Wish your efforts to eat a little better yielded much bigger results? “There’s an easy way to make it happen,” insists Elson Haas, MD. The secret: Just give yourself five days during which most of your calories come from plant-based juices, smoothies, and soups.
The strategy can help you drop several pounds every 24 hours and, better yet, trigger powerful changes “that set you up for long-lasting benefits,” notes Dr. Haas. When German scientists put this approach to the test, they were stunned to find it intensified fat loss and other health improvements for months afterward. In fact, folks who used a five-day liquid plan, then switched to a heart-healthy diet ultimately shed triple the weight and were 250 percent more likely to get off blood-pressure meds than those who used the heart-healthy diet alone. Says Dr. Haas, “It’s a tremendous kick start!”
What sets Dr. Haas’ style of liquid “fast” apart from other soup and juice diets: It starts with the right ingredients. “They should be mostly unprocessed plant foods that are relatively low in sugar and sodium,” he says. This makes for juices, smoothies and soups that are moderate in calories but surprisingly filling. They’re also packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants — all in liquid form, which, per studies, makes them exceptionally easy for us to absorb. So we get a rapid infusion of nutrients that instantly starts soothing, healing and rejuvenating. As well-being soars, the scale often plummets. “Some people say, ‘Oh, you only lose water weight.’ But bloat and swelling are signs that a body isn’t functioning optimally. When you release excess fluid, it means everything is working better, including metabolism,” says the doc, who has prescribed short-term detoxes for 40 years.
“You lose a few pounds of water, then you start burning fat.” As for why flab and health woes disappear at a fasterthan-usual rate long after you resume eating solid food, there are a whole lot of tiny reasons…
Why does a liquid fast work?
We hear a lot about bacteria in our GI tract these days — and for good reason. Each of us has 30–40 trillion of these single-cell organisms inside us, and a growing mountain of research shows that the right bacteria help effortlessly control blood sugar, normalize blood pressure and cholesterol, boost immunity, prevent countless diseases and more. And they’re so key to fat burning, scientists can tell with 90 percent accuracy if someone is lean or heavy just from their gut bacteria! Dr. Haas was thrilled when a 2017 UCLA study found that three days on a plant-based liquid diet cause good bacteria to surge by up to 450 percent.
Why such a boost? He says plant-based liquids typically have a lot of fiber and other nutrients that “feed” good bacteria but very little of the sugar, starch and fat that allow bad bacteria to thrive.
Here’s the even cooler part: Juices, smoothies, and soups seem to “prime our systems” for the biggest transformation possible, reveals Sofia Kirke Forslund, PhD, who led the German study. That means when we switch to eating solid healthy fare, these good bacteria stick around, working magic.
During Forslund’s test, folks all used the same eating plan, but those who started with five days of a plant-based liquid cleanse got much healthier and lost up to 42 pounds in three months. The most a juice-skipper lost? About 14 pounds. For his part, Dr. Haas wishes other factors had been monitored. “We would have seen improvements in joint pain, cholesterol levels, cravings, energy, sleep,” he notes. “Every part of the body improves!”
What results can you expect?
Diagnosed with a slow thyroid, “I thought I had to accept that I was tired and couldn’t take off weight,” recalls Lynne Silverstein, 65. Then she read about Dr. Haas and began incorporating his strategies. “I used a short liquid ‘fast’ to try to get things started. At that point, I had so much inflammation, I felt like the Pillsbury Dough Boy,” recalls the California therapist, who found she especially loves veggie and lentil soups. Her swelling quickly subsided as her metabolism rallied. “The first month, I lost 38 pounds. The weight just dropped off!”
Meanwhile, her prediabetes reversed and all her blood work improved. “My energy lifted too. Eating Dr. Haas’ way makes you feel so good!” She continues to eat a healthy diet with lots of plant food, occasionally switching to juices and soups when she needs a boost. She’s maintained an 85-pound loss for going on three years now. “The results are fantastic, and they really do last!”
What does a liquid fast diet look like?
To prime your body for a huge transformation, enjoy juice, smoothies, and soup as all meals/snacks for five consecutive days. Dr. Haas recommends a serving every two to three hours. Whether homemade or store-bought, options should be plant-based, mostly liquid, and not too sweet or salty. Sip water and herbal tea as desired.
SMOOTHIE BOWL: Blitz 1 cup frozen berries, 1 ⁄2 cup frozen cauliflower, 1/2 avocado, 2 Tbs. nut milk, 1⁄4 cup pea protein powder, and dash stevia.
CELERY JUICE-SIPPER: Juice 1 bunch celery, 1 cucumber, handful fresh mint, and 1 ⁄2 green apple. No juicer? Blitz in blender then strain well.
QUICK GAZPACHO: Blitz 1 tomato, 1 ⁄4 cucumber, 1 green onion, 8 almonds, and dash each wine vinegar, olive oil, and garlic salt.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.