Remember when the word “juicy” brought to mind logos plastered across taut, velour-clad derrières? These days, it’s more likely to evoke thoughts of “detox” or “cleanse.” In fact, juicing practically defines regimes at spas like Canyon Ranch or the Hippocrates Center. It’s a clarion call made famous by health guru Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Life. And no wonder: fresh juices are full of phytonutrients, antioxidants and alkalizing minerals; nothing could be better for you!
Or could it?
Good Juice, Bad Juice: Keeping It Real
Before you decide to embark on a juice fast, be clear about what constitutes a healthy juice. Most bottled, prepared juices–unless squeezed fresh each morning and sold that same day–are filled with preservatives and/or sugars, not exactly part of a body-enhancing regimen. And sugar (or worse, HFCS) will only exacerbate any health woes.
If you’re keen to try juicing, it’s best to either invest in a good machine (see this article for some pointers) or buy freshly squeezed juices from one of the myriad juice stands in every urban center these days. Be sure to use organic produce (remember, if the nutrients are concentrated, so are any pesticides); and your drink should lean heavily toward non-sweet (green) veggies—a mix of apple, carrot, pear, mango and cherries may taste good, but it’s more of a dessert than a catalyst toward better health.
Squeezing the Benefits Out of Juicing
Without the fiber that usually tags along in plant foods, juices allow for quick and easily absorbed nutritional content, leaving your body’s other processes more energy for detoxifying and repair. For many people, juice cleanses result in increased energy, clearer skin or improvement to conditions such as eczema, allergies, digestive issues—and an increased a sense of well-being, among other things. A bonus is often weight loss, since juices contain fewer calories than whole foods.
How and When To Juice
Adding the occasional (or even daily) green juice to your menu is a good way to incorporate concentrated antioxidants, minerals and vitamins into your day. A juice fast, however, means you’re sustained by juice and pure water alone, so be sure to ease into it by transitioning from your regular diet to one that’s more “clean” (nothing processed, no added sweeteners, and so on). Then spend at least one day consuming only organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds before moving to juice-only. This will help prevent or alleviate what’s known as a detox (Herxheimer) reaction or “healing crisis,” which can trigger temporary headaches, flu-like symptoms, muscle aches and more as the toxins make their way out of your body. For most people, juice-only for one to two days is a great starting point. No matter how mild your cleanse, be sure to seek your doctor’s advice before you start.
Red Light on Green Juices
It’s worth noting that not all health professionals agree about the benefits of juicing. All concur that certain people (pregnant women, those with low blood sugar or diabetes, people post-surgery and a few others) should probably never juice; however, recently Drs. T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn of Forks Over Knives fame both came out against juices and smoothies, suggesting they deliver too many concentrated sugars and spike blood glucose levels. Others, such as “Wellness Warrior” and cancer survivor Kris Carr, are staunch advocates.
So, is juicing right for you? As with most health-related questions, do your homework before making a decision. There’s no hard evidence that juices are bad for you. And given their high nutrient content, ease of digestion and fantastic flavors, there’s no reason not to give them a try.