Juice fast has fans, skeptics

He needed something to help him recover and reboot. Something to make his body strong and not an easy target for colds.

So last November, the Roswell police officer filled up on juice — and nothing else — for two days. Throughout the day, Primo sipped a liquid blend of freshly pressed cucumber, parsley, celery and spinach.

“I really felt great,” Primo said. “My energy was good. It was so nice to go to work and not feel like I had to get that cup of coffee.”

More recently, he completed a seven-day juice fast after attending a class at Arden’s Garden, a local fresh juice company with five locations.

It’s spring, time to clean up, de-clutter, wash windows, get our homes in order.

But for some, as the weather warms up, it’s also a perfect time for spring cleansing. A time to clean the body’s slate, so to speak.

The nutrients from pure fruit and vegetable juices — which can pack more than 2 pounds of fresh produce in every 16-ounce bottle — is indisputable. But whether it’s a good idea to drink a whole lot of juice and eliminate everything else from your diet is open to debate.

What is clear is the growing popularity of juicing. It now draws a much wider flock of believers who turn to pure juice as part of healthful diet.

Interest is growing

Juicing is a form of fasting, a long-held tradition going back centuries. By consuming pure juices, the practice is designed to flush out the body’s toxins — preservatives, chemicals, alcohol, caffeine. And by consuming easy-to-digest meals, you give the liver and kidneys a rest.

The interest in juice fasting bubbles up at a time when more people are paying closer attention to what they put in their bodies and making a stronger link between eating smart and overall health and well-being. Several lifestyle gurus, including Dr. Andrew Weil, a leading proponent of integrative medicine, believe a juice fast of one or two days can be a nice break for the body’s digestive system.

Some people who do juice fasting get ready-made juices from places such as Arden’s Gardens and Nectar, another Atlanta-based shop offering fresh juice and cleanses. Others get the freshly prepared, nothing-but-juice by the gallons from yoga studios that offer what’s known as “The Lotus Cleanse.”

Still others go to farmers markets, buy the fruits and vegetables in bulk and prepare juices themselves.

Arden’s Garden, with a handful of juice and smoothie shops across metro Atlanta, first started offering cleansing classes back in 2000 attracting a small segment of the population — the yogis, the vegans and other highly health-conscious folks.

“It’s now everyone. It’s the Buckhead mom, people young and old, [juicing] virgins and seasoned fasters,” said Leslie Zinn, daughter of Arden’s Garden founder Arden Zinn, who runs the company.

During the past couple of years, sales of the company’s two-day, ready-made detox beverages have increased tenfold, Zinn said.

Not for everyone

But do our internal organs really need a break from solid food?

Susan Chapman, clinical nutrition manager at Piedmont Hospital, said our bodies are designed to cleanse themselves; our liver filters out the toxins in our bodies. It’s what the body does naturally. And while getting plenty of fluids is a good idea, she said it’s just not necessary, or even recommended, for people to limit their dietary intake to juice alone.

And while fasting for a day or two is rarely a problem if you are healthy, Chapman said it could be dangerous for anyone with kidney disease or chronic illness.

And as far as trying to melt away one too many holiday bon bons with the juice plan, Chapman said any weight lost that way is just water weight. The scale will return to where it was once the person returns to eating normally.

Still, Chapman said most people don’t come even close to getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And for that reason, making fresh fruit and vegetable juices, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, part of a regular diet is a good thing, she said.

“I’ve been a nutritionist for 30 years, and the basic premise of nutrition has not changed: Eating a variety of foods, moderation, a low-fat diet are the real keys,” she said.

But Dr. Clinton Carter, a former emergency room doctor who now works at a Concentra urgent care center in College Park, is not so quick to dismiss the practice. When considering the fatty and overprocessed American diet, filling up on vitamin- and mineral-rich pure vegetable and fruit juices could offer some real health benefits, he said.

He said going without protein for a long period of time is not healthful, but a couple of days could be a good way to reboot a body. He even juice fasts for one or two days every month, drinking a combination of juices made with fresh kale, celery, carrots, parsley and apple juice.

And juice fasting is not only about the body, he said. He said juice cleansing can have some powerful spiritual and psychological components.

“I try to read my body, and it’s not just the physical,” said Carter, who lives in Fayetteville. “You are not just clearing your body, but you are clearing your mind.”

Change diet overall

Zinn believes a pure-juice diet for a certain period of time can promote long-term health benefits. In fact, Arden’s Garden has a 21-day cleanse program in which participants fast on juice for seven of those days. The rest of the time, she said, participants are encouraged to eat whole grains and beans, nuts and seeds.

“Some of the participants will say, ‘Beans? I have never eaten beans in my life,’ ” she said. “So in that sense, they are being introduced to new foods.”

Still, she admits the primary goal of juicers signing for workshops is to shed pounds. Her goal, however, is to have the juicing be a springboard to ongoing healthful eating that includes lots of juice, but also whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

For Zakiya Alta Lee of Atlanta, consuming an apples-and-beets juice blend known as “Paradise” for a couple days straight was a way to keep her 28-year-old body strong and vital. Lee, who is an Atlanta Hawks cheerleader, wants to be proactive in her health, and she liked the idea of giving her organs a break. She warmed up to juice fasting with a two-day detox last year. And earlier this year, she kicked it up a notch by completing the 21-day juice cleanse, which included one week of just juice, and the rest of the time an emphasis on super-healthful eating.

“Everyone said my skin was glowing,” Alta Lee said.

She said it was also a blissful experience, bringing her peace and harmony.

Already thin, she admits she didn’t mind shedding a few pounds, either.

She’s not sure when she’ll do her next juice-only diet, but she’s made freshly made juice part of her everyday diet.

The same goes for Primo. And when he needs a pick-me-up, he skips the coffee shop now and goes to Arden’s Garden for what’s known as “Grand Slam” — one shot each of wheat grass, ginger, fresh lemon and cranberry.

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