The High Cost of a Juice Cleanse -- and How to DIY for Less

Diet fads come and go, but could juice cleanses be here to stay? Juice cleanses involve drinking allocated portions of mixed, freshly squeezed juices in a certain order for a period of time. The duration of the cleanse lasts from three days to several weeks. Some require or allow snacks, tea, vitamin supplements, or a few regular meals. Proponents claim benefits of higher energy levels, increased alertness, easier weight loss (or at least kick-starting weight loss), and the flushing of toxins from the digestive system. Health experts aren't entirely convinced, however (more on that below).

Regardless, enthusiasts can choose one of the high-priced bottled cleanses, available for home delivery and sometimes at the local grocer, or less costly DIY cleanses prepared at home.

BluePrint, a New York City-based company that sells online, at some food markets, and operates a few retail outlets, offers three levels of cleanses depending on your current diet and goals. You'll drink six bottles of juice a day whose flavors include green vegetable (a mixture of kale, apple, romaine, spinach, and more), cashew milk (cashew, vanilla, cinnamon, and agave), and spicy lemonade (water, lemon juice, agave, cayenne extract). The home delivery option for the beginner's Renovation cleanse costs $65 for a one -day supply, $195 for three days, and $390 for six days $390 (all come out to $10.83/bottle). According to online reviews, many users seem to enjoy their BluePrint cleanses. Posts at Yelp critique the high amounts of sugar, but some report losing water weight, feeling more energetic and clear headed, and being free of hunger cravings. They also like the delivery packaging and complimentary lunch bag.

Bottles of JUS by Julie are sold online individually or by the bundle. The JUS daily cleanse regimen includes a vegetable "morning glory" blend, a spicy lemonade at brunch time, something sweet for lunch, a mid-afternoon sweet drink, a hearty blend for dinner, and another sweet drink before bedtime. Single bottles cost $5 to $11; the three-day juice cleanse with 18 bottles sells for $200 ($11.11/bottle) and the five-day cleanse with 30 bottles sells for $300 ($10/bottle). Reviews posted (again) at Yelp say this is a good product for beginners. A detailed review by one such beginner reports she didn't lose any weight but says the regimen helped put her on a path to better eating and a healthier lifestyle.

Other ready-to-serve cleanses include Cooler Cleanse, Organic Avenue, and The Ritual Cleanse. If you're set on trying one of the costlier juice cleanses, keep an eye on discount sites like Groupon, Living Social, or Gilt, which sometimes offer cleanses at discounted prices. Also look for sales in the weekly circulars from your local supermarket.

A cheaper, DIY juice cleanse is The Master Cleanse, http://themastercleanse.org/ which consists of a lemonade-like beverage, salt-water drink, and laxative tea. You can buy the ingredients yourself or a pre-assembled kit ($53 at Amazon) that includes a book and everything needed for a five-day cleanse. WebMD is not a fan, noting the loss to muscle and bone, likely dehydration, and expectations of weight returning once you go off the cleanse.

Yet another option is to buy a good cheap juicer, one that sells for less than $50. With juicer in hand, search online for DIY cleansing plans, like those offered on DIY Diet Plans or Reboot with Joe. The latter lays out juicing and/or eating plans for three, five, 10, or 15 days, along with a startup cleanse checklist, a beginner's guide, shopping list templates, videos, and even an information sheet for your doctor. Buying fruits and vegetables on your own, and making a one-time investment in a quality juicer, should save you a considerable amount of money over the packaged and delivered juice cleanses.

Important note: Not all health professionals recommend juice cleanses as a detoxification or dieting assist. Muscle mass and bone density may deteriorate because you're no longer consuming protein, fat, and other vital nutrients. A juice cleanse also shocks your body into starvation mode so when you start eating again, your metabolism will be slower. Many health professionals discount the value of "detoxifying" through cleanses because the liver already takes care of that function. Foods like watercress, citrus fruits, broccoli, and cucumber are natural detoxicants and cleanses. Still, many experts concede that juicing is a good way to eat more fruits and vegetables. Just make sure to include lean protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Weight-loss apps can help.

As with any new diet or change to your daily lifestyle, consult your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough for a juice cleanse and that it's the right approach given your goal, whether it's to detoxify, kick-start weight loss, or simply add more fresh produce to your diet.