Hip & Healthy: Juice It, Juice It Real Good

When I moved to New York, juice bars were the hip new thing, at least among the yoga-practicing hippie types who seemed to just radiate health and energy.

Years later, it's become clear that vegetable juice isn't just for a niche market anymore. Trendy juice cleanses are now are a dime a dozen and are regularly shipped from NYC to all around the country. 

Even so, it took me a while to come around to juice. I had a lot of questions: Was it all hype? Did I really want to consume liquid calories? What about all the fiber that is lost in the juicing process -- why would I want to sacrifice that? 

From Juice-Curious to Juice Believer

As I did more research, the list of benefits proclaimed by juice fans went on and on. Personally, I wasn't looking for a life change -- I just wanted to feel little healthier and maybe give my complexion a little boost.

One of the great things about juice is the instant gratification: It gives you an instant energy hit. And yes, they're liquid calories -- but really, will a nutrient-filled vegetable beverage make anyone fat? Especially when the alternative is a light frozen coffee concoction?

When I started turning to juice, I found that after drinking a glass in the morning or before a workout, I felt light, energized and generally more alive. I don’t think juice is the holy grail of nutrition, but I do find it a welcome addition to my diet, especially during the hot months of summer.

I'll admit my first forays into “green juice” were not pleasant ones. It took me a while before I could guzzle down kale, spinach, parsley and ginger concoctions with pleasure. The first few juices I bought sadly went to waste.

A few easy steps helped me ease into juice-drinking gradually and pleasantly.

  • Start Sweet. The first juice I found palatable was a combination of beet, carrot and apple. All of these ingredients add a pleasantly sweet taste to juice. Then I gradually added in cucumber, than celery, then greens -- and decreased the amount of very sweet vegetables and fruits as I started adjusting to the greener flavor.
  • Green Gradually. Most juice bars will offer a range of “green juices”; start with ones made of milder green ingredients, such as pear, apple, romaine, spinach and cucumber, and work your way up to the more serious green juices, which might include kale, chard, herbs, lemon and ginger.
  • Go Organic. One cup of juice contains a lot of fruits and vegetables -- when consuming such a high volume of produce, it’s best to choose organic whenever possible.
  • Pick Norwalk-Pressed. This is optional, but many places now offer pressed juice.  The pressing process allows the juice to contain almost three times the vitamins and minerals than from standard extracting processes, and the juice retains those nutrients for up to three days.  If you’re drinking your juice right away, this doesn’t matter as much, but I like that most fresh pressed juices come in sealable containers so you can take them on the go. 

A juice comparison

Juice isn’t hard to come by, you can find juice almost anywhere in the city -- even in unlikely places, like the Mister Softee-Juice Bar combo truck that’s always parked on 14th Street and Broadway. Here are a few of my favorite pressed juice suppliers:

  • Liquiteria, 170 Second Ave.
    MY PICK: ALL GREENS with Apple.
    This kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, celery, cucumber
    and apple is a delightfully mild and refreshing green juice, but you can kick it up with lemon and ginger if you dare. $8.25 (Note: Pressed juice will cost more than if you have it made to order.)
  • Pump, Various locations
    MY PICK: Serious Green. An intense mix of dark greens and herbs, but it manages to be totally palatable for the seasoned juicer due to the mild dose of ginger. For a milder flavor, opt for the Easy Green or Apple Green options, the perfect beginner and intermediate green juices. $8.25
  • Blueprint Cleanse, Whole Foods and online
    MY PICK: Classic Green Juice. Packed with romaine, celery, cucumber, apple, spinach, kale, parsley and lemon, the apple, lemon and lighter greens give it a subtle sweetness that makes it one of my all-time favorites. For years, you had to buy a 6-juice commitment, but now you can buy 1 or 10 at Whole Foods around the city. $8.99 for a single bottle.
  • Terri Organic
    MY PICK: The Perfect Pear.
    This juice is the perfect blend of fruit and vegetable; the pear lends sweetness, and the spinach, celery and cucumber give it an added alkaline boost. Live Long and Green is a heartier option: it has the most bite of any green juice I have tried, but that makes it a nice challenge. $6.50

Juicing isn't a substitute for overall healthy eating habits -- juice for breakfast and a cheese steak for lunch isn’t a balanced diet. But you might find, as I did, that juice not only gives you a natural energy boost, but it also puts you back on the healthy track if you’ve veered off the path. Now, juice often cuts down my cravings for sweets and helps reset my taste buds to appreciate fresh, clean foods more than ever.  

Melissa is a NYC resident and workout junkie. She keeps motivated to stay fit and active by trying out new workout classes, signing up for races, and keeping an eye out for a fun fitness challenge. She hopes to complete the New York City Marathon for the second time in 2011. Read more about her healthy adventures in New York City at her blog fitnessnyc.wordpress.com.

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