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The controversial practice of juice cleansing is back in the news. A report from the New York Times debunks the main myth bolstering the juicing craze: that it can somehow "detoxify" your body. Although juice can be healthy depending on how you make (or buy) it, the Times consulted doctors who largely agree that juice can't rid your body of toxins.
It's not that toxins aren't real, the Times explains. They are, and they can be pretty bad for your health. Think: cigarette smoke, air pollution, and some food additives. The misapprehension is the idea that juice has mystical detoxifying powers. It doesn't. The body is built to filter out toxins on its own, with or without juice's help. (We addressed this in a story on detoxing last month.) Your liver filters toxins from the blood, while your kidneys and intestines have the very important task of removing waste from your body via urine and stool. Instead of helping out with the process, restrictive juice cleanses can actually hurt it. If you're replacing too much food with juice, you might be skimping on essential nutrients your body needs to perform this job as well as possible.
Juices aren't only lacking on the detoxification front. While some juices can be nutritionally rich, many don't have enough fiber, an especially important nutrient when it comes to satiety. It's usually in the skin of fruits and vegetables, so when juice is made from produce's pulp, you may find yourself hungry again in no time. And what many juices are missing in fiber, they overcompensate for with sweetness. Even if juice is green, it can have a ton more fruit than you realize, turning it into a sugar bomb of sorts. That's not to say fruit's unhealthy, or that you have to cut high-sugar fruits from your diet. But without fiber, too much fruit at once can throw your blood sugar levels out of whack.
It's easy to understand the temptation of juicing. Maybe you're feeling lethargic because you've had a lot of processed food lately, or maybe you're just itching to feel extra-healthy. Wanting to fuel your body better is great, but juicing usually isn't the way to do it. Instead, load up on fruits and vegetables in their whole forms, or throw them into a smoothie — skin intact when appropriate — so you can reap the maximum benefits.