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Health and Fitness

To juice or not to juice? The big Juice detox question

Maria Bell
by Maria Bell Published on 22 July 2013
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Fancy a cool glass of celery to take the edge off? How about a refreshing pint of kale? Sounds, er, interesting doesn’t it? Although juice detoxes don’t seem all too appetising, these suspicious looking concoctions are big business to your health and fitness.

Not only to juice detoxes claim health benefits such as boosting energy, cleansing toxins, lowering cholesterol, anti-ageing and general revitalization. You’ll also supposedly be losing weight ALL while eating only nice, healthy fruit and vegetables. Too good to be true?

Along with intermittent fasting, ‘cleansing’ your body with a fresh glass of juice is the celebrity craze this summer which just doesn’t seem to fade away. You only have to look at Twitter or Instagram to see a rather suspicious concoction in a bottle sported by every A-list starlet around. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow (obviously), plus youngsters like Rosie Huntington-Whitley and Millie Mackintosh have gone green.

It’s even got the usually grounded Salma Hayek co-founding her own line of juice drinks – The Cooler Cleanse. Now most of the time we wouldn’t advise doing as the celebs do. The constant stream of Instagram selfies is a hard look to pull off, but when the attention is as big as this, we can’t help but take an interest.

But opinions seem to be divided – is juice detoxing just another fad? Should you really be following the flock and ordering a juicer right this second, or are there a few things you should know? We talked a whole load of experts to get their professional opinions on whether this juice detox trend is everything it’s cracked up to be.

What do juice diets do?

Not to get too confusing too quickly, but there are a lot of different juice detoxes on the market and most offer slightly different benefits, so although we can give you a few examples, there will be variations. However these can mostly be broken down into traditional American juicing diets and ‘blending’ detoxes.

Christine Bailey, Author of The Juice Diet Book says that the general premise of juice diets is to cleanse the body, aid digestion and re-boot.

“Following a Juice detox when it is done correctly can help cleanse the body, give the digestive system a rest and re-energise your whole body. Juicing is a process which extracts water and nutrients from produce and discards the indigestible fibre.

“Without all the fibre, your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food and absorb the nutrients. Freshly squeezed vegetable juices - especially green juices - form part of most healing and detoxification programs because they are so nutrient rich and nourish and restore the body at a cellular level. A juice detox also helps to also clear the body of toxins, helping shift unwanted pounds to leave you feeling cleaner and leaner.”

However, this is where the expert opinions start to differ. The fibre that is removed by traditional juicing is not held as a positive thing by everyone.

Nina Omotoso, Nutritional Therapist at FLO health&nutrition and Revital says that removing fibre from your juice actually increases sugar content.

“This type of eating plan only really works if you choose the right foods to juice; that means focusing more on vegetables while keeping fruit juice to a minimum. This is because juicing removes plant fibre, effectively increasing the sugar-content, so a glass of fruit juice (which tends to have more naturally occurring sugars than vegetable juice) will have a greater impact on our blood sugar levels, which could lead to irritability, headaches and hunger pangs.”

Juice detoxes range from one day to a whole week, can include meal plans or be totally liquid, and can be done once a year or more regularly, it’s totally dependent on your preference and the advice from your GP. The most recent trend has seen people in America and stars like Millie Mackintosh ditch the traditional all out detox for a more regular inclusion of a juice a day for breakfast.

Rosie Huntington Whiteley sipping on a Chlorella smoothie © Twitter.com/rosiehuntingtonwhitely

So is it really your 5 a day in one glass?

One of the biggest claims of incorporating juices into your diet is it’s an easy way to get fruit and vegetables into your every day. But if the fibre is gone, is this all a pointless exercise?

Founder of Nosh Detox, with celeb fans including our very own Stella McCartney,
Geeta Sidhu-Robb says that there is a crucial difference between traditional juice diets originating in America to what her detox has to offer.

“With Nosh we blench and don’t juice. Originally juicing started off as a concept by Americans where they put a product like a carrot through a juicer and threw the pulp on one side and drank all of the sugar water.”

"The benefits with blenching is to have the whole product including the fibre as well. So what you’re doing is basically eating a whole bunch of fruit and vegetables but it’s been broken down so it’s easier for your body to digest. It doesn’t matter what goes in your mouth if your gut can’t absorb it, you’re not going to get the nutrient levels that you need. So what we do is the liquid is basically getting through and about 90% of what’s in our drinks is getting absorbed into your gut.

"The other benefit of blending the fruit and vegetables instead of the old fashion juicing method is that the fructose takes 7 hours for the body to break down so you don’t get sugar highs and lows.”

But don’t think this is where your relationship with fruit and vegetables stop. Geeta says that it is still vitally important to eat whole fruit and vegetables too.

Why do juice detoxes differ from your normal juice?

So we see juice every day, but apart from the obvious healthy options, there are other differences between regular juice and the juice in these detox diets.

Geeta says: “The problem is that when you get pasteurised fruit juices (which means they’ve been boiled) it means all that you are drinking is the sugar in the product and nothing else. If you boil the hell out of anything you don’t really have much left in it.”

“Secondly you have a product that is completely natural, it’s going to be really hard to get a sugar overload from eating 5 apples. So if you keep a product in its natural format as much as possible then it doesn’t have a bad effect on the body. When you start tinkering with it and start adding glucose or added sugars it becomes a problem.”

So don’t think that stockpiling your Tropicana will work because that can only lead to a long road towards malnutrition.

Caroline says: “Juices in the supermarket are heat treated, concentrated and processed and in fact contain very little in the way of nutrients. When you juice it is best to drink them as soon as possible to avoid oxidation of some of the nutrients in the juice.

“Many supermarket versions have been sitting on the shelf for days or weeks so the level of antioxidants and nutrients will be markedly lower. Try to drink your juice or smoothie straight away.”

But fruit isn’t full of sugar?

Well yes, this seems to be the problem. Some smoothies and juice detox drinks have been compared to drinking the equivalent sugar content of a Krispee Creme donut.

The thing to remember is that there is a difference between sugar content and good natural fats. Even a Nosh juice drink has around 200 calories in it, which at first might seem like a shock. But fruit and vegetables also contain vitamins, fibres, phytonutrients and minerals, not the type of ‘bad fats and sugars’ in a donut.

Still, the experts say in order to feel those benefits you need to consume ALL of the fruit – which is turn means steering away from the traditional juice detoxes where the fibre and other nutrients have been somewhat removed. Instead Nina says there are things you can add back in to make drinking all of this fruit and vegetables worthwhile.

“My advice would be to juice vegetables and add a touch of apple or carrot juice for sweetness; and to stir in some of the fibre that’s removed when juicing. Also, add some mashed avocado or stir in milled chia seeds to add healthy essential fats and thicken the texture.”, she advises.

So what are the side-effects?

For most people who start a juice detox there will be side-effects.

Geeta says: “Some people have none and some people have a headache, dehydrated, sometimes nausea and sometime just get a bit bored because they’re not eating. But then again by day 7 your eyes sparkle and you get quite addicted to feeling fantastic, you sleep well, it’s amazing.”

So once you push past the initial horror feeling, drinking all of those fruit and vegetables pays off, big time.

What about the health benefits - Is it safe?

Dr Martin Godfrey GP, and Managing Director of 3 Monkeys Health + Wellness says:

“Medical opinion is generally against detox dieting, although if followed only for a short period it is probably a benign exercise. If followed long-term, then extra vitamins and minerals will be needed to bring natural levels back to normal. Laxatives may also be needed since juice detox diets contain little or no fibre. Other than weight loss, the only proven health benefit is a reduction in the level of cholesterol.”

In fact, for some, the juice detox is not safe at all. So listen up.

Caroline says: “Juice detoxes are not suitable for everyone and you should always check with your GP that it is safe to do a juice detox this is especially true if you are taking medication or have any long term chronic condition.”

Geeta also explains that if you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, step away from the full-blown cleanse. You’re going to need to ease your body in gently to prevent shock.

“Or if your body is severely compromised don’t do it, it’s just going to hurt you. If you’ve been under high levels of stress, don’t do it, if you’ve just been on a big binge then don’t do it, you’re going to blame the fruit, not the alcohol.”, she explains.

But fruit and veg’ – it can’t be a bad thing?

Well no, the overall feeling is that putting the right fruit and vegetables into your body can only be good. Just remember the whole fruit or vegetable means the whole of the benefits.

Nina says: “Eating more raw foods definitely increases our daily intake of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients (health improving nutrients that are only found in plants) - and helps us get closer to reaching the recommended 5 servings a day. Also, cutting out processed, nutrient-poor foods, while eating less meat, dairy, fatty and sugary foods gives our digestive systems a break.”

Whether you’ll feel all of the benefits or just a bit hungry is another question.

So after all that are you guys tempted to try a juice detox? Have you already? Tweet us what you think or your experiences at @sofeminineuk.

by Maria Bell