Ask a nutrition student: Juicy gossip

Stacey Arnold

I spring break-ed a little too hard. I feel sluggish, bloated and completely unprepared to tackle the last half of the semester. I’m tempted to purchase a three-day juice cleanse to re-energize. Thoughts?

—Out of Juice

After a long week of sugary frozen drinks, alcohol and resort food, it sounds like you are ready to reclaim the pre-spring break bod you worked all semester for. A juice cleanse may sound like a perfect way to press the reset button, but don’t jump on the cleanse craze too quickly.

Manufacturers may define juice cleanses in a variety of ways. A broad, general definition is the replacement of solid food with vegetable and fruit juices for one or more days, according to Consumer Reports.

“In my professional opinion, the best way to go on a juice cleanse is to skip it altogether,”  Tori Jarzabkowski, a registered dietitian and the nutrition program coordinator at The Fitness Institute of Texas said to Austin Monthly. “While juice cleanses are trendy, the actual health benefits are few.”

If you’re looking to drop a few pounds, keep in mind that there are no scientific studies that have explored the effectiveness of commercial detox diets in weight loss, according to the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 

Many juice cleanses restrict the amount of calories you consume. This means that the number of calories you take in is less than what your body needs to function. Because of the deficit, you may experience short-term weight loss.

“A common pattern I see with those who like to juice cleanse is a severely restricted food intake via a cleanse or other ‘diet,’ followed by periods of food binges or overeating,” Jarzabkowski said to Austin Monthly.  

She recommends speaking with a registered dietitian or a therapist who specializes in disordered eating to address this eating pattern instead of purchasing expensive juices.

Starving your body increases stress hormones that in turn, increase appetite, according to the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Jarzabkowski also explains that when you drink juices or other fluids, it doesn’t send the same signals of fullness to your brain that chewing and swallowing does. Consuming liquids bypasses the trigger that causes the hunger hormone to shut off.

If detoxification is the goal, your body doesn’t need a special elixir to eliminate toxins. The liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal system are all highly sophisticated systems for excreting unwanted chemicals, according to Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter.

Scientific studies do not consistently confirm the enhanced excretion of toxins from the body after food and drink cleanse interventions, according to Human and Experimental Toxicology.

Extreme cleansing can even throw your body into greater imbalance. Consuming nothing but juice for lengthy durations can deprive your body of protein and disrupt electrolyte levels. Additionally, juice, unlike whole fruits and vegetables, contains little to no fiber, a nutrient that keeps you full. This is just another way juice cleanses can leave you feeling hungry and deprived.

Maybe a college student’s greatest discouragement to juice cleanses is the cost. A three-day cleanse can put you back $60 to $200. Spending that much money to be hangry for three days with little health benefit? No, thank you.

So save yourself the spending money, starvation and sanity — pass on the juice cleanse. There is no magic potion for weight loss or detox. When it comes to resetting your body after a week of vacationing, a well balanced diet should be your main squeeze.

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