Glass of the Good

By Deborah Herriage
Photography by Jenna Noel

Over the last several years, Austin has seen a growth in markets that provide fresh, organic, low-calorie-yet-tasty, nutrient-dense drinks. Juice bars and smoothie spots are hot, and seem to be popping up everywhere. But while blending and juicing fruits and vegetables isn’t exactly new, this current local health trend seems much more focused on the quality and contents in the cup and the desired post-sip results.

Ronnie Larkin, chief operating officer of  Daily Juice—the forerunner of local juice bars—has noticed a slow widening in his customer base, which now includes everybody from shorts-and-flip-flop-sporting slackers and athletes on a run, to young professionals, the stroller set and the downtown crowd in pressed suits and Italian shoes. Larkin refers to the movement as a macro-trend in the already heightened health consciousness of our current culture, where transparency and details like food origination and source are important. “We wanted to create the kind of environment where people can see their juice being made and learn about the preparation,” says Larkin.

It’s true; people appear to be taking something as unassuming as juice much more seriously and looking at it with new eyes. Shauna Martin, founder and CEO of Daily Greens, says that “juicing used to be considered a way for raw foodies and celebrities to cleanse their way to perfection. Now, it’s gone from a novelty to a viable market segment of the ever-growing healthy food industry.” Matt Shook, the founder and owner of Austin’s JuiceLand and a partner at Juicebox and Soup Peddler, says that part of the popularity of juicing is that it also provides our on-the-go society a convenient, effective way to get in those daily portions of vegetables and fruits—now a hefty five cups a day recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans. “We juice the drinks on our menus the minute they’re ordered,” says Shook. “And we encourage our customers to drink it on the spot; to use juice like medicine.”

And people are. In addition to the convenience and delicious taste of fresh juices, many believe there are far deeper-reaching health benefits derived from imbibing. In the book The Juice Lady’s Guide to Juicing for Health, author and nutritionist Cherie Calbom claims that juices can be used as remedies for many common conditions such as arthritis, high cholesterol, weight management and even diverticulitis. And according to veteran juice experts like Dr. Norman W. Walker and Green for Life author Victoria Boutenko, drinking juice from fresh fruits and vegetables provides more immediate nutritional value to cells and tissues in the body. Juices help to maintain certain balances—like proper hydration, which is a key element to a healthy body, helps fight inflammation and supports a healthy immune system, especially for our athletic population in Central Texas climes. Dr. Walker notes that celery juice, for example, has a high water and sodium chloride content that can counteract the effects of extreme heat. But to eat the required amount of celery to have the desired hydrating effect would take more digestive time than drinking the juice with a bit of fruit added, or even more vegetables and fruits. He suggests that juicing and giving the digestive system a rest from time to time is key to good health and living longer.

Many followers of the juicing trend prefer only pure juice without the solids, while others prefer juices containing the natural fiber, the whole fruits or vegetables, or even desired supplements. “Increasing greens and adding fiber supplements to juices are two of the fastest growing trends we’re seeing at our juice bars,” says Whole Foods Market’s healthy eating specialist Kelly Dennis. However you like your juice, though, those in the business suggest using produce that’s in season and harvested locally whenever possible to ensure a juice of the highest quality and nutrition.

And juice vendors appear to be listening to customers’ desires and tailoring their juices to fit current needs and lifestyles. For example, People’s Pharmacy offers gluten-free, cold pressed juices, and Greenling, a local grocery delivery service, offers to-your-door, cold-pressed juices and juice kits that feature pre-cleaned and prepped produce for home juicing. Greenling’s co-founder Mason Arnold says that “juicing has increased in popularity as consumers become more educated about its nutritional benefits. New technologies such as cold-pressing increase the shelf-life and micro-nutrient values in juices. We are excited to make cold-pressed juices made with organic ingredients available to customers.”

Whichever direction the trend goes from here, most will agree that juicing can mean high nutrition in a glass and provides a healthy counterbalance to the more harmful trends of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Experiment with color, variety, savory and sweet, and invite the kids in to invent their own special blends. Happy juicing!

 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT JUICER

High-powered blenders pulverize whole produce—giving the resulting juice a thicker consistency with more fiber. Those seeking only the juice (without the pulp) will need to strain the blend to separate it out. The Vitamix has been the popular forerunner of high-powered blenders for years, though it’s pricey ($500 range). Alternatives like the Nutribullet, relatively new on the scene, offer a more affordable blending alternative ($100 range).

Extraction juicers use either a centrifugal-force action or a mastication and pressing action (also known as “cold-press” and “slow juicing”) to separate the pulp from the juice. Matt Shook recommends the Norwalk for those very serious about juicing. It has a hydraulic press and is hardworking for those tough greens—but it, too, is pricey at $2,000+.

Alternatives like the many different juicers made by Breville offer consumers more affordable options.

A good extraction juicer, either centrifugal force or masticating, should be able to extract the juices of all types of produce and separate or eject the pulp. It should have a wide mouth or large feed tube and few parts to clean. Look for adequate horsepower of 0.3 to 0.5 amps, and be aware that although centrifugal-force juicers tend to be more affordable than masticating juicers, they’re also louder and the amount of heat created during the centrifugal process is believed to result in some loss of nutrients. If you use juices mainly for cooking or baking, this may not be a concern. Centrifugal-force juicers are also less efficient in extracting juice from greens, and most are not able to process nuts sufficiently for nut butters.

Tip: Pulp (insoluble fiber) from both fruits and vegetables can be stored in the freezer for a few days and used for thickening soups and pasta sauces, in muffin or cookie recipes or combined with flaxseed meal and olive oil and dehydrated for nutritious gluten-free breads and crackers. Consider adding pulp to the daily dog-food bowl for an extra dollop of goodness.

 

ESSENTIAL DIY JUICING BASICS

• Soak older juicer parts in white vinegar and water after scrubbing, or cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the parts to kill bacteria. Newer juicers now come with specific instructions for cleaning their parts.

• Always wash and scrub produce well before juicing. Peel anything not organic. Use warm water to remove the waxy coating on cucumbers, apples and other fruits with skins, even if they’re organic. Peeling will remove some pesticides, but you’ll lose precious minerals and fiber, so choose accordingly.

• Peel lemons, but leave the pith. Use citrus juicers when only the juice is desired.

• Many seeds can be pulverized with blenders such as a Vitamix, and can be nutritionally beneficial, but avoid seeds from apples, loquats and pears as well as pits from stone fruits, as these are toxic.

• Consider including things like ginger, parsley, cilantro and mint, and experimenting with both sweet and savory juices. Make smoothies with your juices by adding berries or avocados in a blender. A yummy example is a green juice made from green apple, spinach, cucumber, celery and lemon blended with an avocado.

• Drink juice as fresh as possible. Some can be stored in the fridge in a canning jar for one day, but any longer and nutrients diminish.

 

JUICES BY THE SEASON

Juices are always better when made using local, seasonal ingredients. To know what’s in season in our area, keep the list below handy when heading to the market. 

Spring: beets, berries, carrots, celery, chard, cilantro, citrus (grapefruit, oranges), kale, parsley, spinach, sorrel, turnip and beet greens

Summer: apples (late summer), berries, carrots, chard, cucumbers, figs, kale, melons, mint, parsley, peaches, tomatoes

Fall: apples, carrots, chard, cilantro, cucumbers, figs, grapefruit, kale, melons, mint, parsley, pears, tomatoes

Winter: beets, carrots, chard, cilantro, citrus (grapefruit, lemons and oranges), dandelion greens, fennel, kale, parsley, sorrel, spinach, turnip and beet greens


Find more seasonal juice recipes and where to find for-purchace fresh juices in our resources.


GREEN ENERGY

Courtesy of Mason Arnold, Greenling

Makes 1 drink

1 cucumber
3 stalks Swiss chard (leaves and stems)
2 handfuls spinach
1 bunch fresh parsley
¼ jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed
¼-in. piece fresh ginger
1 pinch turmeric
2 T. coconut water

Wash all ingredients well, then feed into an extracting juicer (not a blender).


GINGER-KALE DELIGHT

Courtesy of Matt Shook, JuiceLand

Makes 1 drink

10 oz. frozen peaches (use fresh peaches in season this summer!)
10 oz. alkalinized water
1 oz. agave nectar
½ c. chopped fresh kale
1 t. unpeeled and grated fresh ginger

Wash all ingredients well and put into a high-powered blender.


EARLY MORNING YUM

Courtesy of Deborah Herriage

Makes 1 drink

1 large apple
2 large carrots
½ lemon, peeled

Wash all ingredients well, then feed into an extracting juicer (not a blender).


FREE RADICAL FIGHTER

Courtesy of Deborah Herriage

Makes 1 drink

2 handfuls Swiss chard
1 avocado
1 c. watermelon
1 c. blackberries
1 fig
½ cup blueberries
1/8 cup flax seeds
water

Wash all ingredients well, then feed into an extracting juicer or high-powered blender.