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Ask Health Coach Maria: Do I Need to Go on a Juice Fast to Detox?

January 10, 2014

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Hi, I’m Maria Marlowe, a Certified Health Coach and author of Detox without the Deprivation. I love to explain why you are what you eat and have made it my mission to help the world get healthy through better nutrition. I’m excited to launch the new “Ask Health Coach Maria” series where I’ll answer frequently asked questions that relate to health and wellness.

Juice fasting has become trendy, with whole offices undertaking group cleanses and juice bars posting photos of the latest celebrity to guzzle their drinks.

If the thought of going on an all-liquid diet for 3-5 days doesn’t excite you, you’re not alone. I like food, too! While juice cleansing does offer some detoxing benefits, you can get more benefits from eating detox foods. Plus, you eliminate the feelings of deprivation and the dangers associated with juice fasting.

Why Detox?

Our bodies are naturally built to remove toxins every day. We detox by neutralizing and eliminating toxins through our colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph system, and skin.

However, in this day and age, we're exposed to a number of environmental pollutants in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. In particular, our modern diet tends to be loaded with things that inhibit our natural detox system from functioning at its best, such as chemicals in processed foods, large amounts of animal protein, saturated and trans fats, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.

So detoxing through the diet is a great way to nourish and support your natural self-cleaning system.

Besides just helping your body get rid of toxins, doing a food detox can also help you:

  • Flood your body with micronutrients
  • Drop a few pounds
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Curb your sugar cravings
  • Increase your energy and productivity by clarifying your mind
  • Bolster your immune system
  • Kick start a new healthy eating plan

How to Do a Juice Fast Detox

While this currently is a popular option, I don’t believe it’s the best option, and could be dangerous. Diabetics, people undergoing chemotherapy, or those who have nutritional deficiencies or kidney disease should not juice fast.

For people who already follow a very clean and healthy diet, a short juice fast of 1-3 days should be harmless. However, longer durations could result in negative side effects.

If you feel up to it and want to juice fast safely, keep these points in mind:

  • Juices should be mostly non-sweet vegetables (so avoid things like beet and carrot juice). Non-sweet fruit such as cucumber, lemon, and lime are OK.  Juicing sweet fruit and veggies can sabotage your detox by promoting a blood sugar spike and the negative effects associated with it, like weight gain.
  • Make sure you are drinking enough. Since you’re not eating, you want to make sure you’re body is still receiving the nutrients it needs. Aim to have a 14-ounce juice every two to three hours, for a total of at least five juices a day. Include a nut milk for fat and protein.
  • Cap the fast at three days. Longer durations can result in electrolyte imbalances, loss of muscle mass, and a slower metabolism.

How to Do a Food Detox

A food detox is the number-one way to detox. In addition to nutrients, you get fiber, which further aids in detoxification and elimination and keeps you feeling satisfied.

In general, a food detox should be three to five days.  You want to include unlimited amounts of whole fruits and vegetables, up to about an ounce of raw nuts and seeds, and up to one cup of whole grains a day. Eliminate all packaged and processed foods, animal products including dairy and fish, caffeine, and sugary drinks. Drink only water or green juice during the detox.

There are a number of foods that aid in detoxification more so than others. Some of the most potent detox foods include dark leafy greens, broccoli, and chia seeds, so you’ll want to up your intake of those.

A detox diet like this doesn’t have to be boring – in fact, this is more or less the way I eat 365 days a year! I encourage the use of spices like ginger, turmeric, and black pepper (which are coincidentally detoxifying) and as long as you’re prepared with good recipes, I promise you, following these guidelines is completely satisfying and flavorful.

Of course it's best to eat healthy all year long, but if life gets in the way, undertake a food detox two to four times a year to really nourish your body and give it a chance to naturally cleanse and repair itself. 

Have you done a detox? If so, tell us what results you saw in the comments below!

Maria publishes a weekly blog and newsletter filled with healthy plant-based recipes and nutrition tips. Connect with Maria on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.