A juice cleanse is a short-term diet where you replace solid foods with fruit and vegetable juices.
Though they’re not meant to be a long-term solution for health, juice cleanses can be a good way get started with a weight loss program or a healthier lifestyle.
However, if done for too long or too aggressively, a juice cleanse can be harmful. Want to get juice cleanses right? Keep these key points in mind for a successful juice cleanse.
Juice cleanse benefits
1. A juice cleanse can clean out your body in a few days
A juice cleanse is a short-term fast that usually involves stopping all solid food consumption for a few days and consuming only juices from fruits and vegetables that are rich in micronutrients.
A juice cleanse offers the opportunity to rapidly boost your body’s levels of vitamins and minerals, as well as a way to mentally reset and break out of a bad dietary routine.
Juicing also has some drawbacks, which is why most juicing programs are only a couple of days long. Any longer and the negative side effects start to pile up, outweighing any initial benefits.
2. A short-term juice can lower your blood lipids, cholesterol, and insulin levels
While there’s very little direct clinical literature on the physiological effects of most popular juicing programs, one study was published in the journal Complementary Medicine Research by a group of researchers in Germany that examined the effects of an eight-day juicing cleanse on five healthy male volunteers (1).
The men fasted for eight days, consuming only a juice blend. Throughout the study, the researchers tracked levels of insulin, blood triglycerides, and very low-density lipoprotein—also known as “bad cholesterol.”
At the study’s conclusion, the researchers found that the juicing protocol had lowered the levels of all three of these biomarkers in the experimental subjects.
While juicing is not a viable long-term solution for keeping your levels of insulin, blood lipids, and cholesterol low, it can be a productive way to kick-start the path to better cardiovascular and metabolic health.
3. Juicing provides a concentrated dose of the beneficial ingredients in fruits and vegetables
A high fruit and vegetable intake is one of the most consistently-identified predictors of long-term health in large epidemiological studies.
For example, a 2002 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined data from a group of almost 10,000 subjects who were surveyed on a regular basis about their dietary habits, and followed to examine their health outcomes (2).
The data showed that high intake of both fruits and vegetables (over three servings per day) was associated with substantial decreases in stroke, cardiovascular disease, and death from any cause.
4. You can limit the negative effects of juicing by taking a calcium supplement
One of the major reasons why juicing is only suitable for short-term use is the fact that most fruits and vegetable juices do not have a balanced distribution of micronutrients.
While juicing can give your body a lot of antioxidants, you do miss out on some other vitamins and minerals, and this imbalance can cause extra stress on your body.
One specific effect of juicing is increased stress on your kidneys as a result of the high levels of a compound called oxalate in common juice cleanse ingredients like kale, spinach, and beets (3).
Normally, in a healthy and well-balanced diet, an adequate calcium intake will block excessive amounts of oxalates from being absorbed.
However, when juicing, your calcium intake is usually quite low. To solve this, you can take a calcium supplement to block oxalates from being absorbed and take some stress off your kidneys. Even so, you should still limit the duration of your juice cleanse to just a couple of days.
5. Using a green drink in a juice cleanse could boost your antioxidant levels
While traditional juice cleanses use only the strict products of juicing fruits or vegetables, adding in a green drink as part of a juice cleanse is becoming increasingly popular as it becomes more and more clear that these drinks can substantially boost your antioxidant levels.
A review article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2011 took a look at the range of research studies that have been conducted on “fruit and vegetable concentrate supplements” (read: green drinks) in humans (4).
The authors concluded that green drinks were an effective way to increase levels of antioxidant provitamins in the blood. Further, green drinks were found to be an effective way to reduce homocysteine levels and other biomarkers indicating oxidative stress.
Juice cleanse side effects
Juicing for long periods of time can be harmful. A juice cleanse was never meant to be a long-term health solution; it’s a short-term detox and reset to get you back on track.
No juice cleanse product is going to contain a well-balanced distribution of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients—if it did, it would just be a meal replacement shake. The biggest risk to juicing exists in people with kidney disease, as juicing, especially when done for a long time, can put a lot of stress on your kidneys.
Excessive juicing can cause kidney damage. One case report published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease described a patient who had been juicing for six weeks and suffered kidney damage due to high levels of oxalate and inadequate calcium intake (5). This patient also had pre-existing chronic kidney disease, which predisposed her to acute kidney injury.
Juice cleanse usage
Following a juice cleanse for no more than about a week appears to be optimal. The one clinical study on juicing that exists in the scientific literature used an eight-day duration, but the best results were actually achieved about two to three days into the juice cleanse.
After that, your body re-adjusts and your blood lipids, cholesterol, and insulin start to creep back towards their baseline values.
As mentioned earlier, a calcium supplement, along with sticking to a short-term juicing program (think three days, not six weeks) can avoid the side effects that accompany long juice cleanses.
Juice cleanse benefits FAQ
Q: How much weight can you lose with a juice cleanse?
A: While you might lose up to several pounds on a juice cleanse, it’s not likely to be meaningful weight loss. You’ll likely be in a moderate caloric deficit over the course of three days or so, but this is not likely to produce substantial amounts of fat burning. Instead, any weight you lose is probably water weight (like you’d lose on a diuretic).
However, a juice cleanse is a good way to kick off a weight loss program, since it could be easier to switch from a juice cleanse into a planned out diet than to switch from your typical eating pattern to the same planned out diet.
Q: What is a juice cleanse?
A: A juice cleanse is a very brief period where you swear off all solid foods, sustaining yourself only on juices or powdered drinks containing nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
Juice cleanses typically last only a few days, and are designed to shock your system into changing trajectory towards a healthier lifestyle. After finishing a juice cleanse, many people find it easier to stick to a healthy diet and workout schedule.
Contrary to popular opinion, juice cleanses are not a sustainable way to lose weight long-term, as continuing on a juice cleanse for more than a few days will leave you lacking in several key vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, like vitamin B, calcium, fiber, and protein.
Q: What can you eat on a juice cleanse?
A: Ideally, you don’t eat anything on a juice cleanse (hence the name), but some people will supplement their juice cleanse with high-fiber foods that are healthy and in the spirit of a juice cleanse, like a kale and spinach salad with olive oil, for example.
If you feel like you need food during your juice cleanse, it might be better to just end the cleanse early and start up with the healthy diet you planned to start afterwards—after all, the entire point of a juice cleanse is to jump-start your body and start off on a healthy long-term plan for health and wellness.
Q: What does a juice cleanse do to your body?
A: In the short term, a juice cleanse has been demonstrated to both raise your levels of antioxidants and nutrients in your blood, and decrease levels of blood lipids.
While a juice cleanse is not a great long-term strategy to achieve these goals (they’re only supposed to last for a few days, after all), a juice cleanse is nevertheless an effective way to quickly boost your body’s antioxidant levels and get a rapid decrease in blood lipids, a trend which you can hopefully sustain by transitioning into a healthy diet and exercise routine after finishing your juice cleanse.
Many people find that a juice cleanse is a good “shock to the system” to jolt their body out of bad health habits and make a commitment to a better lifestyle.
Related: Our top juice cleanse picks
A juice cleanse is a short, intense diet that can kick-start a weight loss diet or a new and improved health routine.
Though they’re less well-researched than more established supplementation strategies, some research indicates you can get a quick boost in measures of health, like blood lipids and antioxidant levels.