The juice diet is, in general, a detoxification diet that includes brief periods of consuming all-natural, homemade, fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices only. On the juice diet you consume these juices throughout the day as well as water but avoid solid foods. Though some variations of the juice diet include selected solid foods to reduce or control hunger, such as raw fruits and vegetables, particularly with a high water content, such as cucumbers. The juice diet does not include blended drinks, such as smoothies and shakes that are prepared with fruit. For optimal benefits and high-quality juices, you need to use an actual juicer to squeeze the liquid components out of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The juice diet is short of a complete fasting regime (where only lemon water is consumed). Along with consuming nutritious, natural, homemade fruit and vegetable juices approximately every 90 minutes (1 to 2 liters total), you are to drink 6 to 8 cups of water throughout the day (room temperature is most often recommended). Juice diet websites and books explaining this diet recommend that you follow this diet for a minimum of three days and a maximum of one week. Per juice diet advocates, you can initiate this diet any time of the year but it is easier to follow during the hot summer months, when your body requires additional fluids for optimum hydration.
The three to seven days of actual fasting with juices is only part of the full regimen. One week before you initiate your juice diet, you should begin the planning and preparatory stages. During this week you are to reduce or eliminate foods and beverages that contain caffeine, salt, sugar, and alcohol. The preparatory stage may begin a few days before the juice diet. During this time your diet should be composed of mainly raw or steamed vegetables and whole fruits. You are to reduce or eliminate animal products such as meat, eggs and fish. Fruits and vegetables considered to be best suited for inclusion in this detoxification-type diet include apples and pineapples, cranberries, celery, carrots and dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach. Most detoxification diets, including the juice diet, recommend that you avoid citrus fruits. The reasoning behind this is that citrus fruits are thought to be too acidic (contain acidic components), which may cause stomach upset.
When the time comes to finish the juice-only phase or ‘break the fast,’ solid food can be re-introduced, but you must do so slowly and carefully, just as you prepared your body for the diet beforehand. For several days after you complete the juice diet, you may begin to consume very small meals and snacks throughout the day. These small meals should be composed of certain fruits, steamed vegetables, salads, gelatin and yogurt. Starting modestly at first allows your body time to re-adapt to digesting solid foods.
Detoxification diets, such as the juice diet, may or may not be accompanied by other alternative medicine practices such as colon cleansing via laxative use or colonic irrigation. A detoxification program, such as the juice diet plus colon cleansing is thought by some to offer benefits such as: flushing toxins from your system, improving overall health and vitality, keeping your skin clear and radiant and enhancing your immune system, among other benefits. There are credentialed practitioners, such as registered dietitians (RDs) and medical doctors (MDs) that believe that toxins in your system contribute to inflammation and certain chronic diseases. Though, most often, claims of enhanced vitality and vibrant health are based upon testimonials and the opinions of alternative medicine practitioners. In general, aside from a limited amount of research conducted on animals, there is a lack of adequate scientific evidence that the human body needs to or can be ‘cleansed.’
Either way, switching from solid foods to liquids only is not without side effects or risks. Whether from the release of toxins into the bloodstream or from hunger, common side effects include abdominal bloating, discomfort and gas, bad breath, cravings, fatigue, headaches, nausea, sleep interruptions, rashes, diarrhea and other symptoms.
The healthiest diet, according to most food and nutrition experts, is one that is well-balanced and includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Following the juice diet or another detoxification or fasting-type diet for a short period of time is okay for most healthy individuals. However, you should check with your doctor before beginning any new diet, especially one that limits most solid foods. This diet is not appropriate for children, teenagers, pregnant women, individuals with certain chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, and the elderly.
- Mayo Clinic: Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Detox Diets: Do they work?
- Meyerowitz S. Juice Fasting and Detoxification: Use the Healing Power of Fresh Juice to Feel Young and Look Great. Book Pub Co; 6th edition (April 1999). ISBN: 1878736655
- “Today’s Dietitian” magazine. Spring Cleansing: Assessing the Benefits and Risks of Detox Diets. Juliann Schaeffer; May 2008; Vol. 10 No. 5 P. 34