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Do juice detoxes really work?

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Juice detoxes are becoming increasingly popular, but does your body really need help cleansing itself?

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Photo: AWEvans

Looking back at the year that was, 2013 gave us three things: Snapchat, an excessive amount of Miley Cyrus' tongue and yes, a lot of green smoothies.

Juice detoxes have become increasingly popular, with celebrities such as Jessica Alba and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley photographed sipping on them regularly by paparazzi.

“Celebrities played a big part in popularising healthy eating and ecofriendly living with nutritional cookbooks, blogs and various social media postings,” Pressed Juices nutritionist Leah Hunt says.

When it comes to juice detoxes, though, health buffs are quick to point out that there is a strong difference between regular juices and cold-pressed juices.

“A hydraulic cold press juicer applies a tremendous amount of pressure to extract nectar directly from the pulp of fresh fruit and vegetables,” Hunt says. “This pressing action doesn't generate heat like a regular juicer, meaning far fewer nutrients and enzymes are destroyed in the process.”

As well as extracting more nutrients than regular juicers, the cold-pressed method claims to produce a higher yield of juice, meaning there is less wastage, and making it more environmentally friendly.

Another Australian juice company, Lucky You Cleanse – which calls Miranda Kerr a regular client – takes this one step further by delivering fresh cold-pressed juices to your door in reusable glass mason jars.

“We believe juice tastes better in glass,” Lucky You Cleanse founder Heidy Jameel says. “It also maintains its freshness longer. Clients are able to easily share their portions and keep the juice freshly refrigerated with our easy screw lids.”

But, celebrity fads aside, are these juice detoxes really that good for you?

“The three- and five-day detox programs help rebalance the body, alkalise the system and remove any acidic build-up in the colon to encourage proper nutrient absorption,” Jameel says.

Alkalising, in particular, is seen by some health professionals as beneficial. “Juice detoxing allows the body's digestive system to create an alkaline environment in our gut, offering the perfect environment for beneficial bacteria to grow, thus improving nutrient absorption down the track,” says Dayne Crocker, nutritionist and wellbeing director of Phuket Cleanse. This is why after three days individuals begin to feel energised again, Crocker says.

But what of those rumoured dizzy spells and headaches some experience while detoxing? “Juice detoxes can be damaging if not performed correctly or without professional advice and a balanced program to follow,” Crocker says. He says it's not ideal to detox over long periods of time while leading a busy or unbalanced lifestyle as it can cause oxidative stress on the body.

However, he says, “Juice detoxes can be very beneficial in detoxifying the liver and digestive system. Although by no means are they a way of life.” He recommends juice cleanses are only performed when having time off to rest, restore and revive your body.

As for those headaches and slumps in energy, Hunt says it's often due to “caffeine withdrawal”. By slowly cutting out things like caffeinated beverages, chocolate and refined sugars in the days leading up to a cleanse, you can minimise the likelihood of unpleasant side effects, he says.

Still, liquid detoxes aren't for everyone. “They're safe for people who are generally healthy and well,” Hunt says. However, he advises against people with certain health conditions such as diabetes undertaking a juice cleanse.

It's also important to note that some medications may interact with certain fruits, vegetables and herbs in concentrated amounts. It's also recommended that children, teenagers and the eldery avoid juice detoxes.

And what about the beauty benefits? Recent research by The Schools of Psychology and Biosciences at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, which involved a study of 80 individuals who consumed one smoothie a day over six weeks, found that it significantly improved the appearance of skin.

Because juices and smoothies – particularly of the green and orange variety – contain vitamins, antioxidants and carotenoids, there are plenty of positive effects on the inside and outside of the body.

Yet, while our bodies are considered resilient, Hunt stresses it is important to understand that juice cleanses are not designed for weight loss. “While you may lose some weight from going juice-only for a short period of time, the restrictive nature of a cleanse is not appropriate for lasting weight loss,” Hunt says.

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