I hear about organic juice cleanses pretty frequently. Whether it’s from my friends asking me about ways to “detox” their systems to celebrities touting their juicing regimens on social media, it seems like the organic juice cleanse fad is out there in full force.
Just look at how many juice shops have popped up all over the place. I probably pass by half a dozen just on my commute to work every day. Case in point: type “juice cleanse” into Yelp and you’ll find 1108 matches in New York City and 1492 in Los Angeles.
Despite the craze, I’ve always tried my best to avoid the subject of organic juice cleanses whenever possible.
Even though I look at the trend and see it as a scam on par with a Nigerian prince asking for a money transfer, I know lots of people are eager to find something that will finally work for them. It’s disheartening to know that there are companies out there profiting off of false hope and desperation.
And boy are they profiting; the cold-pressed juice market makes an estimated $100 million a year! Not surprising since these juices tend to go for around $12 a pop.
But why is the industry so successful? And what do people expect when they embark on these “cleanses,” often 5-7 days at a time? I decided to do a little investigating.
Organic juice cleanses are promoted by both scammers and “believers.” They’re both wrong.
First stop: The organic juice cleanse companies that have the stamp of approval of Gwenyth Paltrow (the queen of arbitrary eat clean rules.) When she’s not busy plugging $950 toilet paper or $125,000 gold dumbells in her annual Goop gift guide, she’s busy cleansing twice a year.
For just $645, you can cleanse and “detox” your body of all those harmful toxins by following an organic juice cleanse and drinking nothing but juice for five days straight. It doesn’t specify what kind of magical ingredients these ridiculously pricey juices are made of, but one can only hope a few diamonds are floating in there somewhere for that kind of money.
Things I’d rather buy for $645:
- A round-trip flight from New York to California
- A new iPhone
- 72 months (6 years) of Netflix
- 2/3 of Gwen’s aforementioned crazy expensive toilet paper
- A year-long gym membership to enjoy the benefits of exercise
Besides the exorbitant price point, spending five days sipping on drinks with hokey titles like “mineralize,” “enliven,” and “alkalize” sounds like it could be a new circle of hell. No thank you.
Other cleanses are a little less extreme, falling in the $300 range. Still incredibly steep when you consider that these juices are doing literally nothing.
Regardless, companies make a long list of claims about what juice cleanses supposedly do for you. One company claims that their amazing overpriced juices are able to:
- Rapidly shed unwanted weight
- Gives the organs a much-needed rest
- Cleanse emotional toxins
- Improve sleep and rejuvenation patterns
- Catalyze Spiritual awakening and a deeper connection to Source
With phrases like “emotional toxins” and “connection to Source,” it’s almost as if they’re trying to confuse you into believing they actually know what they’re talking about – or that they know something you don’t know.
Until I hear some mention of “rejuvenation patterns” from a more credible source (hello science journals) however, I’m not buying it.
Here are the top 7 reasons you should skip the organic juice cleanse.
…and save your money – or send it to me to renew my Netflix subscription for the next 6 years. Your choice.
1. Organic juice cleanses promise your body will get in “cleanse mode.” Only there’s no such thing.
One of the big concepts behind the organic juice cleanse is that a switch somehow goes off in our body after not eating solid foods for 12 hours and that turns on the “cleanse mode.”
The idea is that the body isn’t expending all that energy on digestion, so it can focus on cleansing the rest of the body, expelling toxins (which are never named), and improving those “rejuvenation patterns” (whatever that means).
I would love to have these clever marketers come meet some of my previous patients subsisting entirely on a liquid tubefeed or a few cans of Ensure a day to ask them just how rejuvenated they feel.
Here’s the real deal: our body is awesome and has pretty much figured out how to run efficiently, with or without that juice cleanse.
When we don’t eat (or when we eat less than our body needs), our body starts to look for new sources of energy. Since we primarily use glucose for energy, the body is forced to get creative and scrounge up some glucose from other sources so we can do important stuff like breathe, move around, and, you know, function.
First, glycogen in the liver is broken down into glucose. Once those stores are depleted, it turns to proteins and fats to supply the energy that it needs. While that doesn’t sound too bad, it certainly can be. The body can enter a state of ketosis, which can be dangerous, or it can start breaking down muscle to get amino acids for energy.
You spend the time you need to get the benefits of exercise. Do you really want to start losing muscle in favor of being hungry and not feeding yourself?
As for the existence of a “cleanse mode” during all of this? Sorry, but it doesn’t exist.
2. Skip the Organic Juice Cleanse: Are you sure you want to cut down on fiber and miss out on its benefits?
The biggest problem I have with juice cleanses and juicing in general is that you’re literally wasting some of the best parts of whatever it is that you’re juicing.
Seriously! There’s a reason the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests getting in at least two and a half cups of vegetables a day. You may be reaping the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant benefits of veggies when you juice them, but you’re totally cutting out the fiber!
Fiber moves very slowly through the body undigested and keeps you full throughout the day. That translates to less hunger, fewer cravings, and more weight loss.
A 2015 study in PLoS One looked at the effects of pectin, a form of dietary fiber, on diet-induced obese rats with both a high- and low-fat diet. Inclusion of pectin in the diet was able to cut caloric intake, decrease weight gain, and promote satiety in both the high- and low-fat diet groups.
If weight loss is your goal, I don’t see how cutting down on fiber will help you.
Plus: fiber also keeps you regular, meaning there might be some not-so-fun bloating and constipation in store for you if your diet is lacking in the fiber department.
According to Mayo Clinic, men over 50 should be getting at least 38 grams of fiber per day while men over 51 should go for 30 grams. Women under 50 need at least 25 grams and those over 51 need 21 grams.
Here’s a thought: instead of an organic juice cleanse, why not eat your fruits and veggies to meet your needs and make sure you’re getting all the good stuff?
3. If you lose weight on an organic juice cleanse, you’re not losing fat – you’re losing water.
Regardless of whether your primary motivation for undergoing an organic juice cleanse is in favor of your health, energy levels, or establishing a “deeper connection to Source,” let’s be real: there’s a pretty good chance you go into it ready to drop some weight.
The only problem? Most of the weight you lose will be water weight.
If you’ve ever gone on a diet, you’ve probably noticed how quickly the weight seems to slide off at first.
Any time you give your body less energy than what it needs, it starts to use up its glycogen stores to make up the difference. Glycogen holds onto a lot of water, and as it is burned up to provide energy to the body, that water is released.
When this happens, you experience a rapid loss of weight. Unfortunately it’s only water weight, though. After the organic juice cleanse ends and you resume a normal diet, those glycogen stores will be repleted and you’ll be back to square one (only $645 poorer.)
If you’re looking to lose weight, the answer really is as simple as it seems: a healthy lifestyle supplemented by a nutritious diet and regular exercise is the only way to go. As long a you keep a calorie deficit, you’ll be losing weight.
4. No organic juice cleanse can help your body detox.
Good news! Your body is equipped with tons of different mechanisms that naturally eliminate toxins and keep you healthy.
Our lungs breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide while our liver acts as a big filter for the body, blocking all the bad stuff from getting into our bloodstream. Our kidneys filter blood and excrete toxins through the urine and our intestines flush out bacteria in the form of feces. Even our skin, the largest organ in the body, detoxifies itself by pushing sweat through the pores.
So why drop hundreds of bucks on these detox diets and juices when we have it for free? Why not just give our body what it needs to do its job as efficiently as possible instead of depriving it?
(And please stay away from “detoxifying” coffee enemas!)
5. If you frequently go on organic juice cleanses, you risk lowering your metabolism.
Depending on how often you’re doing these organic juice cleanses, it can take a serious toll on your metabolism.
Remember what can happen when your body isn’t getting enough food to sustain itself? It’s called “starvation mode” and it triggers our body to try to conserve as much energy as possible during times of—you guessed it—starvation.
Put simply, this is a natural physiological response by the body to reduce energy expenditure and prevent starvation, but it can make it harder to lose weight in the future.
Will this happen if you’re doing an organic juice cleanse once or twice a year? No, but if you’re doing a three to five day cleanse every other week (like this cleansing company suggests), you’re putting yourself at a much higher risk.
6. “Organic” juice cleanses offer no additional benefits compared to non-organic ones but do add hype.
The term “organic” sounds good. Everybody thinks it’s better over conventional – after all it is more expensive right? And you get what you pay for.
Only organic produce is no more nutritious over non-organic one. It’s also not better for the environement. And it is grown with pesticides that are no safer than conventional ones.
Reports that claim to go organic (e.g., organic strawberries over conventional) to limit your exposure to toxins are based on faulty methodology (and have the backing of the Big Organic.)
Yet even though organic food is no better, moms who can afford it prefer organic food for kids, and juice cleanse just sounds better when it starts with “organic.” The high price is also more easily justified.
As Forbes contributor and science communicator Kavin Senapathy says, the organic industry should disgust you.
7. Organic juice cleanses do one thing very well: slim your bank account!
I know I’ve already lamented on how absurdly pricey these organic juice cleanses are, but it needs to be said again.
Think about it: if you’re really willing to invest in your health, this is clearly not the way to do it.
Instead, stock up on a fridge full of fruits and vegetables. Start an exercise program. Meet with a dietitian to establish some healthy eating habits that are sustainable and actually health-supportive. Don’t fall for the equivalent of a Nigerian prince scam. Stay above the trends and treat your body right.
It’s not a quick fix by any means, but it’s always better to take it slow, celebrate the little victories, and sustain healthy lifestyle changes over time instead of succumbing to the hype that’s only going to waste your time.
Have you ever done an organic juice cleanse? Let’s hear about your experiences in the comments below!
Clickable references drop down:
Adam CL, Thomson LM, Williams PA, Ross AW. Soluble Fermentable Dietary Fibre (Pectin) Decreases Caloric Intake, Adiposity and Lipidaemia in High-Fat Diet-Induced Obese Rats. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(10):e0140392.
Chan CW, Lee PH. Association between dietary fibre intake with cancer and all-cause mortality among 15 740 adults: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016;29(5):633-42.
Kim Y, Je Y. Dietary fibre intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease and all cancers: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Arch Cardiovasc Dis. 2016;109(1):39-54.