Do smoothie cleanses really work? That’s probably the biggest question on everyone’s mind who has seen or heard about the latest “rapid weight loss” trend sweeping social media outlets. Green smoothies, purple smoothies, orange smoothies, and red smoothies, they all look deliciously appetizing like a trip to Jamba Juice on your lunch break, and the promise? “That you will lose 20 pounds in 10 days. Guaranteed.” Or similar claims. But is the latest trend really healthy, and are the results guaranteed? The answer is not as simple as you might think, and it all depends on who you ask.
If you ask someone who has personally tried it, they will most likely tell you, “Yes, it did work, while I did the smoothie cleanse challenge,” but what happens when the smoothie challenge is complete? That’s where leading experts weigh in, and it turns out, that the results aren’t as promising as they were originally advertised.
According to an article published on seattlerefined.com, Seattle nutritionist Minh-Hai Alex says, “A smoothie cleanse is another form of restrictive eating. While smoothies can be an efficient way to significantly increase your intake of nutrients and antioxidants, smoothie cleanses have been shown to increase the risk of binging, disordered eating, and an unhealthy preoccupation with food. There’s overwhelming research that shows the most predictable outcome of restrictive eating is weight gain, beyond what was lost within 2-5 years,” says Alex.
ABC News even got in on the Smoothie Cleanse Craze over the summer. Yearly, the unspoken tradition of the American people is to procrastinate until it counts or matters. Meaning that all year round, we practice poor portion control and unfavorable eating habits until it’s time for that itsy bitsy, teeny weenie, yellow polka dot bikini.
ABC News had expert nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, who founded the company Envision Beauty, who further agreed with Alex by saying that such claims of rapid weight loss are unsubstantiated by these smoothie cleanses. Snyder goes on to say “I believe there is very little in the way of long-term benefits or really deep cleansing or actual weight loss,” she said. “More fundamentally, I don’t believe that trendy juice fasts do much to teach the real life skills of detoxification- learning how to eat healthy foods each and every day. Unfortunately, many people who go from unhealthy diets to short-term fasts end up going right back to old habits when they finish.”
Popsugar.com offers some insight as to what benefits come of smoothie cleanses. The site says that juicing benefits are more anecdotal than scientifically based; chances are, you know an enthusiastic juicing friend or two. Some say that juicing fruits and veggies allows you to absorb the nutrients more effectively than if you were to eat them, since less digestive work is needed.
The site goes on to also say that people also claim that following a juice-only diet can help your body detox, which may lead to more energy, clearer skin, and fewer digestive and other health issues, and for celebrities who stand behind juice cleansing like Nicole Richie, Salma Hayek and Gweneth Paltrow, in conjunction with “it changed my life,” testimonials, much like the “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” documentary about a man’s 60 day all juice diet and his healthy transformation, how could one not possibly give the idea a whirl?
But what do the studies show? Popsugar says that the lack of peer-reviewed studies on the effects of juicing has led to conflicting information about whether the practice is effective or not. However, we have already established that most experts agree that going on a juice fast is unnecessary for ridding your body of toxins.
As it stands, our liver and kidneys are already effective at eliminating any unneeded waste, so following a liquid based diet won’t help any more than normal. However, the diet does call for the reduction and complete elimination of junk foods and processed ingredients, and this can certainly give your digestive system a rest.
A juice-based diet can be a good way of getting far more phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables than you could normally eat, and going on a “detox” for a few days can also help jump-start a commitment to a healthier diet. Many experts, like Dr. Frank Lipman, tout the psychological effect of going on a juice fast, like motivating you to be healthier overall or feeling like you can think more clearly. Juice programs also promise you’ll end your cleanse with a clearer, less foggy mind, more nutrients in your diet, and, possibly, weight loss.
Does this juice cleanse and fast provide the real weight loss that it promises? The answer again, is not so easy. Some will drop weight, but for any diet, the results may vary. Some may not drop weight at all. Even if you were to drop those pesky unwanted pounds, popsugar says that because many juice cleanse programs already include an adequate amount of calories, any weight you do lose, will most likely come back as soon as you re-introduce solid foods, especially if you fall back into unhealthy eating habits.
There are also some risks to juicing cleanses of which you might not be aware. Depending on your program, detox diets like juice fasts can induce dehydration, fatigue, irritability, nausea, upset stomach, acid re-flux and many other health related issues that just might not be worth the trouble. You may even deprive your body of vital nutrients like fiber, protein, zinc, calcium etc. while filling up on too much sugar, even if the sugars are natural. In fact, popsugar says this is why celebrity trainer, Harley Pasternak, calls juice cleanses “the worst things ever.” He further says that “You are essentially starving yourself for a period of time while on the cleanse, and when you’re done, your body will fight back to gain back what it lost,” he tells us. “There is no protein in juice. There is no fiber in juice. There are no healthy fats in juice. The amount of produce that you would need to create a sizable beverage or juice is a calorie bomb and full of sugar.” Instead, Harley recommends smoothies over juice in order to get those important nutrients from the seeds and skin of your produce.
Furthermore, Berkeley wellness further supports leading experts by stating that “There’s no evidence that any of these detoxing methods actually rid your body of harmful substances,” and your organs already do that, as discussed above. If your goal is weight loss—a benefit promised by most if not all detox plans—evidence suggests that detoxing can actually thwart your efforts in the long-term. That’s in part because, while the severe calorie restriction that most detox plans entail may make you thinner temporarily, the weight you’ll lose is mainly water weight—not body fat, the loss of which is essential in order to maintain weight loss over time. Indeed, studies have shown that both men and women who lose weight by fasting or dramatically reducing calorie intake routinely gain the weight back, and often end up even heavier.”