Pros and Cons of Juicing for Weight Loss

Can juice really help you lose weight?

Almost every health food store sells a variety of cold-pressed juices, and chains like Nektar Juice sell multi-day juice cleanses. Many of these juice cleanses claim to do all sorts of things, from detoxing your body to slimming your waist.

So what does science have to say when it comes to juice cleanses and juice fasts? Can juicing really help you to lose weight? And what about the health benefits—is juice really good for you?

The Benefits of Juicing for Weight Loss

What are the benefits of a juice cleanse when it comes to losing weight?

• Very dense in micronutrients that your body needs (including vitamins, minerals, and other essential phytochemicals)
• Fast (albeit temporary) weight loss

Benefit #1: You Get Lots of Vitamins and Minerals

Getting all of the vegetables that you need in one daily drink definitely sounds like a dream—few of us get the full four+ servings recommended each day. And even when we do, current agricultural methods are believed to strip out more than 75% of the critical plant nutritional value that these same foods likely contained 100 years ago. We tend to be especially deficient in leafy, green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, which are some of the most important for our health. Because of the health and weight-loss benefits of many vegetables, using vegetable juices for weight loss can be a good option.

If you’re looking for a way to get more vitamins and minerals from vegetables, juicing can be a good solution. Just be sure that you are getting juices that haven’t been pasteurized, which destroys many of the nutrients found in juice. You want fresh juices for maximum health benefit. Additionally, because the cold press juicing process does not involve any mechanically generated heat, cold press juices are believed to destroy fewer of the micronutrients in juices.

However, if you suffer from diabetes, you must be very careful to limit juices to mostly vegetables. Juices prepared from fruits (and even a few vegetables such as beets and carrots) carry a very high glycemic index, which can be dangerous for diabetic patients.

Benefit #2: Juicing Facilitates Fast Weight Loss

Why does juicing help with weight loss?

When following a juice diet or cleanse, most people end up consuming far fewer calories if they preplan their juicing schedule, and many people do see their weight drop fairly quickly. You’re also not eating or drinking unhealthy empty calories, sugars and carbohydrates, like you get in processed refined sugars (candy), refined oils (vegetable oil), or refined flours (white bread).

How fast can you expect to lose weight while juicing? Some people lose as much as 1 pound per day on this diet. That may sound impressive, but bear in mind that it is NOT medically recommended for most people to engage in a juice fast for longer than 7 days—so your total weight loss will be limited.

Keep in mind that, while some of the weight you lose will be fat, some of your weight loss in the beginning will come from muscle and also from stored water weight. This water weight will quickly return when you start eating solid foods again.

The Drawbacks of Juicing

An exclusively fruit and vegetable juice weight loss diet comes with some inherent dangers that you should be aware of. It’s important to understand the limitations of juicing so that you have a balanced and realistic awareness of what to expect.

What are the drawbacks of a juice cleanse when it comes to losing weight?

• Loss of muscle mass
• Intense hunger
• Benefits are temporary
• Absence of some nutrients (primarily protein)

Drawback #1: You Will Lose Muscle Mass and Slow Your Metabolism

Juice cleanses are low in protein. Not getting sufficient protein in your diet will lead to a loss of muscle mass. This matters because muscle mass is important for your metabolism, and having less muscle can mean your metabolism slows down. You’ll want to be sure to do some resistance exercises after you complete the cleanse to rebuild this muscle mass in order to avoid a drop in metabolism and strength.

This is particularly important for people who do juice fasts frequently or for long durations of time. You don’t want your resting metabolism to suffer long-term.

Drawback #2: You Will Be Hungry

At the beginning of a juice fast, you will no doubt feel very hungry. This makes it hard to stick to the fast. Hunger can mean you give into unhealthy cravings during the fast, or even binge on junk food once your fast is over.

Why are you so hungry on a juice cleanse? Part of the reason is the lack of calories. But another reason is that juice lacks fiber, which is the part of food primarily responsible for filling space, triggering satiety, and letting your body know that that your stomach is full. Juice diets are also low on protein and fat, both of which can also contribute to feeling full.

Drawback #3: Weight Loss and Health Benefits are Temporary

If you’re looking for long-term weight loss, a juice cleanse by itself is not the solution. The reason we tend to regain weight after a diet is that we return to how we were eating before, and our bodies quickly return to their old weight.

If you’re looking for long-term weight loss, it’s important to make lasting changes. Fruit and vegetable juicing for weight loss can’t last. It is not safe or recommended to continue prolonged juice fasts, because these fasts can eventually lead to extreme caloric, protein, and possibly electrolyte deficiencies.

Drawback #4: Lack of Nutrients

While juice fasts load your body with a plethora of important micronutrients, they do leave out a few important nutrients that we need for optimal health: healthy fats, protein, and sodium.

For this reason it is not safe to extend a juice fast for months without healthy fats in your diet. They’re important for immune function, brain health, and more. If you do decide to extend a juice diet beyond a week or two, it’s important to get some healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, for instance through chia or flax seeds or supplements containing omega 3 and 6 fats.

Prolonged juicing can also leave some people deficient sodium. Our bodies need a small amount of this electrolyte for proper electrical conduction in the heart and brain, and not getting enough can be dangerous. Low sodium can potentially result in nerve conduction abnormalities and cardiac rhythm disturbances. Again, while not recommended, if a person chooses to extend a juice fast beyond one week, it is important to add around a quarter of a teaspoon total of salt to their juices throughout the day, every day. This is one reason that extended juice fasts should not be attempted without careful medical supervision.

Is Juicing For Weight Loss Healthy?

Juicing can be healthy, depending on how you do it.

If not done carefully under medical supervision, a prolonged juice cleanse can be a dangerous way to lose weight in spite of the fact that people do absorb many very healthy plant-based micronutrients.

When it comes to long-term weight loss, juicing isn’t safely sustainable indefinitely, and cannot by itself produce long-term results. However, many people will transition off of a juice cleanse to a sustainable plant-based whole-foods diet. A plant-based whole-foods diet is a sustainable pathway to losing weight; and even more importantly, to optimizing health.

Vegetable Juicing For Weight Loss

Adding occasional fresh vegetable juices to a healthy (food-based) diet can be a powerful way to concentrate the amount of phytochemial micronutrients that you consume. However, one of the undesirable consequences of juicing is that sweet juices (generally, but not always, fruit juices) contain higher amounts of liquid calories. This isproblematic from a weight loss perspective because you could consume a nearly limitless amount of liquid calories. This can actually produce weight gain (instead of desired weight loss), especially if you’re eating food on top of these juice calories.

Additionally, sweet (fruit) juices usually contain natural sugars, which have a very high glycemic index when the natural food fiber has been removed. This means that if you drink sweet juices, your blood sugar will climb very quickly. This can be dangerous for diabetics. If you suffer from diabetes, then we recommend not including fruit in any of your juices.

So should you juice for weight loss? You should avoid prolonged juice cleanses and juice fasts, and instead consider adding juices to your diet to supplement a healthy food-based diet by replacing a meal with juice instead regular food. These juices should be vegetable-based and contain a minimum of fruit. Vegetable juicing for weight loss, in conjunction with a healthy plant-based diet, can be effective.

Green Juice Recipes for Weight Loss

There are many green juice recipes for weight loss available on the internet, but you can also be creative and experiment with your own. Some of the best components of green juice recipes for weight loss include:

• Wheatgrass
• Herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint, etc)
• Leafy superfood greens (kale, spinach, dandelion greens, power greens mixtures)
• Cucumber
• Celery

It is important to note that you may not be able to use greens if you take a medication called coumadin (warfarin) as greens interfere with the blood thinning effects of this medication. If you want to utilize greens then you will need to discuss alternative medications with your prescribing physician and choose an alternative before juicing greens.

Because greens often produce a more bitter flavor, natural plant juice flavor enhancers that can be used to offset this include lemon and ginger root.

Here are some of our favorite green juice recipes for weight loss when used over short time intervals or in conjunction with a healthy diet. You can drink these as a natural daily supplement to a healthy food-based diet.

Recipe #1: Green Juice for Weight Loss

This fresh green juice is a great daily drink to help facilitate weight loss. The turmeric and ginger contribute many health benefits including a reduction of inflammation, and the pineapple may enhance the quality of your sleep (sleep is very important for weight loss).

Ingredients:
1/8 pineapple
4 kale leaves
2 celery stalks
4 large leaves of lettuce
1 handful of flat parsley
1 handful of curly parsley
1 lemon
1 inch piece of ginger
1 inch piece of turmeric
1-2 chiles

If you suffer from diabetes, then we strongly recommend removing the pineapple from this recipe.

Recipe #2: Low-Sugar Green Juice for Weight Loss

This fresh green juice contains bitter melons, which may be helpful at stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Ingredients:
2 large bitter melons
1 medium cucumber
½ lemon

Recipe #3: Satiating Green Juice for Weight Loss

This green juice may help satiate you, reducing your cravings for junk food. Studies have also shown that eating spinach on a daily basis may be associated with weight loss.

Ingredients:
2 stalks organic celery
1 medium organic red pepper
½ bunch organic cilantro
1 organic carrot
½ organic fennel bulb
1 cup organic spinach
1 lime (squeeze into finished product)

If you suffer from diabetes, then we strongly recommend removing the carrot from this recipe.

When Dieting Isn’t Enough: Bariatric Surgery

If you want to lose a few pounds and feel better, then replacing a meal with a healthy juice every day may right up your alley. But if you’re suffering from obesity, then realistically juicing may not be enough for you.

If you struggle with your weight, and you’ve lost 50 pounds or even more only to watch helplessly as the scale creeps back up, then please understand that this is not your fault. If you suffer from obesity, then your body is hardwired to gain and maintain its weight.

Bariatric surgery is a powerful tool to help you lose weight, keep it off, and live the life that you deserve. At the Bariatric and Metabolic Center of Colorado, we offer gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass surgery, and duodenal switch surgery. These surgeries have helped our patients to lose 100 pounds, 150 pounds, or even more; and keep the weight off.

Losing weight is about more than looking good; it’s about living a long, healthy, fulfilling life. If you would like to learn more about bariatric surgery, go ahead and schedule an appointment today.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: February 24th, 2020

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