Christmas is always a time to indulge – in food, in drink and in good company. But with February here, now’s the time to get back on the (healthy) wagon.
After a particularly indulgent period, like Christmas, the idea of a juice cleanse might seem appealing. Consume nothing but juices for a week or so and, boom, you’re a whole bunch healthier! Not necessarily so. It’s important to note that the proven benefits of juice cleansing are still murky. What we do know though is that fibre and protein are good things for a healthy body, but these are the nutrients most juice cleanses lack.
The basic idea of a juice cleanse is that when our bodies are freed from the burden of digesting solid food, they can more efficiently release the toxins swimming in our system. While juices contain many nutrients, a special juice cleanse won’t instantly improve your body’s natural waste-removal system. The fact is, the body is naturally always in a state of detoxification, primarily through the action of the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. These organs help remove toxins or harmful substances that shouldn’t be stored in the body. Most people can cleanse effectively all the time if they eat a clean diet because healthy food enables our bodies to function optimally. Food cleanses (or ‘clean eating’ as it is commonly referred to) are an attractive option for many as they are a less-extreme and more sustainable way to move towards a healthier diet and life. Food cleanses can consciously shift you away from bad habits (like too much coffee, alcohol, and fatty foods) and help to foster healthier habits after you’re done.
While you are likely to lose weight if you go on a juice-cleansing regimen, most of it is water weight. When you eat food, your body needs to hold on to water to digest it properly. Take away the food and the water disappears, too, which can translate to a drop on the scale. The problem? When you start eating solids again, the water may come right back, leaving you where you started. What’s more, for some people, the extremely restrictive nature of a juice cleanse can cause carbohydrate and sugar cravings, making it easy to spiral back into not-so-great eating habits after completion. Juice cleanses can also lead to side effects such as a lack of energy, headaches and shakiness, due to low blood sugar. Juice cleanses may also lead to constipation from a lack of fibre, not to mention irritability, due to lack of food!
For good health, we need to not only reduce our exposure to toxins but also supply the body with the nutrients it requires. Clean eating offers this without any of the negatives of doing a juice cleanse. Food cleanses, such as those offered by Dietlicious, provide a balanced diet that includes minimally-processed foods, good quality lean protein and plenty of whole fruits and vegetables which, ironically, are the real cleansers (they act like a scrubbing brush for your digestive tract).
Words // Renee Leonard Stainton (nutritionist)