Trying a juice cleanse

Can juice cleanses really rid your body of toxins and boost your energy levels? I tried one to find out

Trying a juice cleanse

I don’t diet. Ever. In fact, I eat’a lot. When I’m not writing or reading, it’s almost a guarantee that I’m cooking, baking, snacking or ordering a meal.

Isn’t eating great?

It’s kind of an obsession for me, which became all the more apparent last Thursday, when I wasn’t allowed to eat.

For 24 hours, starting at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, I had nothing but five freshly pressed, organic juices and ‘cashew milk,’ as well as a small detox salad, to look forward to, as part of an organic, raw juice cleanse.

Why cleanse?

Well, people rave about it. On the blogs I frequent, people can’t say enough about the benefits. When I asked Best Health’s Twitter followers, responses were all positive.

@Shaesharpe tweeted that she tried a fruit flush. ‘First day was hard but it gave me natural energy and I felt great!’

said ‘I’ve done a five day juice cleanse, & a 48 hour smoothie cleanse! #awesome’

Not to mention the celebs that swear by them (Gwyneth Paltrow, for one, talks about how great they are on her website, Goop).

The purported benefits are also incredible. I did the cleanse with Live Organic Raw, one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. The pamphlet they gave me explained that cleansing will give your body more energy, make your skin look younger and feel smoother and make you feel clear, optimistic and rejuvenated.

All this hype, combined with the fact that I love raw food and fresh juice, was incentive enough for me to try it.

Another thing people say is that the first day is the hardest, which is probably something I should have considered when I decided to only do it for one day.

Indeed, it was hard.

The early morning was easiest, as I usually have a smoothie for breakfast anyway. Instead, I started with an ‘elixir,’ a green mystery juice that was either pure aloe, wheatgrass or chlorophyll. It looked like swamp water, but was surprisingly refreshing.

On my bike ride to work, the smell of coffee from my favourite local café beckoned me, almost as much as the smell of freshly baked muffins. But I pedaled on, and when I got to work I was rewarded with a refreshing green juice, made of kale, celery, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, cucumber, parsley, apple and lemon. It may not sound appetizing, but I can honestly say it was more energizing than caffeine.

The morning went off without a hitch, but when it came to my usual lunchtime, my tummy started to grumble: Time for another juice.

Next up was the most sugary of the juices, a pineapple, apple, fennel, celery and lemon. Coincidentally, it was also my favourite.

“I can actually do this,” I thought. “I feel good!”

And that’s when the cravings started to hit.

While I wasn’t necessarily hungry as long as I kept drinking the juices every two hours, I was still starting to crave things I don’t normally eat: Pizza, mac and cheese, french fries and a bunch of other high fat, unhealthy foods. I even called my boyfriend and declared: ‘I need to eat nachos, now.’

I may not diet, but I’m vegan, which means I don’t eat meat or animal by-products and I eat mostly whole foods like grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruit. I never feel deprived with my lifestyle, because I love getting creative in the kitchen, and I’m lucky enough to have lots of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Toronto.

But at that point in the cleanse, I was starting to feel a little deprived’and also kind of envious of other people’s lunches.

I satiated myself with a lemon and coconut nectar juice, which made me forget about food for a while.

The late afternoon was hardest. I usually eat a piece of dark chocolate around 3 p.m., and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I even started daydreaming about a chocolate world, where I could dip chocolate-covered chocolate in a chocolate fountain. It did nothing to help my cravings. Then, I started to obsess about going home to eat the only food I would have during the cleanse: A detox salad.

Instead, I had my next juice, which was made of carrot, beet, ginger and lemon. It tasted earthier, but was still delicious. Along with thoughts of salad, it fueled my bike ride home after work.

I’ve never been more excited to eat a salad.
This one was made of mixed greens, kale, tomato, carrots, cucumber, sprouts and sunflower sesame paste. The tangy dressing was so much more flavorful after a day of abstaining from food. I devoured every last bite’but I was still hungry.

I waited a while before having my final drink of the day, a cashew milk with vanilla bean, date and cinnamon. It was creamy, almost like a dessert, and it was more filling than the other juices. Even so, my cravings would not subside, and they were getting more intense. “I can’t actually do this,” I thought. “I feel hungry!”

Luckily, the 24-hour mark was only a few hours away. During a 36-hour cleanse, you’d call it a night after the last juice, have some tea and go to bed early. But the commitment I made to myself was a 24-hour cleanse, which meant one thing: At 10 p.m., a delivery person would arrive at my apartment, holding a piping hot pizza.

Because I’m vegan, that means it wasn’t a regular pizza with white crust, greasy cheese and heavy meats (I’m pretty sure that would give anyone a heart attack after cleansing all day). Instead, I ordered a vegan pizza with organic spelt crust and lots of veggies.

After a cleanse, you’re supposed to slowly introduce food back into your diet, but to be honest, I’ve never introduced a pizza to my stomach faster than I did with this one. The crunchy crust, the spicy tomato sauce, the crisp veggies – even the vegan cheese, all tasted like perfection.

Cravings aside, I loved the juices, and I learned a lot about the habits I’ve formed that I didn’t even realize I had.

As for the claims: I definitely had more energy due to the fact that I was better hydrated. I think to make a difference in my skin, I’d need to do the cleanse for a longer amount of time. Since I already follow a vegan diet, I think the changes would also be more drastic in someone with a typical North American diet.

I still don’t know if cleansing is for me, but have a learned a few things:

‘ I don’t drink enough throughout the day. The cleanse kept me hydrated, which meant I didn’t feel as tired
‘ Fresh juice is a delicious way to get nutrients that you might be missing. I’m going to introduce them more regularly into my diet
‘ Coffee isn’t as energizing as fresh juice
‘ I think I’d be better suited to a raw food cleanse
‘ Vegan pizza is really good when you’re hungry

Want to try a cleanse (or just the juices that go with it)? Check out Live Organic Raw.

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