What Is a Juice Cleanse and Do You Need It?

Media often presents juice cleanses as detox solutions that promise to cleanse your body of impurities and reduce inflammation. However, while fruits and veggies are undoubtedly healthy, juicing them might not be as effective as eating them whole. Let's take a closer look at juice cleanses and what U.S. health authorities have to say about them.

What is a juice cleanse?

A juice cleanse, a type of detoxification diet, is a short-term diet in which you only drink fresh juice, usually from fruits and vegetables. There aren’t official guidelines on how long to follow a juice cleanse, but it can last anywhere from 2 to 10 days or more. However, juice cleanses are very restrictive and should not be followed long-term.

Due to its low-calorie content, a juice cleanse may potentially lead to some weight loss, but the results vary for each individual. It’s important to note that these weight changes are temporary, and people tend to regain weight after stopping a juice cleanse. This is a common theme for many fad diets because they are not sustainable and don’t teach people how to adopt healthy behaviors that lead to lasting effects.

Although the juice cleanse trend started in the 1990s, it remains popular today. Commonly, people purchase a juicer to make custom blends at home. The flavor combinations are endless, and you can combine fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. Below are examples of fruit and vegetable pairings suitable for juicing:

  • Green apple with kale, ginger root, celery, and orange
  • Beetroot with turmeric root, lemon, and pineapple
  • Cucumber with mango, carrot, mint, and ginger root

Are juice cleanses healthy?

Although a juice cleanse uses healthy ingredients, it’s not a recommended approach for weight loss or increasing vitality. Detox diets are overly restrictive, and juice cleanses lack fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

If you want to improve your diet and overall health, cooking meals at home rather than opting for takeout, choosing whole foods, staying hydrated, eating plenty of vegetables, limiting alcohol and tobacco products, and engaging in regular exercise may be better options for sustainable results.

Potential benefits of a juice cleanse

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All of these micronutrients support immune function and other metabolic pathways that keep you healthy. Antioxidants, in particular, can help manage inflammation levels. However, you don’t need to consume fruit or vegetable juice to experience their benefits; you can eat them whole (fresh, frozen, or canned will work).

What are the risks of juice cleanses?

Health authorities don’t recommend juice cleanses for anyone, as they’re a potentially harmful fad diet that produces only temporary weight loss results. They also note that restrictive diets, including fasting juice cleanses, expose you to low nutrient intake, which could become a deficiency if left unaddressed.

Additionally, no scientific literature demonstrates that juice cleanses can 'detoxify' your body. Your vital organs, including the kidneys and liver, naturally eliminate toxins and harmful waste. Juicing requires much more fruit than what you normally eat in a sitting, and the large amounts of electrolytes could create a potentially dangerous imbalance.

If you’re trying to improve your health, lose weight, or improve your energy, consider consulting a dietitian who can offer evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle guidance.

Alternatives to juice cleansing

Instead of trying a cleanse, build a well-balanced diet with various delicious, whole foods. To get started, the USDA recommends following the MyPlate model, an evidence-based tool you can use anywhere. You don’t need to measure your portions, but instead, visualize your plate split up into three distinct sections:

  1. Fill half your plate with vegetables and some fruits.
  2. Fill a quarter with whole grains and high-quality carbs.
  3. Fill the final quarter with protein (animal or plant-based).

Eating whole fruits and vegetables (instead of juicing them) should make meeting your daily fiber requirements easier, as they still contain pulp and edible skins, which add fiber. Most adults should aim for about 25–38 g daily to reap the benefits of fiber, such as regularity, maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, lowering cholesterol, improving blood sugar control, and feeling fuller after meals.

Physical activity is also essential for overall well-being and may even offer protection against diseases associated with low-grade inflammation. The CDC recommends completing at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, plus two additional days of resistance training. Ask an exercise specialist or physiotherapist for personalized recommendations if you have mobility issues or are recovering from an injury.

Verdict: should you try juice cleansing?

A juice cleanse is a very low-calorie fad diet that promises quick fixes for inflammation and detoxification, but there’s no scientific literature to back up these claims. Instead, choose whole fruits and vegetables more often, as these nutrient-dense foods are proven to benefit your overall health and should be eaten regularly.

When making a change, remember to consider your health. Yes, the foods you eat matter, but so do stress management, sleep quality, and level of physical activity. Strive to make improvements in all these areas to achieve a positive impact on your well-being.

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