What is a Juice Diet?

Is a juice diet safe? Are there side effects you should be aware of before starting? Will drinking fresh vegetable juice help you lose weight in a week or two? Who should not do a juice cleanse? Is a water diet better to detoxify the body? What are the best juicer recipes for beginners? Do you need to gradually work up to a liquid diet or can you start immediately? Should you take supplements and vitamins when doing a juice fast detox? How can you plan for an effective juice diet personalized to your own needs? These and other questions are answered in this article.

1. What is a juice diet?

A juice diet is essentially a modified fast whereby only fresh raw vegetable / fruit juices are imbibed. All solid food is eliminated for a span of time – from 3 days to a week or two in the case of beginners, or as long as a month for individuals who find juice cleansing energizing and revitalizing. Some people use juice fasting as a means to obtain overall better health or for specific purposes such as weight loss or a way to help get rid of cellulite, or to lose belly fat. Those who choose to drink juices for extended periods of time usually monitor their own progress and are very in-tune with their organism during the body cleansing process. Others may go to a retreat or body detoxification center where professionals guide participants, prepare the juices, offer herbal supplements for more effective cleansing of the colon, and may also monitor blood pressure and glucose levels for those who require extra attention. Many vegetable juice cleansing diets are accompanied by colonic therapies, massage and yoga. Some individuals may choose to do their detoxification and whole body cleansing at home while continuing with regular activities while others choose to do so by taking a holiday abroad – Thailand being one of world’s most popular places for cleansing retreats.

The basic idea of a juice diet is to drink nutritious, vitamin rich, freshly extracted juice of carrots, celery, cabbage, cucumber, tomato, green / red pepper and other “juiceable” vegetables more so than fruit juices that have a higher sugar content and therefore don’t cleanse the body quite so effectively. However, amongst one of the popular and very rejuvenating fruits is the apple, a part of many juice cleansing programs. Sometimes, a juice diet may consist of a variety of tropical fruits such as papaya, mango, pineapple, etc, but usually in lesser quantities than the vegetable ones that should be the basis of the cleanse. Fruits and vegetables that do not work well to juice are the “dryer” ones such as bananas (which can be made into shakes or smoothies but will not be part of a strict JUICE fast), or potatoes, pumpkin, squash, yams or corn with a lower water content, and others which simply are bitter or too strong when extracted as juice.

2. Is a juice diet safe?

Note from the editor: Over the years I’ve personally done a variety of juice diet cleanses when I needed to boost my energy, from a few days to forty days (the longest) and I’ve always felt revitalized and absolutely great both during and afterward! That doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone and those with specific health concerns, especially diabetics, should only do a juice cleanse diet under professional supervision. Juice is potent and can alter blood sugar levels and insulin requirements.

I smile when I’m asked if a few days on a fresh raw vegetable juice diet is SAFE in terms of getting proper vitamins, minerals and nutrients that the body needs. People often wonder if I will become faint due to NOT EATING, when in fact I’m imbibing more nutrients in a single glass of fresh carrot juice than what many people get in an entire week of eating solids. Yes, indeed, I find it humorous to be asked if raw vegetable juice is safe considering that almost no one asks if eating eggs, bacon, hash browns, pizza, hamburgers, fries, pasta, rice, baked potatoes with sour cream, steak and onions, fried chicken, boiled vegetables, salads saturated in cream dressings or roast beef with gravy is SAFE and sufficiently nutritious to sustain life.

3. Are there side effects you should be aware of before starting?

Yes. There are side effects. During the first two or three days of a juice diet you may feel a little hungry, then it goes away. For a day or so you may feel bloated because your intestinal tract / bowels / colon may take a while to release waste and build-up from the years of being given protein / carbohydrate rich meals. Most people are severely dehydrated, so for a few days, the body will adjust to having the fluids it needs to eliminate waste – and then most people find they have to go to the bathroom more than before. That’s a good thing because many modern diets are a recipe for chronic constipation, not effective elimination. Ideally, bowels should be emptied more than once a day. However, the main side effects of a juice cleanse are increased energy and a sense of wellbeing.

4. Will drinking fresh vegetable juice help you lose weight in a week or two?

The simple answer is yes. It’s one of the most effective ways to lose weight in a week or two that’s natural, safe and energizing. Celery and apple juice are very cleansing, and when combined with lots of water and massage therapy, can also help to eliminate unwanted and stubborn cellulite deposits.

5. Who should NOT do a juice cleanse?

People with serious health conditions affecting the cardiovascular system, or those who are prone to anemia and low blood pressure, and especially type I diabetics (or anyone who is insulin dependant), as well as patients undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy or who take daily medications, or anyone suffering from chronic conditions that require professional medical attention on a daily basis, should only consider a juice diet that’s tailored to their specific needs and will be supervised in a detoxification center.

Although drinking raw vegetable juice may aid many of the above conditions, under no circumstances should a patient undertake a juice fast on their own without proper blood pressure monitoring, blood glucose testing, or without a trained professional being informed of the medical history in question. The reason this is so important, especially when it comes to diabetics, is that certain juices, such as carrot juice, are extremely high is carbohydrates (therefore sugars) that may raise blood sugar levels almost instantly due to how fast juice is absorbed. Conversely, celery juice is so low in carbohydrates (almost zero) that a diabetic may have a low blood sugar reaction. When it comes to diabetes, especially type I, be careful of ketones. Ketone testing should be done regularly while drinking juice. Ketones are what the body produces when it’s burning fat, especially when a diabetic loses weight quickly while too little insulin is being delivered (injected). If there is insufficient insulin, and glucose builds up the body, it will convert the glucose into fat / proteins known as ketones. Ketones in the blood are very dangerous (and will show up in the urine and can be tested using ketone strips). If they are detected, the juice diet must be stopped or altered immediately.

6. Is a water diet better for detoxifying the body?

While a water diet is often a faster and more effective means of cleansing the body in some cases, and is considered effective for a few days to help with weight loss, and may be needful to help certain conditions (in controlled environments), there are reasons why juice diets are better. Juice offers nutrients and vitamins so the body doesn’t go into starvation mode or lower its metabolic rate too far. Plain water diet programs do not stimulate the bowls or cleanse the colon since colonic activity all but ceases. This may be undesirable. For more information about water diet programs, consult the related post.

7. What are the best juicer recipes for beginners?

The best juicer recipes are those that include a beginner’s favorite vegetables whatever they may be – the ones they would normally eat raw in a salad. Lettuce, celery, apple, and carrot are favorites and most beginners find them delicious and refreshing. Tomato juice recipes with peppers and cucumber are also a hit with anyone who likes thicker soup or spicy drinks, because they can be seasoned with a little sea salt, cayenne, lemon or fresh herbs and become really satisfying meals.

8. Do you need to gradually work up to a liquid diet or can you start immediately?

It’s a good idea to work up to a full liquid diet by first eliminating heavy foods for a few days – things like pork, red meat, dairy products, pasta, rice (although a little wild or basmati is okay), and sweets and desserts can be replaced with whole fresh fruit. Start with vegetable salads, vegetable soups, light fish dishes, olive oil and lemon instead of rich or creamy salad dressings, and try to increase your water consumption prior to eliminating solid meals. Then, after the juice cleanse, resume eating solids slowly and try not to go back to heavy carbohydrate and animal protein rich meals, but eat as many raw fresh veggies as you can and slowly add complex carbohydrates like brown /wild / basmati rice, and sources of fiber like flax seed and raw rolled oats.

9. Should you take supplements and vitamins when doing a juice fast detox?

You should be drinking enough juice to get sufficient vitamins and minerals from the juice itself. However, some people appreciate a dose of fiber in the morning to keep their bowels moving and some like to add seaweed or spirulina or even a little soy lecithin from time to time. There are different schools of thought regarding adding supplements to a juice diet, and it will depend on what your goals are and what your body is deficient in, and also for how long you plan to do the liquid diet. During 3 days or a week, it’s not a big deal if you just drink a variety of juices – don’t just drink celery juice, however.

10. How can you plan for an effective juice diet personalized to your own needs?

  1. First, buy a juice extractor. To find out what’s available and what’s within your budget, browse the post about the extractors that are for sale online.
  2. Second, go to your nearest produce or grocery store and choose the vegetables you like most (and those that will continue to be available during your cleanse without too much effort). Select a variety, but buy only what you need for a couple days at a time. Keep the veggies fresh (and fruit out of the fridge). Don’t cut the veggies until you’re ready to juice them.
  3. Third, make sure you drink the juice as FRESH as possible. If you work, it’s difficult to make juice during the day, so do the next best things and take your juices in sealed bottles – old Gatorade bottles are ideal. However, if you can take holidays or can get a few days off work to detox at home (or aboard), that’s even better. You can also try doing a short beginner 3-day juice fast over a long weekend and see how you feel – if it feels good, do another in a few weeks time.
  4. Fourth, have enough water on hand and a nice water bottle to drink from so you can easily keep yourself hydrated without hunting for a glass.
  5. Print a list of juicer recipes you’d like to try and keep it near your juice extractor. Highlight your favorites and modify ingredients to create your own. If you need extra flavor, play with herbs like fresh basil, garlic, rosemary, cilantro, onions, chili peppers, cardamom, anis, cinnamon, etc. Note: adding herbs/spices will be contraindicated if you’re detoxifying your liver.

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About the editor

Nena Argent, editorial director of EbT magazine since 2009, oversees online editorial content in English and Spanish. She joined EbT after ten years as an investigative journalist in Asia where she researched oriental health, nutrition and beauty treatments. Now based in Europe, she reports on the latest beauty trends, health issues, high-tech medical advancements and state-of-the-art cosmetic procedures from around the world.

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The info in this site doesn't replace consulting with a dermatologist, micropigmentation expert, plastic surgeon or nutritionist prior to undergoing a dietary change or a cosmetic/surgical procedure.