Is it a panacea and elixir of life? Or is it a nasty-tasting, over-carbed, overpriced drink? A quick and easy snack/meal or not worth the pain of cleaning the necessary equipment? No matter how you view it, juice seems here to stay, not just apple or orange but artful blends of fruits and vegetables, sometimes herbs, designed to please the palate and provide health benefits that some claim will rid your system of toxins and your body of ugly fat.
“I’ve been juicing for four years,” says David Ames of Tivoli, a personal trainer, nutritional counselor and squash coach. “The biggest reason,” he adds, “is that our soil is so depleted of nutrients that you need large quantities of fruits and vegetables to get enough. And they are full of cellulose, which the human body is incapable of metabolizing. If you look at a chimpanzee, which is similar to us, it will grab a handful of leaves and chew for ten minutes to break down the fibers. We don’t chew enough to do that, so juicing helps break it down so we can metabolize the food and get the vitamins and minerals from it.”
Ames’ favorite combination for juicing is kale or collard greens with apple and lemon. Apple and carrot is another. But some veggie combos can be hard to swallow.
Sibley Frye of Kansas City was on a juicing kick for a while last year. “It tasted nasty and I noticed no benefits,” she says. “The juices don’t taste very good unless you add a lot of fruit, then they’re full of sugar.”
But many others remain on the juice bandwagon, mixing celery and kale, or carrot and beet, pulverizing them down to their essence in a home juicer or grabbing a cup at a local juicery.
“I keep hearing these stories of people who started juicing and lost 25 pounds,” says Saugerties Times editor Will Dendis. “I think I’ve heard that exact sentence three times. And many of these folks become juicing evangelists, it seems; they want everyone to do it.”
People might juice as an occasional boost, or as a lifestyle that includes regular bouts of de-toxifying juice fasts. Celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek and Ashton Kutcher have all publicly lauded the contributions juice cleansing has made to their health. Prepackaged juice subscriptions might include a week’s worth of bottles of multi-hued juices, sometimes with nut milk added for fat and protein, that make up abut 1000 to 1200 calories a day to sustain you through your “cleanse.”
Whether the liquid from a piece of produce, with all its fiber removed, really cleans your system is debatable. Some nutritionists say that juice is too high in sugar or carbs to be healthy, that much of the vitamins and minerals are in the pulp and skin left behind, or that juice fasts are dangerous for diabetics, some of whom may be undiagnosed.
Since ancient religions first began to advocate fasting, we’ve searched for ways to detoxify ourselves. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, books were published on cleansing with lemon juice and water, or simple juice combinations. But juicing remained outside the mainstream for years and only recently crossed over to become more commonplace, even trendy.