I’m often asked about the latest fad and whether there might be some truth in the hype, so here are my views on one of the recent crazes, a juice diet.
It’s not wise to live on juice and smoothies alone
- UK government guidelines recommend one 150ml glass of fruit juice a day as part of a balanced lifestyle. There’s a reason why you should limit the amount of juice you drink – and that’s because it is a rich source of free sugars.
- It’s also easy to over-consume sugar in liquid form as a beverage. Juice is less filling than eating the whole fruit.
- Further, when you create a fruit juice, you lose the important dietary fibre that was present in the whole fruit.
- Eating too much free sugars is linked to tooth decay. Too little dietary fibre is associated with increased risks of conditions like constipation and bowel cancer.
- Whole fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Research suggests these active compounds are associated with better heart health, protection against certain cancers and immune-supporting effects. The juice from these fruits and veggies may not contain the same components or amounts since some will be lost during processing when the fibre is removed.
A quick-fix for weight loss?
- You may indeed lose weight by following a juice diet. But this is mainly water loss and the weight will go back on again as soon as you start eating a mixed diet. You may then go for another fad diet. This yoyo dieting of extreme weight loss and then gain followed by another bout of the same pattern can leave you more overweight in the long term than when you started.
- A juice diet often claims to be able to detox the body. Your body does not need help with detoxing. The whole idea of detox is nonsense. Unless you have a serious medical condition, your body is a well-developed system that has its own built-in ability to detoxify and remove waste and toxins. Your body constantly filters out, breaks down and excretes toxins and waste products like alcohol, medications, products of digestion, dead cells, chemicals from pollution and bacteria. It has numerous organs such as the skin, gut, liver and kidney, that continually ‘detoxify’ your body. They respond to signals to remove any waste products. There are no drinks that can work magic on the body’s finely tuned detoxing process.
- If you adopt any extremely restrictive dietary plan, this can put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies or even eating disorders. There is very little research to support the health claims made about these diets. A critical review published in Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (2014) concluded “There is no compelling evidence to support the use of detox diets for weight management or toxin elimination.”
- A liquid juicing diet does not give you enough calories or teach you about portion control.
- You don’t get the feeling of satiety that foods rich in fibre and protein will give you.
Good nutrition is about eating a variety of foods from all food groups, in appropriate amounts. I wouldn’t recommend basing your eating plan on juices – it goes against the grain of good old common sense.
To juice or not to juice
Being well-hydrated is a sensible strategy, but if you drink too much fluid, this can be as dangerous as not drinking enough. For most people, a varied, balanced diet and regular physical activity really are the best ways to properly maintain and maximise your health. If you’re a juice and smoothie lover, these drinks are absolutely fine as part of a balanced eating plan that also includes a variety of other nutritious foods. You don’t need to go on a juice diet to get the benefits.
Detox and fads
Claims on a juice diet that promises ever-lasting weight loss for minimum effort may be tempting – but the results are typically not sustainable. There is no miracle solution to weight loss. Most fad diets are associated with some degree of nutritional or health risk. A fad diet is offering a short-term solution to a long-term problem
Detox diets are a marketing myth rather than nutritional reality. They sound like a great concept and it would be fabulous if they really delivered all that they promised! Unfortunately, many of the claims made by detox diet promoters are exaggerated; they’re not based on robust science and any benefit is short lived.
Seek your advice from a dietitian or registered nutritionist so you can be sure you’re getting evidence-based knowledge.