Some type of fasting exists in almost every culture. Fasting helps people celebrate religious holidays, support spiritual practices and encourage healthy living. What it won't do is forcibly detox your body, which your liver, kidneys and lungs are perfectly capable of doing as part of their normal functioning.
While it's not a good idea to stay on a juice fast for longer than about three days, intermittent fasting can help restore the balance of your gut bacteria, as well as increasing your level of hydration and flooding your body with crucial micronutrients. The key is to use fresh fruits and vegetables and to blend rather than juice them.
Basic Juice Fast Facts
Most juice fasts require you to avoid all solid foods for three days. The point of this is to give your body a rest from processed foods and harder-to-digest items, such as fried foods and red meat. It can also help you break unhealthy habits like reaching for a bag of chips to snack on or cruising through the nearest drive-thru instead of cooking a more nutritious meal.
When deciding what juices to incorporate into your three-day juice fast, keep in mind that not all juices are created the same. Many commercially produced juices are so processed that they contain no real nutrition. They may also be loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, as well as artificial colors and flavors, which completely negates any juice fasting benefits you were hoping to enjoy.
When you purchase juices from an organic or health food store, it's important to make sure that any juice you select is pasteurized. Unpasteurized juices may contain bacteria that can make you sick, cautions the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. This can pose a serious danger to very young children, older people and anyone with a compromised immune system.
Reading labels is one way to ensure that you take in the purest and most nutritious juices, but making them from scratch is even more effective.
Difference Between Juicing and Blending
Juicing requires a special machine to squeeze or pulverize vegetables and fruits, discarding everything except the juice. This gives you concentrated nutrition — but without the fiber to slow down your body's absorption of the natural sugars in fruit, it may cause an unwanted insulin response, caution the experts at the University of California Los Angeles.
When you take in a lot of sugar, your pancreas sends out insulin in response to the increase in blood sugar, or glucose. This causes a sudden drop in your blood glucose levels, which can lead to fatigue, dizziness and fuzzy mental functioning, and may cause your brain to send out hunger signals that might lead to overeating. Hunger also makes it more difficult to stick with the program.
In addition, according to the health experts at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, many fruit juices are high in oxalate, which can exacerbate problems with your kidneys and be dangerous for those with kidney disease.
The most nutritious and effective way to conduct your juice fast is to do a whole foods juice cleanse, in which you incorporate as much of the fiber found in fruits and vegetables as you can. This requires blending softer whole fruits and only peeling those whose skins you can't eat, such as bananas and mangoes.
Benefits of a 3-Day Juice Cleanse
According to the food enthusiasts at The Chalkboard, there are several benefits to intermittent fasting. Dropping your caloric intake by 300 to 400 calories every once in a while can support the health of your liver and kidneys, lower your risk of heart disease, help you avoid certain cancers and make it a little easier to drop those extra pounds.
Try not to take in fewer than 1,200 calories if you're a woman and 1,500 calories if you're a man. Dropping a bit lower than this for three days will most likely do no harm, but if you starve yourself, you may not make the best choices once your three-day cleanse is over.
In addition, fruits and vegetables are loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as vitamins C and A. Exposure to environmental pollution and the byproducts of your own metabolic processes can cause free radicals to attack your cells. Much like rust or mold, they grow on your cells and if left unchecked can damage your DNA. This can contribute to your risk of heart disease, stroke and some kinds of cancers, and they're also responsible for some of the visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles.
Antioxidants scour away the free radicals, not only improving your overall health, but helping to keep your skin smooth and supple, your eyes bright and your energy levels up. Blueberries and blackberries are very high in antioxidants, as are kale and spinach, all of which can be easily blended into tasty juices for your fast.
While juice cleanse weight loss is usually seen within 24 hours of starting your three-day juice cleanse, it's mostly going to be water weight. This is especially true if your normal diet includes a lot of starchy carbohydrates and salty foods. Both cause you to retain water, so water weight is the first thing you generally lose when you cut out these foods.
Things to Keep in Mind
Unless you're already eating a completely clean diet, free of all processed foods and those that can trigger withdrawal symptoms, it's best to prepare for your juice fast by eliminating certain things from your diet starting a week to two or three days ahead. The health enthusiasts at VeryWell Fit recommend gradually easing alcohol, caffeine, dairy, meat, nicotine, refined sugar and wheat from your diet.
Stopping these suddenly, especially if you do it all at once, can result in withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, cravings, irritability and other unpleasant effects that can make it harder to stick to your plan.
It's also a good idea to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables in the week preceding your three-day juice fast so that your gut bacteria can get used to them. This can help alleviate bloating, gas and gastrointestinal distress during your fast.
You should also increase your water intake. Aim for between 32 and 64 ounces per day, and sip it throughout the day rather than drinking 8 ounces all at once. Flavor the water with lemon and sage or lime and mint if you have a hard time with plain water.
Staying hydrated is important because water is used by every single part of your body. The better hydrated you are, the smoother your blood flows, bringing oxygen and nutrients to your organs, including your skin and brain. One of the first signs of dehydration is irritability, and you're not going to reap juice fasting benefits if you're too cranky to get through the first day.
It's not a good idea to do any kind of intense exercise if you're new to juice fasting, but a long walk can help keep your blood moving, clear your head and elevate your mood. Carry a water bottle with you, and walk for 15 to 30 minutes.
How to Design a Juice Fast
Staying on a juice fast for three days can be a challenge, so it's a good idea to switch things up by using the widest variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs that you can. This not only ensures that you're getting maximum nutrition, but that you won't get bored and give up after a day and a half of the same juice at every meal and snack.
The best 3-day juice fast recipes contain both fruits and vegetables. Melissa Montalto, MS, RD, CD, at the University of Washington, recommends limiting your fruit to between 1/2 and 1 cup per serving to help limit the amount of sugar you take in.
All fruits and vegetables are fair game, so don't be afraid to experiment. Softer fruits, like bananas, berries of all kinds, mangoes, peaches and ripe pears, blend easily and add flavor. Mix them with kale, spinach, peeled cucumbers or celery to add volume. Apples and grapes are good, and if you don't mind the little bits floating in your drink, you can wash them and leave the peels on. You can also strain those fragments out. Add unfiltered apple juice or water for a thinner concoction, and soy, coconut or nut milk for a creamier result.
Have fun and get creative. Although not a common juice fast drink, a smoothie made with soy milk, pumpkin puree, banana, yogurt, pumpkin pie spice and a dash of maple syrup tastes like a milkshake while providing protein, beta carotene, potassium and magnesium. Swap out the pumpkin for a generous spoonful of peanut butter and lose the pumpkin pie spice for a delicious extra serving of protein.
Don't be afraid of vegetables. Spinach and kale disappear into a well-balanced juice blend, giving you iron and folic acid. Slice the stems off for a smoother texture, and pair them with apples, peaches and pineapple, as well as soy or nut milk and yogurt. Tomatoes and bell peppers combine to make a smooth gazpacho-like mixture with a peppery bite.
If you're missing hot foods, don't be afraid to sip heated vegetable broth or even chicken broth. You can also make a simple soup with roasted mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and garlic in a vegetable broth. Simmer the soup gently with chopped fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, sea salt and coarse black pepper. Finish the soup with a sprinkle of lemon juice and a drizzle of chili-sesame oil or a scattering of red pepper flakes to add a bit of extra flavor and some heat.
Plan to sip your juice concoctions slowly rather than gulping each one down all at once. This helps keep you from flooding your body with sugar, and it will also help keep you feeling full throughout the day.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”
- The Chalkboard: New Science Is in on the Benefits of Juice Cleansing
- University of California Los Angeles: Juicing: Body Cleansing or Nutrient Depleting?
- University of Washington: Juicing vs. Blending: What’s the Difference?
- VeryWell Fit: The Truth About a 3-Day Juice Cleanse