The Health Benefits of Juice Cleanses Are Overblown Here’s What You Need to Know

Juice Cleanses

Juice cleanses are super trendy. It seems everyone wants to clean out their insides and “detox.” It sounds compelling, doesn’t it? Drink juices and forgo food, and you’ll cleanse the impurities from your body and look better, feel better, and be healthier. The other reason people are attracted to juice cleanses is that they believe they help with weight loss.

What is the truth about juice cleanses? Do they work and do they have risks?

What is a Juice Cleanse?

A juice cleanse is where you drink only juice for a period of time. There are many different types of juice cleanses, but most involve drinking anywhere from four to 12 glasses of freshly squeezed juices every day for a few days. The juices people drink when on a juice fast vary.

Some of the most popular beverages people sip on a juice cleanse are juices made from green, leafy vegetables, cucumbers, and apples. Often, there’s a shot of cayenne pepper or lemon added. Juice cleanses can vary somewhat depending on the type of juice a person drinks, but people on a juice fast don’t eat food. They believe that doing so defeats the purpose, giving the body a rest from digesting food and a chance to detox.

The Truth about Juice Fasts and Detox

What are the downsides to drinking only juice for days at a time? Fruit and vegetable juice is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory activity, but when you juice a fruit or vegetable, you’re separating out the fiber. Most people don’t get enough fiber. Plus, fiber modifies the blood sugar response you get when you eat a piece of fruit. Drinking straight fruit juice without fiber can cause blood sugar spikes that aren’t healthy or beneficial for weight control.

Another problem with the idea that juice fasting helps detoxify; you already have systems that naturally detoxify, mainly your liver and kidneys. Plus, cells have their own methods of dealing with toxins if you supply them with a nutrient-dense diet. It’s unlikely that consuming only fruit and vegetable juice enhances detoxification more than eating whole fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced, nutrient-dense diet.

Juice Fasts Longer-Term Could Lead to Nutritional Deficiencies

Although fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense, a juice fast doesn’t supply enough protein. Going on a juice cleanse for a few days won’t cause significant malnutrition, but if you stay on one for weeks or do it repeatedly over a short time, your body could end up in a protein-deprived state. You’re also not consuming enough calories since fruit and vegetable juices are very low in calories.

Harvard Health also points out other potential risks of juice cleanses. A juice cleanse can have a laxative-like effect on your digestive tract and lead to a loss of electrolytes. People who adopt juice cleanses frequently are at risk of metabolic acidosis, where the balance of acids and bases in the body is out of whack, a serious condition. Insufficient fiber in a juice cleanse diet can also alter the gut microbiome in a way that’s not healthy.

Plus, certain vegetable juices are high in compounds called oxalates. Spinach and beets are especially high in oxalates. If you drink large quantities of oxalates in juice, it increases your risk of developing kidney stores. When you cook, especially boil, high-oxalate vegetables, like spinach and beets, you reduce their oxalate content.

What about Weight Loss?

People who are on a juice cleanse often claim they’re doing it to lose weight. It’s true that you may lose weight short-term because you’re consuming fewer calories, but once you revert to a standard diet, you’ll likely regain the weight you lost. Juice fasting is not a sustainable solution for weight control.

When you drastically reduce your calorie intake, your resting metabolic rate slows as your body tries to conserve energy. This makes it harder not to gain weight when you return to a normal diet. Much of the weight you lose on a detox diet is water weight too. You can expect some bounce-back weight gain after stopping a juice cleanse or fast.

Skip the Juice Cleanse, There’s a Better Approach

  • Rather than doing something as drastic as a juice fast, take a more sustainable approach.
  • Cut back or eliminate refined carbohydrates, sugar, and junk food from your diet.
  • Replace starchy carbohydrates with more fruits and vegetables.
  • Eliminate refined foods and processed sugar
  • Eat real food in its unaltered state and don’t separate out the fiber.

Why throw away healthy fiber? The average person gets about half the amount of fiber they need for good health. Doing this will help you avoid the ups and downs of losing and regaining weight. Eating a healthy diet and consuming what you eat mindfully and in reasonable quantities is the best approach to losing and maintaining a lower body weight.

If you enjoy a cup of vegetable juice or fruit juice on occasion, drink it but do it in the context of a healthy diet not as a replacement for one or as a way to make up for an unhealthy lifestyle. Quick fixes and fads can’t take the place of sound nutrition. Eat for health, not for short-term weight loss. Don’t buy into diet fads either. The approach you take to healthy living should be sustainable.


  • “The dubious practice of detox – Harvard Health.” 01 May. 2008, health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dubious-practice-of-detox.
  • The dubious practice of detox. Internal cleansing may empty your wallet, but is it good for your health? Harv Women’s Health Watch. 2008 May;15(9):1-3. PMID: 18700288.
  • “Detoxes and Cleanses: The Untold Truth | preRD.” 22 Apr. 2021, https://prerd.org/detoxes-and-cleanses-the-untold-truth/.
  • “Detox diets: Do they work? – Mayo Clinic.” 18 Apr. 2020, mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/detox-diets/faq-20058040.
  • “Detox Diets – WebMD: Cleansing the Body.” webmd.com/diet/features/detox-diets-cleansing-body.
  • “Do Detox Diets and Cleanses Really Work?.” 10 Jan. 2019, healthline.com/nutrition/detox-diets-101.
  • “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What You Need To Know | NCCIH.” https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-and-cleanses-what-you-need-to-know.

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