Why All Juices Are Not Created Equal

Chalk it up to clever marketing coupled with a refuse-to-die "but juice is healthy!" urban legend that leads people to undergo near-starvation juice cleanses. Properly designed, a juice cleanse can help your body detoxify and burn more fat, but more often than not, people aren't undertaking them correctly.

How juicing can make you fat:

How can a reduced-calorie juice cleanse make you gain weight? Because hormones, not calories, become the key players for lasting fat loss, and fructose — the most metabolically damaging sugar — can knock insulin and other fat-regulating hormones out of balance. Excessive fructose also adversely affects your satiety hormone leptin and your hunger hormone ghrelin.

If you eat an apple, you'll get about 23 grams of sugar, but the five grams of fiber in that whole apple helps buffer out its sugar load, lowering its glycemic and fructose load.

Juicing strips away that buffer. "With juicing, the most important ingredient — the fiber — is thrown away," says Michael T. Murray, ND. That leaves nutrients but also copious amounts of sugar, mostly as fructose. You wouldn't eat four apples or oranges in a day, but you could easily drink the equivalent in apple or orange juice in just one sitting.

Many commercial juices are especially sugar nightmares. One popular green drink that proudly boasts "no sugar added" on its label actually carries about 55 grams (that's nearly 11 teaspoons) of sugar per 15.2 ounce bottle.

How juicing can make you more toxic:

Besides high sugar impact, most commercial cleanses are also notoriously low in protein, which can actually make you more toxic.

Detoxification occurs in two phases. During phase one, a fat-soluble toxin becomes water-soluble. In phase two, your body actually excretes that toxin via urine, sweat, and feces. Without sufficient dietary protein, your liver cannot perform phase two detoxification, potentially leading to toxic buildup.

Most commercial juice cleanses simply provide sugar water, not the essential protein or nutrients your liver demands to effectively detoxify.

How to correctly do a juice cleanse:

Any plan that dramatically reduces calories, allows only liquid calories or otherwise constitutes a near-starvation diet becomes a gateway for constant hunger, cravings, lethargy and otherwise sets you up to crash and burn. But if you're dead-set on juicing, make sure you do do it yourself of tell a juice maker exactly what you want.

Organic leafy and cruciferous veggies should be your juicing foundation. Yes, they might not be your cup of tea and might tempt you to flavor up with fruit, but tread very lightly, if at all, here. Lemon, lime or fresh mint can jazz vegetable juice up without a sugar overload. If you juice as a meal substitute, including a non-dairy, non-soy plant-based protein powder along with a few drops of lemon-flavored fish oil will boost a juice's nutrient load while buffering its sugar impact.

Eat at least one solid meal daily during your cleanse that includes lean protein, healthy fat like avocado, lots of leafy and cruciferous veggies, and slow-release high-fiber starches.

Focus on organic produce and "clean" meats like grass-fed or wild-caught. Megan Rogers suggests among your detox foods include garlic, broccoli sprouts, green tea, artichokes and cilantro.

Optimal detoxification also requires drinking plenty of filtered water, aiming for at least seven — but preferably up to nine — hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep, controlling stress levels and sweating out toxins exercising.

Have you ever done a juice cleanse to lose fat, detoxify or address a particular health goal?

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

JJ Virgin

Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food intolerance. She is author of New York Times best-sellers The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days and The Virgin Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Lose Weight and Feel Better Fast. JJ is also best-selling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout, and the costar of TLC's Freaky Eaters. Learn more at jjvirgin.com.
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