Celebrity endorsements boosting juice-cleansing among consumers

| Friday, April 4, 2014, 7:07 p.m.

In December, Ankit Goyal, president of Fresh From the Farm Juices on the South Side, was selling on average four to five juice cleanses a week.

Just four months later, he's selling more than 10 times that amount. With more and more celebrities talking about the results they see as a result of juice cleanses — which require only ingesting vegetable-based juices for a time period typically ranging from four to 10 days — Americans are embracing the practice.

“It starts in California with Jennifer Aniston and a bunch of celebrities saying how they look 22 when they're 40 is because of juice cleanses,” says Dr. Conan Shaw, a Seven Fields-based clinical nutritionist, who has seen many clients request information about cleanses in recent years. “It's going to be bigger and bigger and keep going in that direction.”

Proponents of juice cleanses say the process allows the drinker to ingest more nutrients than eating the item solid. That aids the body in releasing more toxins.

Many who juice-cleanse report better moods, more energy and clearer thinking, says Aimee Kollinger of Embody Natural Health in Lawrenceville and Wexford. The key is using organic, vegetable-based juices heavy in greens like kale, spinach and celery. Fruit should be used in extreme moderation to avoid the sugars, she says.

For a successful cleanse, preparation is crucial. Cleanses typically consist of drinking 72 to 96 ounces of juice a day. To properly prepare, Goyal advises eliminating carbs, eating more raw nuts and getting more greens for a few days beforehand.

“A lot of people come in who have been eating really bad and want to do it tomorrow,” says Kollinger. “That is not the best thing to do. Your body is not quite ready. You have to prepare your body by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.”

From there, plan how much juice you will need, or organic produce, if making your own, she says. Create a schedule of when to drink what, based on when you typically wake up and go to sleep. Invest in a quality juicer if making it at home, or research already-prepared options.

Embody Natural Health offers an array of choices, including Easy Being Green, with cucumber, kale, ginger, spinach, parsley, ginger, apple and lemon; Ravishing Red with beets, carrots, apple and lime; a Lemon Blend with lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper; and Everything Will Be All White, with vanilla extract and cinnamon.

Fresh From the Farm offers a variety of options, all made with organic ingredients obtained from local vendors and farms. They include Limey Green, made with spinach, kale, apple, carrot, lime and cilantro and containing close to 3 pounds of produce per bottle; Restless Red, with beet, apple, carrot, lemon, parsley and ginger; and Spicy Lemonade with lemon, ginger, agave and jalapeno.

Goyal has been drinking juice his entire life. His mother would make gallons at a time for the family.

“I was always the most energetic one in school,” he says with a laugh.

When he moved from New York City to Ligonier with his wife in 2012, he realized during trips to Pittsburgh that the area did not have many independent juice shops, but that larger grocers did carry the products. He started making juice in a 250-square-foot shop and was soon selling to local coffee shops and yoga studios. His business has continued to grow from there, and, now, customers can stop by his South Side shop to watch as pounds of produce are turned into 12-ounce drinks.

“We make about 250 gallons a day,” he says. “People like it because it makes them feel good.”

Contrary to common misconceptions, cleanses are not a quick fix for a lifetime of unhealthy habits. They are a starting point for people looking to start pursuing healthier choices, Goyal says.

“It is a lifestyle change,” he says. “People automatically think they'll not be able to have things. You can still have them, just in a different form. You'll be making more-conscious, more-informed decisions.”

Cleanses are not a magic solution for long-term weight loss.

“You're going to weigh less, but you're not losing fat. You're just not eating,” says Kollinger. “For people who want to make changes, this is a great way to start, but it's not for everybody.”

Shaw says it typically takes four days for the system to clear out most toxins, the first few of which can be accompanied by headaches and general grumpiness. But those who are able to push past and make real changes in the way they eat end up feeling better, he says.

“If you eat the standard American diet, then do a cleanse, then go right back to the way you were eating, don't have any expectations,” he says.

Juice cleansing does have its naysayers, who argue it is not supported by scientific evidence. West Penn Hospital dietitian Sharon Cabonor says the practice sparks concern about decreased intake and excessive loss of essential electrolytes and nutrients.

“The colon, which juice-cleansing advocates claim needs ‘cleaned,' is not dirty,” she says. “Prolonged use of juice fasts may lead to muscle loss, decreased metabolism and insufficient intake of protein and fiber, all which may lead to increased cravings and the potential for weight gain.

“If individuals are concerned about excessive sugars or processed foods, they should avoid those foods and focus on fresh-food intake. Those concerned about their health should invest time and money in increasing physical activity and eating a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed food.”

Shaw says cleanses are not options for anyone with blood-sugar issues, pregnant women, and people taking prescription medications, particularly for mental issues. He recommends consulting a nutritionist if thinking a cleanse might be right for you.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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