Last week I decided to have a go at doing a juice cleanse – that is drinking fresh, cold-pressed juice exclusively. I thought it would be a great way to detox after a busy term at school and get my insides clean at the beginning of my three-week break. However, I realised before I began that living only on juice would be nearly impossible for me, so I decided that one large smoothie each day would also be allowed to give me some protein, fibre and whole food.
I knew from the beginning that this would not only be a physical challenge, but also a psychological one, as I know that my love of food is stronger than ever. Nonetheless, knowing the health benefits of juice, fasting and detoxifying my body I decided to give it a go, four days and as much juice as I could possibly drink.
Day One (Monday):
I woke up full of excited anticipation for the beginning of my juice cleanse, but decided to start my morning with a large berry-green smoothie as my breakfast. I then went and did a three-hour exam, so my first juice ended up being at lunch time. I had my standard green juice – kale, celery, silver beet, ginger, lemon and cucumber. In the afternoon my desire for food begin to raise its head. I wasn’t actually even hungry, but all I could think about was food, and in particular the piles of delicious and healthy foods that are in our cupboard. I sipped peppermint tea and tried not to think to much about how much I was missed eating food. I noticed that my throat was a little sore, as if I was getting a cold and that I was quite fatigued, more so than my usual afternoon. I had a second juice later in the afternoon, this time carrot, beetroot, lemon, celery and ginger. This picked me up for a little while, but before long I was craving food again, I really just wanted to eat! I made it right through to dinner time and I still wasn’t particularly hungry but I couldn’t stop thinking about food. I had my third juice – another green juice – at dinner time. And then I came unstuck, giving in to mashed avocado and so I had a small bowl of dinner. It was a beautiful thing to eat again. Later I had a homemade almond milk cacao hot chocolate as my ‘dessert’. Despite eating dinner, I had not given up on my juice cleanse. I went to bed quite exhausted but feeling quite good.
Day Two (Tuesday):
This morning I woke feeling much better, reasonably restored and enthused about juice once again. I began my morning with a hot lemon drink and 1 hour of gentle yoga practice. Then came my first juice – another green juice with freshly picked kale and silver beet from our veggie garden. It was delicious and satisfying. I seemed less preoccupied with food this morning and my mind felt a little clearer too. At lunch I made myself my smoothie for the day, a rich cacao avocado smoothie made with almond milk and topped with some nuts for extra protein. This definitely satisfied me and filled me up. I had a second juice later in the afternoon, another beetroot, carrot, celery, ginger and lemon combo. I had much more mental clarity and less fatigue this afternoon, which was good as I was busy doing homework. Dinner was another green juice. My cravings to eat were almost non-existent and I felt I had a lot more energy throughout the day. Later in the evening I had an almond milk cacao-chai hot chocolate, sweetened with honey and half a slice of superfood bread with natural peanut butter. I also snacked on a few more nuts just to keep the cravings at bay. I went to bed feeling very full and satisfied, despite my only really eating nuts, avocado and cacao during the day!
Day Three (Wednesday):
This morning began again with a hot lemon drink, followed by yoga practice and then a carrot-beetroot juice. It seems my juice creativity is limited, but I like the two juices I have been making so not to worry. At lunch I decided to have a soup, so I made some homemade pumpkin soup, loaded with lots of garlic and celery to aid my detox. I also snacked on some superfood bread topped with avocado and peanut butter (not together, don’t worry!) to up my intake of good fats and a carbohydrates. I was very full after lunch and headed on into the afternoon drinking plenty of water and sipping tea. By dinner time I was still full from my lunch, so I had a delicious beetroot-green juice, a combo of both my juices. I then had a bowl of the brown rice risotto with pumpkin and sweet potato that Peta made for dinner – it looked too good to pass up! Plus my standard almond milk hot chocolate.
Day Four (Thursday):
I decided to see if I could do a whole day on just juice, no food, no snacks, no soup and no smoothies, just to see if I could do it. The answer: not quite. Breakfast started with a hot lemon drink, followed by a mixed veggie juice that Peta made for me and a green tea. I drank juice for lunch and dinner and was feeling quite okay, but ended up eating some dinner anyway. Regardless, Thursday was one of my best days of juicing for the whole week!
Overall I was quite surprised with my attempted juice cleanse. Although I did not strictly adhere to the ‘no food’ part of it, I still found that I felt as if I was detoxifying and cleansing my body and when I did eat it was reasonably clean. I expected myself to feel lousy for a lot more than just one day, but after day one I felt great, had lots of energy and was surprisingly not hungry. I also found that I was able to begin to break my emotional and psychological connection to food, as I wasn’t always thinking about it and consuming it. I did not notice any great changes in my body or any evident weight loss, but that was probably due to the fact that I am a normal weight and I continued to eat food throughout the cleanse. I think it is something that I can imagine myself doing again, perhaps even juicing one day a week when I am older. I am glad I continued with the cleanse after day one, even though there were times when I wondered why I was doing it.
Some small facts about juicing:
- Cold-press juices are one of the simplest, quickest and most effective ways to up your intake of veggies. After all, one green juice might contain 4-5 kale leaves, a whole cucumber, 2 sticks of celery, some ginger, parsley and a lemon. As a result juices are dense with nutrients that can be quickly and easily absorbed into your body because the juice releases them from the fibre and bulk of the fruit and vegetable.
- Juices can and do taste good! It’s all about getting used to the taste and getting the right combination of flavours. To cover the ‘green-ness’ of the veggies I love ginger and lemon. A little chunk of ginger in your juice will give it a real kick that boosts your immunity, fights inflammation, cancer and is full of great nutrients. Lemon is also a great way to cover the flavours of the vegetables.
- Don’t juice too much fruit. When you juice fruit you are literally extracting the fructose straight from it and putting it in your juice. Without the fibre to slow down the spike in blood sugar, fruit juice can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. To stay on the safe side, I would recommend only juicing lemons in your vegetable juices (as they are low GI and won’t produce the same spike that other fruits will) or 1/2 an apple in one juice. Once you get used to the taste of vegetables you won’t even mind a juice with no fruit at all!
- Fasting can be good for you. For thousands of years fasting rituals have been a part of many religions, with fasts ranging from several days to a whole month. Fasting in many cultures is considered a holy practice, but it also has been found to be very good for your health. Fasting gives your body a chance to rest and rebuild, as it is not using up energy to digest all the food you are eating or produce so many intestinal juices. Fasting has also been linked to decreased weight, reduced chronic disease and cancer risks and longevity. One example of fasting is the rise in popularity of the 5:2 diet, in which people ‘fast’ (consume less than 500 calories) two days per week and eat normally for the other five. Scientific studies have linked this reduced calorie diet to increased longevity. Juice fasting is essentially the same thing, except instead of eating nothing you are getting nutrients in a very low calorie form. Just to be clear, I have never cared about calories or losing weight, but I do like that there are benefits to short-term, very low calorie fasts such as juice cleanses.
- Juice organic produce only. This is an important point, because if you are juicing you want it to be a super health elixir and not full of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals. I understand that it is not always possible to source completely organic, but I would insist on organic celery, apples, cucumbers and leafy greens as a minimum. That way you know that your juice will be free of all the chemicals of conventional produce.
Do you want to or have you ever completed a juice cleanse? How did you find it?