A juice cleanse, also known as a juice fast, is a detox diet that involves consuming vegetable and fruit juice (and often nothing else) for a short period of time, usually one to three days. Advocates believe that drinking juice floods the body with healing nourishment while also flushing toxins and waste.
It is also thought to support the body’s natural detox processes by clearing the diet of sugar, caffeine, refined foods, and other substances that can deplete energy. However, research in support of these claims is lacking1 and any weight lost during a juice cleanse is likely to be regained once normal eating habits are resumed.
What Can You Eat?
Raw (unpasteurized), organic juice is the key component of a juice cleanse. Room temperature or lukewarm water may also be consumed between each juice or meal to promote elimination.
Smoothies and some healthy foods can be included or substituted for those who require more calories. Some people may opt for raw or vegan food only, while others may have gluten-free meals and snacks.
A typical cleanse has three stages:
Preparation: For three to five days before the cleanse, gradually eliminate coffee, refined sugar, meat, dairy products, wheat, alcohol, and nicotine to reduce headaches, cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms during the cleanse. Increase intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and fluids.
Cleanse: For the one to three days of the actual cleanse, drink at least 32 ounces of juice or smoothie daily. At least half should be green vegetable juice. If hunger pangs are persistent or uncomfortable, vegetable broth or a small snack such as carrots, celery, a salad, or a piece of fruit is often suggested.
Post-cleanse: Eat lightly for a few days, gradually adding foods back in over the course of several days.
What You Need to Know
Juice cleanse advocates claim that nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants are more readily absorbed by the body in liquid form. However, research on the bioavailability of raw juices versus that of whole fruits or vegetables is mixed.2
To optimize nutrient absorption, proponents recommend drinking juice slowly rather than gulping it down. Juice is typically consumed a couple of hours apart, with the final drink of the day at least three hours before bedtime. A schedule might look like this:
- When you wake up: Lukewarm water with a splash of fresh lemon juice
- 8 to 9 a.m.: Juice, such as a green vegetable juice
- 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Juice (or smoothie/cleanse food)
- 1 to 2 p.m.: Juice (or smoothie/cleanse food)
- 3 to 4 p.m.: Juice, such as beet, carrot, and apple juice
- 5 to 6 p.m.: Juice (or smoothie/cleanse food)
- 6 to 8 p.m.: Smoothie or almond or cashew nut “milk”
During a juice cleanse, you should also:
- Stick to light physical activity. While it’s a good idea to tone down your exercise routine during a juice cleanse, normal activities such as walking may help boost blood and lymphatic circulation.2
- Book a massage. Try massage therapy (such as Swedish massage, lymphatic drainage, deep tissue massage, and Thai massage), contrast showers, and skin brushing, which can be done as part of a regular shower.
- Practice mind and body wellness. Allow the mind to rest by incorporating mind/body practices such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Try to get plenty of rest. Go to bed as early as you can and take naps if possible.
- Prepare for emotions that may arise. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the liver is associated with anger, the kidneys with fear, and the spleen with worry.3 Proponents of juice cleansing believe that old emotions may arise and be cleansed from the system as the corresponding organs are cleansed, but evidence supporting this is lacking.
What to Eat
- Raw, fresh juice made from fruits and vegetables
- Almond milk
- Gluten-free vegan meal
- Vegetable broth
- Raw vegetables, like carrots or peppers, to snack on
What Not to Eat
- Processed foods
- Meat, poultry, or dairy
- Sugar and sweets
Fruits and vegetables used to make juices often include celery, kale, carrot, cabbage, apple, spinach, beets, and leafy greens. Avocados and bananas have low water content and don’t juice well, but work well in smoothies.