in our mouth each and every day.

It’s a fast paced world we live in, and I completely understand how fast foods and high calorie restaurant meals are an easy trap to fall in to. But in order to lose weight, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and reduce the highs and lows of a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, you’ll need to retool your efforts and learn the simple changes you need to dramatically improve your overall well-being. It’s all about clean eating. That means more fruits, more vegetables, and eating more complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, whole grains, bananas, melons, grapes, legumes, corn, and peas instead of white rice, white bread, cookies, bagels, donuts, and other high sugar foods.

You also need to MOVE MORE! This doesn’t necessarily mean spending an hour at the gym every day (although that’s not a bad idea). It simply means taking a few brisk walks daily, using the stairs instead of the elevator at work, taking your dog for a walk in the morning and evening, doing yard work, cleaning the house, or any other routine daily activity that elevates your heart rate.

As for juice cleanses and radical diets, I strongly recommend you take a hard pass on these plans. You truly do not need or want these quick fixes. What you need are some sustainable and life changing simple adjustments. Remember, our body is already well equipped to detox our system. And when it comes to making food choices, ask yourself this basic question, “Is this food something our ancestors would have ate 200 years ago?” If the answer is a resounding NO, don’t eat it! It’s really that simple.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Much of this article’s content was from a Health.com article written by ANTHEA LEVI, January 10, 2019.

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