• Is juice cleansing a faux fad or a movement that shouldstay? Oasis Living asks the experts

    Like many food trends, drinking juice to detox is a heavily debated topic in the health community with equal amounts of people toting and bashing its effects. You will hear that it’s a scam, a quick fix – and you will also hear of its numerous health benefits.

    SO WHAT IS THE ACTUAL STORY?

    For starters, this detox diet is better known as juice cleansing, and essentially you swap solid foods for organic juices. Interestingly, it’s a practice stretching back millennia with recorded instances in early cultures of Greek, Egypt, China, and Thailand.

    The aim of this cleanse is to pump your body full of nutrient-rich liquids, while reducing your intake of toxins found largely in processed foods.

    Not that long ago as the fad took off in popular culture, cleanses asked partakers to go on a ten-day ride of drinking nothing but a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup (can’t you just feel your taste buds shrivelling in apprehension?)

    And as celebrities like Beyoncé, Jared Leto, and Ashton Kutcher gave it their thumbs up, the diet quickly gained popularity for its energising and weight loss effects, the latter not being all that surprising due to the diet’s symptoms which include vomiting and hot bowel movements, all signs of the detox supposedly working.

    The last few years have seen studies showing cleanses evolve from those which ask you to starve yourself by consuming empty calories, to ones which hit all the major food groups you need. Newer cleanses now contain about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day; there is generally a nut-milk component for fat and a little protein, and vegetable juices for vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes.

    FLUSHING THE SYSTEM

    “If you’ve ever felt sluggish, drowsy, bloated, had digestive issues, or sugar and junk cravings, then your body is clearly not accommodating the lifestyle you’re feeding it,” said Chris Vahanian, cofounder of Dubai-based juice shop Organic Press.

    “These are some key signs of you needing to give your system a break and flush it with the essential micronutrients that it really needs.”

    “Also, if you personally do not lead a healthy lifestyle or your diet lacks vegetables and fruits – the daily recommendation is five to seven servings – then incorporating juices to your diet or embarking on a juice cleanse would be beneficial,” he added.

    The juices ingested need to consist primarily of greens though, low on fruit to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels. They also need to be organic as nonorganic ones can be laced with a plethora of pesticides. The body also needs fibre though, so it’s recommended to toss in some chia or flaxseeds if you’re making your own or purchase ones with such ingredients.

    Juice cleanses aren’t recommended for more than three days, and for anyone looking to embark on the journey, Vahanian advises that they mentally prepare for the cleanse and understand that you’ll be abstaining from solid foods for one to three days.

    “However, if you lead a lifestyle of unhealthy habits, it would be best to gradually move into a cleanse by slowly incorporating vegetables, salads and clean food throughout the first few days leading into it,” he said.

    A DETOXING DELIGHT

    There are numerous benefits to this diet; not only does it aid in weight loss but also boosts your immune system, increases your energy, supports brain health, improves digestion, aids in gut health, decreases heart risk and failure, reduces cell damage, and improves overall wellbeing.

    “When used properly and tailored for performance, juicing has the potential to greatly improve an athlete’s health and performance,” said David Labouchere, a world-class triathlete and an ambassador for PURE, an all-natural sports nutrition brand under the Principals MENA company.

    “It can create an alkalised environment in your body and generate reliable, slow-release sources of energy,”

    But like anything, juicing has its own drawbacks as well but there are no specific dangers to detoxing, says Vahanian, if you keep yourself accountable.

    “Unless you’re allergic to a certain ingredient, those setting off on a one to three-day cleanse won’t feel the effects as much as a person embarking on a five-day cleanse or more,” he said.

    “Here, there are times when headaches arise, cravings start to begin. This is completely normal, and we inform everyone to stay hydrated and chew your juice to trick your brain that it is eating. This is just the phase when the body is realising that no food is being ingested and is taking necessary measures to react.”

    BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

    What if a person cannot cope with the liquid diet though?

    “Mix your juices with food,” advised Dr Haifa Mirghani, a nutritionist at the Diet Nutrition Centre in Al Ain.

    “If you feel dizzy, add a couple of dates into your diet and if you are truly having a tough time then some vegetables with nuts and protein is a good go-to meal.

    “Avoid reaching for obvious ‘energy boosters’ like caffeine or chocolate.”

    Dr Mirghani also advises against exercising too hard during the period of a juice cleanse, especially during your first time.

    One of the added benefits to cleansing is also flushing out oedemas (abnormal accumulations of fluid in the body) that the body may be housing, added the doctor, who has herself experienced this benefit.

    “It’s important to get an expert’s opinion before cleansing though,” she said. “Only after discussing and understanding your fitness and nutrition goals can a health professional advise you to go on a juice cleanse.”

    For those who’d simply prefer to stick to solids, Labouchere suggests living more “cleanly”.

    “Be more disciplined in how you lead your life,” he said. “Over-processed or refined foods, chemical additives, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, chlorinated water, artificial sweeteners or anything else that might remotely be considered unnatural, need to be minimised.”

    WHAT’S THE VERDICT?

    And as for whether this is a fad diet, Vahanian said: “It shouldn't be considered a fad diet. As a matter of fact, the entire population needs to be educated on the benefits of juicing and its long term benefits.

    “The UAE population boasts one of the highest obesity and diabetic rates in the world with 46 per cent considered either one or the other. If everyone opted for juices and incorporated juice into their lifestyle this number will drastically decrease.

    “The UAE needs to investigate this matter and should begin to implement healthier options as opposed to capitalising on all the fast food chains and restaurants around.”

    WANT TO TRY IT?

    Check out organicpress.com for a full list of Vahanian’s juice cleanse programmes and wellness packages. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to them via email for any questions you have, they’re happy to help.

    Subscribing to a juicing package can be expensive though so if you’re looking to make your own juices, consult a professional to tailor-make a programme for yourself and make sure to use a juicer and not a blender to avoid chunky messes.