Liquid Lunch

2nd January 2015

Five a day? In a glass? I’ll drink to that, says Heather Harris

Kale – once the snack of choice for every well respecting guinea pig – is now the drink of choice for many an A-list celebrity. Today’s supermodels won’t get out of bed for less than $18,000 (Linda Evangelista suggested $10,000 in 1990, but I’ve allowed for inflation) – and a glass of green slime.

Where once the Kates, Claudias and Erins of this world downed diet coke and skinny frappuccinos, now a centrifugally juiced concoction of fruit and vegetables is vital to catwalk perfection. And, as all we women know, where the ‘catwalkers’ tread… we are not far behind.

The UK – as a glass half-empty sort of country – has always been sceptical about the latest health fad and we do tend to wait for our friends across the pond to dip their foot in first. Juicing is no exception – in the US the whole cleanse and detox trend has been there, done that and worn the size 0 t-shirt, before we’ve even thought of putting down our donuts and smelling the coffee.

Now, ironically, Juice Bars are pulverising the profits of their caffeine-filled counterparts into submission on many major High Streets. The UK industry is now estimated to be worth a mouth-watering £54m with an annual growth of 7% in the last year.

And as the green shoots of recovery began to peek through, this particular market is doing its bit by employing a healthy 630 people in 96 businesses. Along with a small number of large chains such as Boost Juice Bars (UK ) Limited and Krush Global Ltd, are an increasing number of independent outlets and franchise operations.

Recently opened in Berkhamsted, for example, is Zero, a juice and sushi bar, located, ironically on a site where an old-fashioned sweet shop formerly stood. Zero’s owner, Jack Yarwood, is delighted with the response from the local latté-loving community.

“We’ve been opened just two months and have been overwhelmed with the response, selling 150 juices a day,” he says. At an average cost of £3 that’s an invigorating total. “Our most popular are the green based juices such as No 12 which is Apple, Kale [told you so!] Cucumber, Spinach, Ginger and Lime, or our No 10: Apple, Spinach, Avocado and Lime.”

And what’s really refreshing is that Zero is doing great trade amongst local school children with business brisk both before and after school and during lunch hour. Typical, isn’t it? – all those years of making patterns out of vegetables trying to get my kids to digest their peas and carrots, and hey presto… make it trendy, mush it up with some apple and ginger and that’s their five a day down in one.

It’s this simplicity angle which even the most hard-bitten sceptics would find hard not to swallow. As Jenny Stuart, local juicing entrepreneur and owner of Juvination – ‘cold pressed juice cleanses delivered to your door or office’ – explains, “People say to me ‘why do I need to spend money on juices when I can just eat fruit and veg?’… The truth is you won’t and you don’t. A one day juice cleanse has one and half kilos of fruit and vegetables in it – no-one would eat that much whole fruit and veg in a day.”

And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding – or the plastic bottles full of multi-coloured good stuff. After speaking to Jenny, I duly took up her challenge of a one day cleanse. This involved having six bottles of juices delivered to my door with a highly informative leaflet explaining the order in which to drink them, starting at 8am with a green mixture containing wheatgrass and Spirulina, working through the day with a beetroot and carrot-based Red Revive at 2pm, before going back to more green and ending at 9pm with a calming warm apple and cinnamon. The only other thing to pass my lips was eight glasses of water.

Despite spending an awful lot of time heading to the loo, I can honestly say I wasn’t hungry at all, as each 500 ml bottle is very filling and despite my initial aversion to kale, it was all actually really tasty.

I did miss the texture of real food and, of course, it does curtail your social life – no catching up over a quick cuppa or glass of vino. You also have to stop the habit of arriving home and automatically heading for the fridge or the biscuit tin and pinching titbits – “just checking the seasoning” – while cooking for the family but for the tangible feeling of cleansing, this is a small price to pay. The juice itself, talking of paying, is £50 for a day’s supply – but Jenny is keen to stress the long-term benefits. “I do tell customers that the price isn’t just for one day, as the effect on your taste buds lasts longer.”

Her oldest client is in her 70s and the youngest in his 20s. One of her best customers, confounding expectations, is a 32-year-old single man who has a one day juice cleanse delivered to his door every Sunday night. He is convinced that by starting the week juicing means he doesn’t crave alcohol and ‘rubbish’ food the rest of the week.

“The most ideal detox is to juice for three days but I realise this isn’t practical for many people, so that’s why I worked with a nutritionist to devise the one day option,” says Jenny. She doesn’t promote it as a weight loss option, either. “This can be one effect but it is more about feeling better in your mind as well as your body.”

If the speed with which I completed the Sudoku and my unusually calm approach to parenting is anything to go by, then there’s definitely something in it – as well as lots of kale.

The home delivery approach also appeals to those of us who simply don’t have the time or the inclination to cause carnage in the kitchen by pulverising beetroot until the early hours ready for our reviving 6am slurp. Even so, these increasingly impressive home masticating and centrifuging contraptions are putting commercial operators – like Jack and Jenny – in a spin.

This Christmas one of Amazon’s top sellers was a hand held juicer called the Nutribullet (£85) whilst Lakeland revealed their state-of-the-art Lakeland Juicepresso 18307 (the number, presumably, is the number of people it takes to clean it).

According to the boffins with pips in their hair and peel in their teeth, “The Juicepresso has a patented one-piece slow-squeezing system which claims to take juicing to the next level.” The next level, one deduces, is bankruptcy, as this single masticating machine costs £300: equivalent to a budget airline fare to Seville to pick and squeeze the oranges yourself.

But Lakeland is positively glowing, reporting sales of juicers up by 4,000 per cent in a week following a November Channel 5 documentary in which a man lost six stone by going on a juice only diet.

And along the High Street, Will Jones, a buyer at John Lewis says, “Juicing is a huge trend for us this year as we see a 60% rise in customer demand for juicers.” The retailer has also stocked ten times the amount, in anticipation of the New Year’s Resolution sales boost.

So what are the facts behind the ‘tale of the kale and myth of the pith’? Is this growing trend just another fad or could it actually improve the health of our waist expanding society?

Motivational speaker and life-coach, 45 year-old Londoner, Jason Vale, who is to juicing what Sir Alex was to football, is keen to explain how every food has come under criticism at some time – except for fruit and vegetables. “These foods nourish every cell in the body, help prevent, disease, flush the system of waste and contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals – yet they are the ones we don’t eat enough of…”

Juicing is simply a way of solving this. By definition, “juicing is the process of extracting juice from plant tissues such as fruit or vegetables and serving as an easily digestible drink.” There are various ways to do it but all work on this same principle.

However, it’s not all cut and dried (or peeled or pulped). The American Cancer Society recently stated, ‘There is no convincing scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than whole foods’ – but see Jenny’s early point – we won’t and we don’t eat as much as we should.

However, while pure, raw juice contains the essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients found in the whole fruit, we can’t overlook the fact that it loses the fibre from the skin and peel.

“Fibre helps to maintain a healthy gut,” Boots’ dietician Perryn Carroll says, adding that, “Undertaking juicing for a long period of time can put you at risk of constipation.”

The British Dietetic Association agree. Their spokesman, Rick Miller, concludes, “Juicing is fine occasionally but if you do it for weeks on end you are missing out on protein and healthy fats.”

So basically it’s the old ‘everything in moderation’ approach. But for someone like me who shoves a banana in her bag and it stays there for a week – the ability to drink my five a day must be a positive lifestyle change.

I won’t be signing up for one of Mr Vale’s ‘Juicing Retreats’ (even the cleverest marketeers couldn’t brand it ‘a holiday’) but I will certainly be putting kale on my shopping list – and not just for the family pet.

for more information:
Juvination: www.juvination.co.uk
Zero Juice & Sushi: www.facebook.com/ZeroBerkhamsted
Jason Vale: www.juicemaster.com

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