You don’t need to do a cleanse. You don’t have to Instagram it with the hashtag #cleaneating or #fitspo. You don’t have to say a word about toxins or inflammation or “rebooting your system.” And for heaven’s sake, no one wants to hear you utter the word “colonic.”
You can just drink it: It’s juice.
Thanks to the staying power of the cleanse-diet trend, the freshly squeezed fruit-and-vegetable beverage has seemingly become something more loaded: at best, a status symbol, and at worst, an accessory to martyrdom. What’s wrong with drinking juice because it tastes good?
The concept of premium juice may be due for its own cayenne pepper-scented reboot.
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“When we started the company, I don’t think we realized how strong of an association there was (between) cold-pressed juice and cleanses,” said Ann Yang, co-founder of Washington-based Misfit Juicery. “Fighting that association has been something that we’ve had to do.”
Misfit, which utilizes “ugly” produce that would otherwise go to waste, describes itself as a “body positive” company and does not make the popular blend of lemon juice and cayenne pepper found at many juice shops. That combination is the foundation of many cleanses, such as the Master Cleanse trend that became popular in 2006 after Beyoncé lost 20 pounds for her role in “Dreamgirls” by drinking the spicy lemonade. The fact that the singer’s juice-enabled slimdown made news is part of the problem, said Yang.
‘Please don’t only drink juice'
“When you think about cleanse culture, it’s about fitting into a specific body type, and it is targeted at women,” Yang said. “Neither of those things are something we particularly support.”
With co-founder Philip Wong, Yang has taken an unusual position: that of the anti-cleanse, cold-pressed premium juicer. Wong and Yang prefer that their four flavors of fruit and vegetable juices be enjoyed as an accompaniment to solid, chewable food.
“Anyone that goes on a juice cleanse for five days, you’re clearly not getting all the nutrients you need,” said Yang. “Please drink our juice once a day, or several times a week, but please don’t only drink juice.”
Her opinion echoes the professional advice of nutritionists.
“There’s no clinical evidence to say that any of these modalities actually work,” said Roger Clemens, a nutrition expert and associate director of the regulatory science program at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy.
“We have undernourished and overnourished people. That’s much more of an issue, in my mind, than people who subscribe to a detox regimen,” said Clemens. But he said he continues to speak out because he wants to protect consumers from what he sees as fraud.
“Our bodies are wonderfully made. We eliminate toxins on a regular basis,” said Clemens. “ (If) you have a working liver and kidneys, you’re going to be just fine.”
Clemens lives in Los Angeles, a hotbed of competitive juicing. It’s a place where, he noted dryly, some people spend a small fortune to inject toxin into their faces in the form of Botox, then eschew food in favor of juices they think will eliminate other vaguely surmised toxins from their G.I. tract. “I’m in the epicenter of controversy,” he mused.
That said, he’s a fan of juice when it’s consumed in an appropriate balance.
“Juice fits into every diet,” he said. “It fits into the bacon diet, it fits into the vegetarian diet.” It’s a tasty, efficient source of nutrition, but it’s not a silver bullet.
Clemens’s prescription? “We need to get back to common sense.”
‘Juice has replaced the Starbucks cup'
Some consumers are finding that juicing has another attraction. Like SoulCycle and Lululemon, a premium juice (no Tropicana or Minute Maid here!) tells the world that a person is health-conscious, fit – and flush with disposable income. At Fruitive, a juice and health-food restaurant in Washington’s upscale CityCenterDC complex, a single day of the “Citrus Strong” juice fast starts at $74.
“Absolutely, cold-pressed juice has totally become a status symbol, especially if it’s locally sourced, organic, non-GMO and in a glass bottle,” said Danielle Charboneau, director of operations at L.A.’s Juice Served Here, which offers a 1-day “Soft Cleanse” of six juices for $55. “The people who really get our brand and understand our product is the fashion crowd.”
That’s because Juice Served Here was founded by Greg Alterman, former chief executive of Alternative Apparel, and entrepreneur Alex Matthews. Cleanses are the foundation of their business – “The best way to drink a cold-pressed juice is on a empty stomach,” said Charboneau. “Whether or not you eat during the day, before or after that, is entirely up to you.” – but Charboneau says they have plenty to offer the casual, flavor-invested juice fan as well. Their downtown L.A. location offers juice flights: colorful, Instagram-worthy shot glasses of various juices “developed with the foodie in mind,” she said.
“It’s incredibly visually appealing; it’s very beautiful,” she said, noting that the flight makes a popular post on Instagram. “It’s presented to you in the same way that maybe a fancy cheese plate would be presented to you at an awesome restaurant.”
The downtown L.A. shop (near the fashion district, naturally) is a partnership with Verve Coffee Roasters, even though caffeine is one of the substances that cleansers say they want to purge from their body. But juice and coffee have come to serve the same social function: They’re beverages that people obsess over, command a premium and signal the consumer’s taste and status.
“I think juice has replaced the Starbucks cup,” says executive chef Ryan LaRoche of Chicago, who did a lot of juice combinations when he was at Blue Duck Tavern in Washington. Although as a chef, he believes strongly in eating food with your juice – “I am so far from the health food trend” – he did try a cleanse once to see what all the fuss was about.
It didn’t go well. “You can’t do that in a kitchen, because you get the hangries: So hungry that you’re angry.”
Adapted from Vikram Sunderam, executive chef of Rasika in Washington. The small amount of spice in this simple, freshly pressed juice is truly transformative. In India, fresh juices are often served before lunch, and they have been served that way at the Bombay Club in downtown Washington for more than 25 years. Be sure to serve this well chilled.
1 ripe cantaloupe (2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
Peel and seed the cantaloupe; cut the flesh into chunks. The yield should be about 4 cups.
Press the cantaloupe chunks through a juicer; strain, if desired, then stir in the ground cardamom. Refrigerate until well chilled.
Divide between tall glasses.
Per serving: 110 calories, 3 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 25 g sugar
Yield: 2 servings.