When it comes to being healthy, the key is having enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet.
Typically, you get all of these elements through the food you eat, but if you're not eating as cleanly as possible, your digestive system may not be running efficiently. One way to improve your healthy habits is to go on a juice cleanse. However, before starting a cleanse, there's one question you have to answer: "store-bought vs. homemade juice?"
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Fortunately, you don't have to make that decision yourself. We're here to break down the pros and cons of juice cleansing at home or with pre-made products. From there, you can make the right choice for your needs. Here's everything you need to know.
What is Juice Cleansing?
Another term for this process is "juice fasting," which gives a bit clearer indication of what it's all about. A juice cleanse is designed to help you reset your digestive system by drinking only vitamin-rich juice for a few days. Usually, juice fasts or cleanses are only for two or three days, but some programs can last up to a week.
One element to remember is that a juice cleanse requires some preparation before starting. If you're used to eating a lot of calories, caffeine, and other ingredients, a cleanse can be quite a shock to the system. However, with the right mentality and prep schedule, these programs can be refreshing and rejuvenating.
Benefits of Juice Cleansing
Before we list these advantages of juice cleanses, keep in mind that there is no scientific consensus about how effective these programs can be for everyone. Overall, what's most important to remember is that diet and nutrition don't happen in a vacuum. A cleanse won't offer any long-term benefits unless you make additional healthy choices. Also, some cleansing programs work better for people than others, so you might have to do some experimentation to get the results you want.
That said, here are some tangible benefits you can often see with a juice cleanse:
- Weight Loss - Keep in mind that losing weight on one of these programs won't help you keep it off. Usually, people lose anywhere from two to 10 pounds, depending on the length of the cleanse and other factors. However, once you start eating normally, you'll gain it back unless you follow strict dietary guidelines afterward.
- Improved Digestive Health - If you have mild constipation, bloating, or other digestive issues, a cleanse can help you reset your system so that you can figure out what's going on. The vitamins and nutrients in juice can also stimulate your stomach bacteria so that they work more efficiently.
- More Nutrients - If you're not eating as many healthy foods as you should, a juice fast can help you increase your vitamin and mineral intake. Plus, since you're not eating as many calories, your body will absorb these nutrients more efficiently than when you're consuming solid foods.
Potential Drawbacks to Juice Cleansing
While you can add more vitamins and nutrients to your diet, you need to be careful about being too extreme with your cleansing program. Here are a few potential side effects to pay attention to before starting:
- Lack of Fiber - Both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber are necessary for regulating your digestive system. Unfortunately, drinking juice offers little fiber since it's all contained in fruit peels or flesh. While a two or three-day cleanse should be okay, you need to be extra careful if you're doing it for a week or longer. To alleviate this problem, you can make smoothies instead.
- Lack of Protein - Protein is a fundamental building block for your body. All of your internal organs and muscles need protein to heal and repair themselves, which is why it's an essential element. When going on a juice cleanse, it's best to avoid heavy exercise since you could do more damage than good.
- Added Sugar - Fruits contain a lot of sugar, and you need quite a few of them to make one full cup of juice. Even if you're not diabetic, too much sugar and a lack of fiber can put a lot of stress on your liver. Try to limit your sugar intake or add fiber to your cleanse to help balance it out.
Store-Bought Juice Cleanses vs. Homemade: A Comparison Guide
Once you're ready to start your juice cleansing program, you need to have all the right ingredients. As we mentioned, there are two ways to do one of these fasts. Either you can make your own juice, or you can buy pre-made products from the store. We'll break down the pros and cons of each method by looking at specific categories, such as convenience and costs. By the end, you should have a good idea of which route you want to take.
Overall, getting store-bought juice is going to be much more convenient than making it yourself. If you're in a rush, it's easier to grab packaged juices than it is to pull out the juicing machine and raw ingredients. Even if you don't have juice at home, you can run to the store and pick up a couple of bottled juice options on the go.
That said, you can pre-make your own cold-pressed juice and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge for later. However, because you don't have access to the same preservatives and artificial ingredients, your juice will have a much shorter shelf life. Although, since you'll only be juicing for a few days anyway, that may not be a big issue.
Another point to consider is the cleaning and maintenance of your juicing machine. If you don't wipe it down after each use, it can get sticky and harder to clean later. Some juicers will have a self-cleaning mode, but not all of them do. For example, a masticating juicer uses gears to grind your ingredients, creating a time-consuming cleaning process.
Winner: Store-Bought Juice
If you don't have an electric juicer, the upfront costs of going on a juice cleanse will be high. Juicing machines can easily range from around $100 to $300, and that's not including any high-end triturating juicers.
That said, if you already have a juicing machine, you can actually save money by buying raw ingredients. Store-bought juice cleanse products can sometimes have a high markup, which adds up quickly. By comparison, you can buy a bag of fruits and vegetables from the grocery store for the cost of one bottle of freshly squeezed juice.
Winner: Homemade Juice if you have a machine already. Store-bought juice if you don't have a juicer.
Either way you go, you're adding far more vitamins and nutrients to your digestive system than you would otherwise. One added benefit of pre-made products is that you don't have to calculate your nutrient intake. Instead of having to extrapolate how many vitamins and antioxidants there are in six apples, you can just read the bottle label.
Overall, both homemade and store-bought juice can offer tons of health benefits. However, you can customize your juice recipe to ensure that you're mixing the proper nutritional value for your specific needs. For example, if you want to cut down on sugar content, you can utilize low-sugar fruits and vegetables. Also, you can mix and match flavors to get the best combinations.
As we mentioned, one element that is lacking from store-bought juice is dietary fiber. A primary health benefit of fruits and vegetables is adding soluble and insoluble fiber to your diet, which helps regulate your internal systems. When you make your own juice, you can add the fiber back in by tossing the leftover pulp into your beverage. It might take a few tries to get used to the thicker consistency, but you'll be doing better for your body in the process.
On the flip side, store-bought juice can add some extra protein to the mix. Since the best raw fruits and vegetables for juicing don't have much protein, you need to be careful about starving yourself too much.
Finally, you'll want to weigh the pros and cons of artificial preservatives in your fruit juice. For example, most orange juice comes with flavor packs because they've been stored for up to a year before hitting the shelves. By comparison, fresh-squeezed orange juice doesn't have any artificial ingredients. If you want your cleanse to stay pure, you'll need to buy high-end products or opt for fresh homemade juice instead.
Here is where homemade juice shines. You could search for hours at the store, trying to find the best combination of flavors and nutrients. Depending on where you can go for juice cleanse products, your selection may be limited substantially.
Making your own fresh juice means you can pick and choose the fruits and vegetables you want based on your dietary needs and taste preferences. Best of all, you can mix and match as much as you want. For example, perhaps you make a strawberry and pomegranate juice for breakfast, then a green juice for lunch.
As we mentioned above, you can also limit your sugar intake by making your own juice. While some manufacturers offer low-sugar organic juice blends, they can be hard to find or expensive. It's much easier and cost-effective to do it yourself. Plus, you don't have to worry about additives and preservatives in your juice.
Winner: Homemade Juice
Sample Juice Cleanse Options
Knowing the benefits of a juice cleanse is one thing - following through on it is another. To help you kickstart your juicing adventure, here is a list of common options you can get either from the store or make at home.
- Prune Juice - Helps with digestion and aids with bowel movements.
- Apple Juice - Commercial apple juice may not be as nutrient-heavy as homemade apple juice. If possible, try to add fiber to the mix by tossing the pulp or peel into your beverage. Another option is to add applesauce to a smoothie.
- Citrus Juice - Examples include lemon juice, orange juice, or lime juice. Fresh orange juice is good as-is, but other citrus fruits should be added to a mixture, not ingested straight. Citrus has ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), which is vital for your immunity.
- Cranberry Juice - Fresh cranberries are naturally tart, so you'll want to mix them with other options like pineapple juice or grape juice. Cranberries have lots of antioxidants and flavonoids, as well as vitamin C.
- Beet Juice - Beetroot juice can take some getting used to, but beets offer potassium, vitamin C, and iron. Beets are really good for your blood flow.
Bottom Line: Make the Best Choice for Your Juice Cleansing Needs
Overall, remember that a juice cleanse isn't a "hack." If you're trying to lose weight or get healthier, a single cleansing program won't undo years of damage or poor eating habits. Instead, look at juice cleansing as a temporary solution to a specific problem.
For example, if you're trying to lose a few pounds, a cleanse can help you reach your goal (assuming that you can keep it off afterward). If you're trying to identify dietary allergies or reactions, a cleanse allows you to reset your digestive system and slowly reintroduce foods to see how they react with your body.
Another point to keep in mind is that you don't have to go all-in on one method or the other. Some days, you might be able to make juice from scratch, while other times, it may be more convenient to buy juice from the store. Once you identify your goals, you can make a plan and follow through.