Juice cleanses are a Band-Aid solution to a bigger dietary problem

I’ve never done a juice cleanse before, so I can’t say I’ve ever experienced the euphoria, weight loss, clarity of thinking, and release of toxins that supposedly occurs when one adheres to a diet of liquefied produce for an extended period of time. I can say, however, that I probably never will. The reality is that I have very little patience for diets that have less to do with eating the right foods and more with deprivation. In that regard, juice cleanses seem eerily similar to anorexia.

In her article “Stop Juicing: It’s not healthy, it’s not virtuous, and it makes you seem like a jerk,” author Katy Waldman points out how juice has become supremely trendy and has even attained verb status (!). Juice cleanses involve dedicating oneself to days or weeks of drinking expensive liquid produce that’s advertised and sold by companies called “Total Cleanse,” “Renovation,” “Life Juice,” “Ritual,” and “Reset.”

“The payoff is supposedly great. Juice, say the websites, and your skin will shimmer with vitality, you’ll have tons of energy and a clear mind, your immune and digestive systems will recover and approach an indestructibility heretofore associated with Norse gods.”

Juice, I say, and you’ll waste large quantities of fiber-rich vegetables and fruit; subject yourself to a masochistic form of nourishment (imagine the number of bathroom trips while drinking juice every 2-3 hours, plus water and herbal tea); deprive yourself of the joys of chewing; and spend exorbitant dollars on an airy (er, juicy?) quest for inner Zen.

Out of curiosity, I checked out the BluePrint Cleanse website to get a better idea of what’s actually supposed to happen on an all-liquid diet, which, for the record, costs a whopping $75 a day:

“Cleansing is about nourishment, NOT deprivation… [It] removes toxins and promotes healing simply by supplying the blood with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that one is able to easily assimilate… Take away the work of digesting food, and one allows the system to rid itself of old toxins while facilitating healing.”

It stands to reason that our bodies will struggle to digest the wrong foods that comprise the Western diet, but how about learning to eat the right foods for our bodies? Dr. Elizabeth Applegate, a nutrition lecturer from the University of California, shares my skepticism: “The whole cleansing concept is silly. The body doesn’t need any help getting rid of compounds it doesn’t want. That’s what your liver and kidneys are for.” What about the psychological benefits of cleansing? “Placebo effect.”

Similarly, Dr. David Heber, an endocrinologist from UC, says, "There's no way a three-day liquid detox diet is going to remove toxins that you may or may not have in your body… The basic problem is this is an unbalanced diet approach." Dr. Roshini Raj, from NYU Medical Center, explains that cleanses really limit people by "not getting enough protein, potentially not enough finer, and even healthy fats." The doctors' advice? Stick to a balanced diet and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables over the long-term.

That's what I thought. If you eat the right foods, there should be nothing to cleanse! The problem is, that's a whole lot harder to do than buy fancy juice packs.

Tags: Diet | Health