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Originally published Sunday, August 17, 2014 at 6:19 AM

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Is a juice cleanse right for you?

A registered dietitian offers tips for incorporating the popular diet on a limited basis into an overall healthy lifestyle that includes longterm sustainable eating and exercise plans, and also advises who should avoid it.


Special to The Seattle Times

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Antioxidants, detox and cleanse are all buzzwords associated with the widely popular juice diet. People try juice cleanses for a variety of reasons including eliminating processed foods, cleaning out the body’s digestive system, consuming more fruits and vegetables and losing weight. Some people believe that this is an easy diet to stick to on-the-go since they can prepare their juices for the day and take them to go. As the juice cleanse continues to gain popularity, I have patients consistently asking me about the diet and if it is effective.

During a juice cleanse people do not eat solid foods, but instead consume 4-6 juices per day that are made from fresh fruits and vegetables. Typical juice drinks contain a combination of fruit, dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, and root vegetables such as carrots and beets. People who choose to do the juice cleanse have the option of buying the juices through companies, which usually range anywhere from $40 to $100 per day, or by making them through a juicer. The most popular type of juice cleanses is a three-day cleanse, but there are also one day, five day or even 30-day cleanses.

While the juice cleanse does cut out processed foods and high-fat foods, it contains high amounts of sugar and low amounts of protein, which is not a very healthy long-term diet plan. So how do you know if the juice cleanse is right for you?

As with any diet, it’s important to identify a healthy, sustainable eating and exercise plan that will work for you and your lifestyle. Here are a few tips I tell my patients who have expressed interest starting a juice cleanse.

Know your health. Due to its restrictive nature and high sugar content, juice cleanses are not recommended for people who are trying to gain muscle mass, have diabetes or are underweight. It is also not recommended for the elderly, cancer patients or children as it will not provide them with the necessary nutrients they need to maintain a healthy body.

Fatigue increases with a juice cleanse. Due to lower amounts of protein and less calories being consumed than normal, juice cleanses can make people feel more tired than usual and feel that they have less energy. While on juice cleanses, people should be cautious of doing high intensity exercise for extended periods of time.

You’ll feel hungrier compared to other diets. Our bodies and brains are designed to eat (not drink) our foods. We feel more satisfied from chewing and eating than drinking, which is why people won’t feel as full from consuming a 350 calorie beverage as they will from eating the same amount of calories.

Stick to a 1- or 3-day juice cleanse. Most people can tolerate a 1- or 3-day cleanse without a problem, but any longer and you run the risk of not getting adequate nutrition for a long period of time. With longer juice cleanses, you can also significantly lower your metabolism, which means your body will work to conserve calories instead of burn them. This can make it difficult to keep off the weight you lost on the juice cleanse once you return to a normal diet.

Maintain a healthy body. Our bodies are naturally detoxified by our organs of elimination — the skin, lungs, intestines, kidneys and liver. The best way to “cleanse” yourself is by supporting these organs — staying hydrated; eating high-fiber foods; avoiding excess alcohol and drugs, including limiting over-the-counter medications; staying active; and avoiding smoking.

While a juice cleanse may not be right for everyone, elements from the juice cleanse can be incorporated into building a healthy diet and exercise plan that is sustainable for your needs. The juice cleanse promotes increased amounts of fruits and vegetables — food groups that are generally lacking in the American diet, which typically includes high amounts of meat and starch.

As a guideline for a healthy diet, half of your plate should include non-starchy vegetables, a quarter should include grains or starch and the other quarter should include lean protein with fruit and dairy on the side. Juices can also be incorporated into your diet as one of your meals such as breakfast or as a snack. When making juices, be sure to include mostly vegetables and a small amount of fruit for flavor. Protein powder, dairy or nut milk, and oatmeal can also be great options to include in your juice or smoothie.

Finally, it is important to have a physical activity plan, as well as eating plan to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle. I recommend doing resistance training such as using weights, doing yoga, or using resistance bands, at least twice a week to build muscle tissue, which burns the most calories even when your body is resting. In addition, make it a goal to be active every day for at least 30 minutes, even if it’s just walking, which will help you to burn calories throughout the day.

Heather King is a registered dietitian at Pacific Medical Centers and practices at the Beacon Hill, Renton and Federal Way clinics. Pacific Medical Centers is a private, not-for-profit, multispecialty healthcare network of nine clinics in Beacon Hill, Canyon Park, Federal Way, First Hill, Lynnwood, Northgate, Puyallup, Renton and Totem Lake. For more information visit www.PacMed.org.



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