[By Julia Wills]

Two months ago, after being inspired by a story of Gywneth Paltrow’s successful cleansing regime, I went on a juice cleanse. You know what it cleans out of you best? The will to live. This is not entirely fair, because I didn’t strictly play by the rules. But I was trying this increasingly popular purge after realizing there was perhaps room for improvement in my lifestyle choices.

The idea of consuming only water or juice to rid the body of so-called toxins is not new. Virtually every major religion has some fasting and cleansing ritual that supposedly allows the body to heal, regenerate and, in a sense, atone for past sins. Cleansing promises that everything old is new again, which may be why juice cleansing has been on the rise; this year, juices and juice-cleanse companies were as ubiquitous at Fashion Week events as cigarettes and champagne.

In the last few years, the idea of cleanses has evolved from the harsh and puritanical toxin purging rituals only the determined or the insane could accomplish. Now they are kinder, gentler — and seemingly saner. The new cleanses 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 and minerals and live enzymes.

Celebrities have led the new wave of juice cleanses with Salma Hayek, a juicing aficionado, starting Cooler Cleanse, a home-delivery juicing program with Eric Helms (who owns Juice Generation). Hot on her heels, is “detoxina” Gwyneth Paltrow who champions a similar system called Organic Avenue. On Ms. Paltrow’s Web site, goop.com, Denise Mari, the Organic Avenue founder, explains that her juices are based on the elements of LOVE: live, organic, vegan experience.

For all those of you out there who are determined to follow in the green and healthy footsteps of these celebs, here are some important facts on what it actually entails, and how you can embark on a juice fast without spending tons of money on celeb-endorsed designer juices.

What is a Juice Fast?

A juice fast is a type of detox diet. A juice fast involves the short-term intake of raw vegetable and fruit juice and water only. Proponents of juice fasting use juice because it’s thought to be a good source of vitamins and antioxidants.

A juice fast is considered an extreme form of detoxification because no solid food is consumed.

Who Shouldn’t Try a Juice Fast?

  • Pregnant or nursing women or children shouldn’t try a juice fast.
  • People with diabetes, low blood sugar, eating disorders, kidney disease, liver disease, malnutrition, addictions, underweight, anemia, impaired immune function, infection, nutritional deficiency, low blood pressure, ulcerative colitis, cancer, terminal illness, epilepsy, or other chronic conditions shouldn’t try a juice fast or should do so only under strict medical supervision.
  • People shouldn’t try a juice fast before or after surgical procedures.
  • A juice fasting can reduce blood proteins and change the way prescription drugs react in the body. People taking prescription medications should consult a health professional skilled in detoxification before trying a juice fast, and should never discontinue or reduce their medications on their own.

It’s important to consult a qualified health professional before trying a juice fast.

How Long Does a Juice Fast Typically Last?

A juice fast typically lasts for one to three days. A longer fast requires medical supervision and possibly monitoring to ensure that nutrient deficiencies don’t result. Always consult you doctor to see if you are suitable for such a regime and stop whenever you experience any symptoms.

Steps to a Juice Cleanse regime:

  • Taper off alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, dairy, wheat, animal meat, fish, and eggs 7 days before commencement of the fast. Take more organic fruits, vegetables, and beans to prepare your body for the fast.
  • Between 32 and 64 ounces of juice is usually recommended per day during the fast. The juice is sipped throughout the day. Typical fruits and vegetables include celery, carrot, kale, cabbage, apple, pineapple, cranberry, spinach, beet, and greens. Citrus fruits are often avoided.
  • Approximately 6 glasses of room temperature or warm filtered water is often recommended in addition to the juice.
  • Organic fruits and vegetables are usually recommended. If organic produce isn’t available, practitioners suggest peeling the skin off fruits and vegetables or washing vegetables with a non-toxic produce cleaner, usually available at health food stores.
  • Freshly juiced fruits and vegetables are preferred, but if unavailable, practitioners suggest buying it from the health food store or juice bar as fresh as possible.
  • Green vegetables and sprouts contain the pigment chlorophyll, which juice proponents believe are especially beneficial during a juice fast.
  • A combination of fruits and vegetables is recommended.
  • Variations on the strict juice fast include eating one meal a day in addition to the juice.

Certain fruits and vegetables and their parts should not be juiced, such as the pits of peaches, apricots, cherries, and other fruits, apple seeds, citrus peels, carrot and rhubarb tops, tough skins (such as kiwi, pineapple, mangoes), and bananas and avocados.

What Do People Eat After a Juice Fast?

There should be a gradual return to solid foods. Start with small portions of vegetables and fruits before moving on to lean protein.

My experience

I stared on a five day Juice Cleanse and I would be the first to admit that by the third day, I was seriously craving chocolates. While it was easy to cheat and sneak a bite, I didn’t, though. So I am proud to say that I made it through. And celebrated with a fennel salad and sparkling water on the 6th day.

While the gripes were plentiful during the ordeal, in truth I may do a juice cleanse again. Because I did enjoy the floaty sensation of being lighter and “cleaner”, but more than that, I loved what generations before (and undoubtedly after) me loved about fasting: the triumph, however briefly, over sensuality. By the end of the cleanse, I wasn’t thinking about food. I wasn’t thinking about drink. I wasn’t even thinking about sex. The appetites that rule me every single day were my slaves, for once. By that fifth day I wasn’t craving anything. I was free.


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