Orange You Glad You Skipped That Juice Cleanse?

Isabel Hulkower, Columnist

Chances are that juice has been on your radar since it came in little cardboard boxes at snack time or in reinflatable Ca­pri Sun pouches during recess. Sweet and tangy fruit juice is a staple in most kid-friendly diets, but the depths of the rest of the juice world are still waiting to be plumbed. Beyond the straight blends that are fruit and sugar cocktail marketed to kids, there lie “green” and “macrobiotic” juices, chock full of vegetables and often containing other health boosters like gin­ger or ginseng. Why would an otherwise rational person opt to drink their kale rather than eat it? Green juice provides all of the delightful nutrients lurking in veggies but removes most of the insoluble fiber.

Many proponents claim that by giving your digestive tract a break from process­ing fiber, the body can better absorb all of that healthy goodness. This claim is sus­pect at best, but juicing undoubtedly en­ables the drinker to get all of the benefits of a massive amount of vegetables much more quickly than they ever could by eat­ing them. Green juices are certainly a good way to get fresh nutrients fast if you are averse to eating veggies or would like to incorporate more into your diet.

Juicing for health is a relatively new phe­nomenon. The first juicer was invented in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the ’50s, when Bill Barnard spread the gospel via infomer­cial, that the revolution began. As the ’90s rolled through, home juicers became in­creasingly common and cost effective and their popularity has steadily grown. Today, juice is quite saturated in mainstream cul­ture; the juice industry grosses $2.3 billion in annual revenue and more juice bars and products pop up every day.

The main controversy around juicing, however, is not in regard to casual dabbling in juice habits but toward more aggressive juice cleanses. “Cleansing” is an umbrella term referring to yet another high-profile health fad. There are thousands of different types of cleanses one could attempt — like strictly hot water, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and lemon juice, if you’re Beyoncé — but all of them involve a severe restriction on solid food intake in order to allow the body to reset and detoxify. A juice cleanse usually involves three full days of exclusively sticking to green juice and avoiding all other sustenance.

There are essentially two reasons for which cleansers say they cleanse. The first is that they want to detox because of stomach issues and the second is for weight loss. By and large, medical professionals are suspect of cleansing (though some are staunch ad­vocates). There is no evidence that bodies require this type of detoxification, or that it is genuinely helpful for gastrointestinal issues. Anecdotal accounts are mixed and there have been no high-profile scientific stud­ies on their efficacy. Their futility for weight loss is better documented. Anyone on se­vere calorie restriction will lose weight, but three days of near fasting is hardly enough for lasting change. Additionally, while on the cleanse partakers will be extremely crabby, lightheaded and preoccupied by thoughts about food, often leading to overeating once the diet is finished. On top of that, they come with a near-guarantee of delivering hanger and diarrhea.

All in all, juice deserves its place in the world of health fads, in moderation. It’s full of nutrients and is often delicious in a savory, health-food way, and can be an easy part of a balanced diet if you’re willing to shell out for it. However, it’s important to think be­fore you cleanse. Cleansing diets should be viewed with skepticism and employed with great care due to their dubious benefits and worrying downsides, which may make you ask why you ever looked beyond Capri Suns in the first place.