Are Juice Cleanses Worth the Cost?

Get the skinny on the price of cleanses – and what they can and can’t do for your body.

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Juicing is the new fad in the wellness arena, and with a number of celebrities jumping in, it seems like all the cool kids are doing it. Popular premade juice cleanses advertise benefits such as removing toxins, improving skin tone and shedding weight – they're no doubt big moneymakers. But you don’t want to get duped while the cleanse companies get rich. After all, the weight loss industry brings in $60 billion a year, despite a less-than-perfect record.

If you’re newly interested in juice cleanses, you’ll have to do some homework to find out if they're worth the hit to your budget. Part of being financially responsible is getting good value out of all that you buy. When it comes to prepared food items, you’ll want to make sure the product is high quality and worth paying for. More importantly, you’ll want to make sure that any juice cleanse you choose will not have any negative health effects.

[Read: The Dangers of Juice Cleanses.]

The cost of juicing

Many prepared juice companies promise organic, non-GMO products, and the juices you receive are likely to be high quality. That said, most juices intended for cleansing are pressed and purposely leave the fiber out. If you have nut or dairy allergies or dietary preferences such as all-organic or gluten-free, there are companies that will cater to your needs. In order to keep it safe, make sure juices are pasteurized or made no more than three days before they are consumed and shipped in refrigerated containers.

You can probably find a juice bar in most cities, offering fresh juices and smoothies for less than $15. That seems expensive enough, but it’s fresh and it’s usually not a meal replacement. For serious juice cleanses meant to replace food for one to five days, prices range from $20 to $70 per day. And that doesn’t include shipping, which is usually around $60, because juices need to stay refrigerated in transit (although some do offer free shipping). The industry standard start-up cleanse is usually a three-day cleanse for between $60 and $200. Because juicing is trendy, it’s hard to know whether the price of these juices is because of quality or demand.

The alternative to purchasing bottled juices is buying the produce and making them yourself. The benefit is that you know exactly what’s in the juice. But a blender or juicer is typically a higher-end appliance. If you plan on buying a home juicer, you’d better also plan on using it more than a few times to justify the cost. Apart from the purchase of produce, home juicing machines can be more expensive than the price of a single cleanse, with average prices around $200. For those looking to keep the fiber in, masticating juicers can run anywhere from $230 to $1,150 for home models.

[Read: 3 Ridiculously Expensive Health Trends.]

Juicing and health

There are pros and cons to the juice trend, and the Internet is rife with conflicting information. For an expert’s opinion, I reached out to Lori Zanini, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with HealthCare Partners. She notes that the main upside to fruit and vegetable juices is that they are nutrient-dense, and they contain lots of vitamins and minerals in a small volume. Plus, juicing “can increase fruit and vegetable intake in individuals who would otherwise not consume enough,” Zanini says. This is a common concern of hers, since most adults don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in their diets, but she doesn’t recommend juicing for long-term weight loss.

Juicing is often not nutritionally balanced, and without protein or healthy fat, hunger will set in sooner. Fruit juices “contain only carbohydrates with minimal fiber, which will digest in approximately five minutes and raise blood sugar, especially for those with diabetes,” Zanini warns. Fiber not only helps you stay full longer, it also lowers cancer risk and cholesterol levels, aids in digestion and controls blood sugar levels.

For those at a high risk for infection, Zanini recommends boiling homemade juices or buying only premade juices that are pasteurized. This includes children, the elderly, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and people with immune disorders. Additionally, unboiled homemade juices should be consumed the same day they are made to reduce the risk of consuming bacteria .

[Read: Fresh Fish Shouldn't Stink, and Other Rules of Thumb.]

The bottom line

While spending upward of $200 for three days of nourishment might be offset by the cost of food you’re not eating, pressed juices aren’t a great value. The benefits of long-term juice fasting, such as detoxification and weight loss, are unsubstantiated. Your body does an excellent job of removing toxins on its own, and any weight loss you experience will likely be water and therefore not permanent. Without the lure of these claims, you may want to examine whether prepared juices are worth fitting into your budget.

Supplementing your diet with fresh juice probably won’t have any negative health effects, and it can easily fit into a healthy diet. “I recommend juicing always be in addition to someone’s eating plan, not the entire eating plan itself,” Zanini says. To reap maximum benefits and avoid consuming too much sugar, she recommends using vegetable-based juices with some fruit rather than pure fruit juices as well as sticking to 4-ounce portions. If you don’t want to make a big investment, many larger cities now have juice bars offering fresh, high-quality juices that make a great occasional snack.

[Read: 25 Healthful Snacks Under 200 Calories.]