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L.A.’s Crazy Juice Cleansing Obsession

Katherine Ostrowski |
February 25, 2013 | 4:52 p.m. PST

(Wheatgrass "shots," creative commons)
(Wheatgrass "shots," creative commons)
West Hollywood has nine of them, Santa Monica boasts 12 and Downtown Los Angeles offers a staggering 19 juice bars or health stores serving freshly pressed fruits and vegetables. Southern California is obsessed. Juicing and juice cleansing, once only done by ultimate health nuts, has gone viral.

Big businesses are even starting to capitalize on the growing market of consumers demanding pressed veggies. Californians can now walk into any Starbucks and choose a nutritious juice—such as Vital Greens, a green liquid consisting of spinach, clover sprouts, wheat grass, cucumber, lime and celery—instead of chugging down coffee.

Although not as sugary or jitter-inducing as a Frappachino, Evolution Fresh Inc’s Vital Greens juice tastes like cucumber and fresh cut grass with a dash of lemon; the juice is smooth, but still a struggle to swallow for anyone who doesn’t drink wheat grass daily. Starbucks bought the juice company Evolution Fresh, Inc in 2011 and is determined to take it global.

“This is a way of life. Consumers are looking for accessible, convenient, high-quality nutritious beverages and foods. Fruit and vegetable juice is rising,” said Marianne Duong, a spokesperson for Evolution Fresh, speaking on behalf of Starbucks. Although she wouldn’t say how much profit they’ve made, Duong is confident their risk to acquire a juice company, paid off.

“Juiceries” are also popping up all over Los Angeles, giving residents more outlets, other than Starbucks, for their juice fix.

Brian Lee founded Sustain Juicery in Downtown Los Angeles in 2011 after growing up with juice stands and farmer’s markets. “In the past 2-3 years, I became a lot more aware of the benefits of juicing. Think veggies, not supplements, powdered, refined, concentrated. I wanted Sustain to stay true to what mother earth can provide, into a cup,” said Lee.

His store offers a juicy menu of smoothies ($7), wellness cocktails ($5), “shots,” ($2) and detoxifying juices ($7). Some of his most popular items are The Classic Green juice (kale, spinach, apple, celery, cucumber, parsley), The Emerald juice (kale, dandelion, cucumber, pineapple, mint, lime, ginger) and the Quick-Fix shot (honey, lemon, ginger, cayenne). As far as profits, Lee said Sustain is doing very well.

Obsessions and trends, however, taper off with time. Nineteen stores specializing in juice cannot survive in Downtown Los Angeles for very long. There is only so much kale and spinach juice one city can handle. “Juice is NOT a fad, but juice bars will die out,” said Lee.

Many juice bars also sell juice-cleansing packages, developed to detoxify and reboot the mind and body. Lee’s customers drink six juices a day (and cut out solid food, caffeine, soda and alcohol) for three days ($126), five days ($210) or seven days ($294). According to Lee, cleanses wean the body off of sugar, fat, salt and starchy foods to stop cravings, while also “resting your digestive system from solid foods while providing necessary nutrients, enzymes, and vitamins.”

Some cleansers also experience glowing skin, mental clarity, weight loss and better sleep, according to Carly Brien, the co-founder of Pressed Juicery, a large juice bar chain with 12 locations in California.

Many health conscious individuals swear by juice cleansing. Paul Davidson, a collegiate director of operations for men’s swimming, regularly does three-day juice cleanses from Pressed Juicery. “During the first cleanse you think about the food you are missing, but I found all the drinks enjoyable, especially the vanilla almond drink,” said Davidson. The former college water polo player kept his gym routine during his cleanse, had more energy, lost five pounds and kept it off. Overall it was a very positive experience that he will repeat in the future. “I desire good foods more and bad food much, much less. I also have a heightened awareness of how ritualistic eating is and how much excessive eating goes on,” said Davidson.

However, the medical community is not sold on juice cleansing. Although Los Angeles Nutritionist LeeAnn Smith Weintraub makes fresh vegetable juice at home, she disagrees that juice cleansing for multiple days is beneficial, “The body has its own way of detoxing naturally using the liver and there is no evidence that juice cleanses provide additional cleansing…I don't do juice cleanses or recommend them,” said Weintraub.

Holistic nutritionist Elissa Goodman agrees that juice cleanses are too extreme but recommends incorporating nutritious vegetable juices into the diet. “Sometimes there is too much sugar in the juices and our bodies really need the fiber in food to detox, to get what it needs out of the intestines and the liver. I’m not a huge fan of juice cleanses but I am of juice and food,” said Goodman. She drinks juiced greens twice a day, but also eats solid, fiber-filled meals as well. Moderation and balance is key.

Goodman knows her stuff. She used nutrition to transform her life. The former sales associate at Vogue Magazine was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 32. The diagnosis reawakened her dedication to fitness and health. After her husband died in 2005, from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, she did a career 180 and became a Certified Integrative Nutritionist, helping people heal from the inside out.

She’s also trying to help people change their outlook towards food. “I’m trying to change people’s cravings of sugar, carbs and processed food and get them back on track with feeling good about what they’re putting in their body, not starving them. Juice cleanses can starve you,” said Goodman.

Katherine Ostrowski is a senior Journalism Major. You can contact her here.



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