Is juicing good for you? Joe Cross offers his take
An Australian wellness advocate talks about how juicing and a largely plant-based diet have changed his life
We're supposed to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, according to doctors and health authorities. But how many of us actually accomplish that?
Yet when Joe Cross preaches about "rebooting" with a juice-only fast and embracing a plant-based diet, it seems to get people's attention.
The Australian's influence is apparent not only in his social media following (30,200 on Instagram and 219,000 on Facebook), but also in his latest documentary , Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2, which premiered in Hong Kong a fortnight ago.
The 90-minute film is interspersed with testimonials by people who were inspired to change their lifestyles after watching Cross' first film in 2010.
That tracked how a 41-year-old Cross - morbidly obese at 140 kilograms, suffering from chronic hives and dealt a warning of early death by his doctor - went on a 60-day juice fast. He eventually lost a third of his weight and got off medication he'd relied on for nearly a decade.
On the heels of the first movie's success, Cross, an entrepreneur and investor, started Reboot, a health and wellness company focusing on weight loss through juicing. These days, he lives out of a suitcase and preaches about juice worldwide.
In the sequel, we see Cross on the road in the US, Canada, Hamburg, Manila, Seoul, London, Adelaide, the south of France, and in China. He connects with fellow "Rebooters", many of whom thank Cross for saving their lives.
Cross' interviews with health experts and dieters reveal the importance of support from a community in motivating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
"Not being a scientist, doctor or expert has allowed me to look at this through the lens of the average person," the 49-year-old says. "I'm on a journey to [discover] how I can lead a balanced existence where I don't need to think too much about the choices that I make."
Cross' trip to Hong Kong, in collaboration with local juicing company Punch Detox, was not only to promote the sequel, but also his new book, Fully Charged: 7 Keys to Losing Weight, Staying Healthy and Thriving.
"What I identified in this new book is there's no shortage of quick fixes, but it's a struggle for people to stay thin and healthy," he says. "So I looked at the people who've been successful, what they're doing, take some pointers from them and came up with seven keys."
Keeping the weight off has been a personal struggle for Cross himself. In the five years following his initial juice fast, his weight has fluctuated. Currently, the 1.88-metre Cross weighs 108kg.
Both the new film and book share the similar theme of how to keep the weight off. Cross, who some have credited for starting the latest juicing craze, goes beyond just liquids to what he calls "a tsunami of awareness of the power of plant food".
That's how he eats these days: about half his calories come from plants, while the other half from processed food and animals (by volume, this means about 80 per cent of his diet is plant-based). For a total of 30 to 40 days a year, he "reboots" with strictly plants only.
"I'm certainly in much better shape than I was 10 years ago, but I'd like to be in better shape in 10 years' time," he says.
His goal is to get his body fat down from 25 per cent to about 15 per cent through regular exercise and good sleep. His other goal is to make Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 3 - but that, he says, would require US$1 million to fund a scientific study on juice fasting.
"The first film was my story, the second film is the community's story and the third film has to go into the science," says Cross.
"We have a lot of people making comments about juice fasting, that it's good or bad, and a lot of doctors and nutritionists weighing in with their opinion. But there have been no scientific studies to say anything negative or positive about this habit or routine.
"All I can give you is anecdotal evidence from my global community of half a million people, of the incredible results that have been achieved from getting off medications, feeling stronger, taking years off their lives and not to mention the pounds."
Although the scientific jury is still out, Cross debunks some myths about juicing.
Myth 1: a juice diet is healthy
I disagree. My books have the words "juice" and "diet" together simply for Google search, but that's the only times they should be used together.
The word "diet" means food that one lives on regularly. So if you only had juice all the time, you'll be lacking a lot of valuable nutrition and energy the body needs. You won't get enough protein and fat, and your carbohydrate level most likely would be too low. You'll not get any omega-3 fatty acids and you'll be low on vitamin D.
But existing on juice for just a period of time? For many people it's a really good idea. But for some people, even five or 10 days is probably not a good idea. For example, if you're on blood thinning medications.
The same question can be asked about whether only drinking water is good for us. And I would propose that throughout the history of humanity, we've had periods like that: during famine; most religions have fasting; and it's a natural reaction for the body to not eat when we're sick.
For some reason, someone came along and said we have to eat three meals a day. A juice reboot worked for me - it got me back on track and helped me fall back in love with plants.
Myth 2: a juice cleanse can help the body detox
The body is detoxing all the time - when you breathe out, perspire, go to the bathroom - through the liver and kidneys. When you go on a juice-only regimen, it speeds up the process of elimination, but your body is doing that all the time any way.
The idea of fasting is that after three days of the body not having to eat, the body turns off hunger, stops making you feel so crabby, and gives you better eyesight, smell and hearing. The body starts eating itself to keep the metabolic rate up. It starts to spring clean, self-digesting the most irrelevant parts of our body - and generally that's a combination of fat and muscle, but also a lot of extra material, such as cysts or growths.
Myth 3: cold-pressed juice from a low-RPM juicer is best
Extracting water from a plant, no matter what we use to do it, gives more or less the same result. Where the differences can be is that with a slow juicer, you're going to get more yield, hence more nutrients from the plant.
But a slow juicer costs HK$20,000. For the average person, I much rather go with a centrifugal juicer, which costs about HK$1,500.
There are a lot of people on YouTube, in particular men with shirts off in their backyard, screaming out that nutrients are killed in a centrifugal juicer. It's insanity and the science is wrong. It's purely a marketing ploy. All juicers are good; I'm a fan of all of them.
Green and lean
More vegetables, less fruit. Many juice companies now offer mainly veggie-based juice regimens that promote a "deeper cleanse" due to its lower sugar and calorie content. Punch Detox will launch theirs in May, calling it their "level 3" cleanse. "We developed it with a former Hong Kong Olympic swimmer as we noticed a lot of requests from clients for a juice cleanse that focuses on weight loss," says Angela Cheng-Matsuzawa, co-founder of Punch. punchdetox.com
Gut health-promoting live bacteria known as probiotics are being added to juices for that extra digestive oomph. Genie Juicery has launched Cocobiotic Ginger Beer made from fresh ginger mixed with kefir, a probiotic-rich organism that is said to have antibacterial, antifungal and cancer-inhibiting properties. geniejuicery.com
For those who find plain water bland, infused water may be just what you need to make hydration easier and tastier. Nood Food offers three types of infusions, all with a foundation of filtered water, maple syrup, lemon or lime juice, and chia seeds. We recommend the Volcano: with oregano oil and cayenne pepper, it's an instant pick-me-up. allnood.com