Fitness & Healthy Lifestyle
Food & Drink

Fasting for Lasting Change? + Understanding Juice Cleanses

It’s January, & thus cue the deluge of the ‘New Year, New You’ resets in the form of juice cleanses, soup fasts & various fitness programs.

Of course the start of a brand new year is a great time for goal setting, however, here at Natural Nourishment, we are very much more focussed on the long game, the lasting change, & the love of taking care of ourselves every day, not just for the month of January.

With the ongoing challenges we face as a global population it has never been more important to be aware of the impact of our dietary & lifestyle choices on our mental health. We have seen a sharp rise in clients looking for more ‘hard boundaries’ within these elements of their lives as they seek stability in a somewhat wavy edged world. We do not necessarily see this as being a negative but we do caution the use of deprivational tactics, harsh/overly high expectations of our capabilities, & restrictive or isolating practises, as ultimately these end up feeding back into a sense of disappointment.

Optimal health & wellbeing is a constellation of many interconnecting factors cemented in over time, so a three day fast of bone broth or cabbage soup may leave you feeling light & cleansed, but if not followed up with a lot more supportive elements it is unlikely to have long-lasting health benefits.

We get a lot of questions surrounding juice cleanses this time of year, & there are certainly pros & cons of juicing that are useful to know. Juice in some forms can be rather unhelpful, whilst other types can be a wonderfully convenient source of vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. So now onto the fun stuff – what, how, when, why & which?!

As mentioned above these natural foods boast an abundant supply of vitamins, minerals & numerous plant compounds called phytonutrients (also often referred to as antioxidants although many vitamins also have antioxidant activity; Vitamins C & E for example). Each colourful pigment in these foods is 1 of these, hence the suggestion that ‘Eating The Rainbow’ will always improve our body’s function, enhance immunity, support skin health & more. In their whole forms fruits & vegetables are also high in fibre which plays many crucial roles but most notably garners a good gut environment by ensuring effective elimination of waste & providing food for our probiotic bacteria.

Another key factor related to that fibre content is how it impacts the absorption of sugar from the fruits & veggies. Because fibre needs to be chewed, & then further broken down through our digestive tract we gradually see a drip feed of those naturally occurring energy molecules into the bloodstream, resulting in steady & sustained energy levels.

Sugar comes in a few forms so just for your interest fruit contains primarily fructose + some glucose, whereas vegetables tend to be lower in both.

Some vegetables, including celery & cucumber, are very low in fructose & mainly made of water & micronutrients (those vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients), making them a better choice for juicing. Due to the removal of the fibre element from juices & the naturally higher sugar levels found in fruit we generally advise avoiding fruit juice; our bodies simply weren’t designed to mainline fructose in this way.

Expanding on this a touch more, the other key point to consider is portion size. Fibre makes us feel full so in the absence of it we can consume far more of the isolated compounds from fruit/veg than we would be able to eat. A 240ml glass of fresh orange juice for example boasts 137% of your required daily Vitamin C intake, so sounds like it should be great for us, however if we dig a little deeper that would also provide 25g of pure sugar, with only 0.5g of fibre. Compare that to a medium orange which gives 15g of sugar + 3g of fibre. In that tiny glass of juice you have isolated the nutrients from ~3 oranges with far less satisfaction or feedback to your body that you’ve eaten (chewing is integral to this process).

As carbohydrates start to be metabolised in the mouth (compared to protein & fats that need to get to the stomach before this begins) that sugar will hit your bloodstream very quickly, shoot up your energy levels & as a natural protective strategy your body mirrors this with an insulin spike.

This drives a lot of that energy into storage causing your energy levels to crash down again shortly afterwards, & as a consequence probably prompt the need to have something more to eat. It’s this kind of inconsistency in energy levels due to imbalanced blood sugar levels that can leave us feeling irritable/low, in addition to compromising concentration. We don’t know about you but that’s starting to sound like the opposite to what most people would be looking for in a reset style reboot!

Because we always like to give you greater tools to make informed choices we should also highlight that the different forms of sugar don’t all work the same way in the body.

Fructose is actually metabolised in the liver, so high fructose options like agave have often been touted as being ‘better choices’ because they won’t impact blood glucose the same way as a high glucose/sucrose food would, this is a misnomer though as overloading your liver with fructose comes with its own set of problems.

Excess fructose can prevent the liver from functioning effectively & can lead to the production of a high level of triglycerides, which in turn will increase the likelihood of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as the risk of obesity & cardiovascular disease. So that fruit juice that is supposedly so great for us really probably isn’t such a good idea after all…

Now to step back from the doom & gloom scenario for a second – having some juice (even fruit juice) from time to time won’t cause you to suddenly start depositing fat in your liver (if you have existing risk factors however then we would consider this an easily modifiable element of your routine to chop out for prevention of disease progress). But you can see within our big picture of health why a juice cleanse, or even reasonably large daily juice consumption (if not well considered in terms of ingredients) might not be the healthiest of choice.

If you want to include juices into your routine then choosing/making those that are 85/90% green vegetables, with lots of cucumber, celery, fresh herbs like parsley & natural medicinal roots such as turmeric & ginger, & seeing them as an addition to your diet rather than a replacement for food is a wonderful thing to do.

You are basically adding a liquid multinutrient, but they cannot, & we would probably say should not, be seen as something to replace your daily meals for longer than 1 day if you did want a reset. If doing this option please also be aware of the impact of your environment – a juice based 24 hour period would be acceptable for most people if they are in a calm, warm setting where they aren’t required to complete their daily tasks. They can rest both mentally & physically & gain benefit from the break from eating. Transfer that into a cold, busy, ‘normal’ day however & this switches to you having deprived your body of the fuel it needs to run – it becomes stressed & the benefits swiftly evaporate.

When it comes to purchasable juices, it has to be said very few are low in sugar, & there aren’t many we would recommend. Plenish have some wonderfully formulated pure veggie juices, which can also be used as a smoothie base – adding some avocado, berries & protein can help up the fibre and balance blood sugar levels.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of the antioxidants/vitamins you’re looking to take in aren’t stable in the presence of oxygen so pre-made juices will always be less nutritious than those that are freshly cold-pressed at home or in an organic juice bar.

And that’s another point – non-organic juice is a no from us because you will be concentrating the environmental pollutants from the ingredients into higher quantities & taking these in along with the potentially beneficial elements.

As a final key point to highlight for you as well the marketing/labelling on these programmes is wholly misleading as the consumption of juice would break a fasted state.

The main ‘benefit’ these companies are going for is to put you into a calories deficit & encourage you to empty your bowels (sorry but it’s true!), both of which will result in some immediate weight loss if measured on a scale. But as fat cells take 14 days to change this wouldn’t be a reflection of true body remodelling, so would quickly return back to normal once the cleanse is over. Especially as many people will find a week of juices/soups drives them to then eat more the following week because they’ve been hungry. Some people will also find juices will cause some undesirable digestive discomfort which can continue after they’ve completed the stated length of time. If this is something you are considering do be in touch & we will more than happily help to tailor your proposed plan to be suitable to your preferences & needs.


  • Have your juice with food to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream & keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
  • Go for green! Celery, cucumber, green leaves, fresh herbs! These veggies are all low in sugar, high in water, minerals & phytonutrients.
  • Blend instead of juice – try using your green juice as a smoothie base. Add a great protein powder, yoghurt, tofu or cottage cheese, & if you fancy a little sweetness then whole berries will do so but with fibre alongside. We also love to add ceylon cinnamon which has a therapeutic quality in terms of blood sugar sensitivity too. You can get creative by adding steamed then frozen courgette, cauliflower, peas or celeriac. You’ll get that banana ice cream style finish but without the fruit quantity jumping up.
  • Add fats through avocado, whole nuts, seeds, coconut, nut/seed butters, hemp, chia or hemp/chia oils.
  • Eat fruit, avoid drinking fruit. You can all the lovely benefits of fruit including their fibre content.
  • If you can’t get along with the taste of pure green juice, try adding a squeeze of lime or a splash of raw apple cider vinegar, this will mask the taste of the overly veggie flavour & add additional nutrients.

The key takeaway here is that juice can be beneficial within the picture of health, but probably not in isolation!

We are here to help support you; we shall endeavour to inspire with recipes, inform with the know-how and be your cheerleader along the way! Please do get in touch if you’d like some support.

Written by Rose Dalrymple

Associate Nutritional Therapist & Yoga Teacher