Drink your vegetables: A guide to juicing in La Jolla

The juicing craze is alive and well in The Jewel, with eight juice bars/smoothie shops to help health-conscious La Jollans get more vitamins and minerals every day.

Here is the skinny from the local purveyors bringing you juices (just the extracted liquid) and smoothies (using the actual plant pulp, ice or frozen fruit with the juice) with everything from apples to wheatgrass.

■ Benefits of juicing

Several juicers tout the benefits of juicing and drinking vegetable-based smoothies as a way of getting key vitamins and minerals into the body in a convenient, easily absorbed way.

“The juices are a great vehicle because (liquid) is absorbed much more easily because there is nothing for the body to digest, it’s just the nutrients, which can be absorbed very easily. The body doesn’t have to go through the energy to digest the (roughage),” said Leila Whitehead, owner and director of Trilogy Sanctuary.

Added Michael (last name withheld), owner of Juice Kaboose, “The benefits of drinking the juice as opposed to eating the actual food is you can get so much more in one cup. If you were to put all the vegetables on a tray, it would seem impossible to eat them all, especially in one sitting. But in a juice, you get all the vitamins and minerals and enzymes in one glass.”

Additionally, juicing the vegetables and fruits raw helps preserve nutrients that are sometimes lost when the components are cooked.

Rob Stuart, co-manager of Farm to Fork (which will open a second La Jolla location this month) said highly nutritious vegetables people conventionally cook that they use raw include: fennel, Swiss chard, carrots, beets, cilantro and parsley.

“Eating the foods in their original state and juicing are both great. But when vegetables are cooked, a lot of enzymes and vitamins are lost,” he said. “By juicing, we keep all the nutrients intact. Plus, when you consider you’re getting two to three pounds of produce in each bottle, you are getting well over 100 percent of your daily value of vitamins and minerals (of whatever vitamins the produce in the drink provides).”

The diminishing effect heat has on the nutritional content of fresh fruits and vegetables is also the reason why many juices are “cold-pressed” — a method of extracting the juice without any heat that preserves nutritional content.

■ Taste test

Having a convenient source of nutrients is all well and good, but people still have to drink it, right? That’s why a combination of nutrition and palatable flavor are key to making juice.

Matt Petch, manager at SeaSide Smoothie, said having a staff with prior culinary experience and knowledge of what flavors work well together, influenced the combinations found on their menu.

He said customers will often come in, but be concerned something will taste “too green,” so he recommends adding the juice of pineapple, green apple or lemon to offset bitterness. “We have sweeter smoothies with fruits and vegetables that are a really quick and easy way to get lots of nutrition, but that mask that green flavor and still get you a lot of green nutrition,” he said. At Fruittitude, owner May Choi uses fruits as the base to make the smoothies sweet, and adds vegetables to it. “I love fruits and I wanted to make them easy to eat and drink. Yes, they have a lot of sugar, but they have a lot of nutrients as well,” she said.

At Juice Crafters, a newcomer to the La Jolla scene, they have an array of ingredients that can be made into a custom smoothie or juice, and can advise about how certain flavors will meld.

“When people want to make their own, we let them know if we don’t think it would taste good,” said owner Jonathan Goldwasser. “But, if they still decide to, before they drink the whole thing, we give them a little bit to sample before they buy it. If they don’t like it, we can adjust it. If they don’t like it, we’ll make another one.”

■ Common goal

Most, if not all, the smoothies and juices, are blended together using ingredients that yield similar benefits. And the name of the drink is usually pretty telling. Most places in The Jewel offer a “detox” juice or a “radiance” juice containing ingredients that assist with removing toxins or brightening the skin.

But just in case you need a little help figuring out what benefit certain fruits and vegetables will have, most places have that information readily available. On Juice Kaboose’s website (juicekaboose.com), there is a nutrition tab that explains the nutritional impact of certain fruits and vegetables. Celery, it reports, is good for headaches, insomnia and muscle cramps.

Similarly, Juice Crafters menu lists key benefits of its ingredients. Who knew dates help fortify the heart and help with hangover symptoms?

At Lean and Green Café, “we compiled ingredients with similar effects on the body, such as high-vitamin C immune system boosters, or vegetables known to assist the liver and kidneys so they can better remove toxins,” said co-owner Fabien Uteau.

Whitehead at Trilogy has a background in nutrition and Petch at SeaSide said employees are knowledgeable about what foods yield what results.

“You tell us what you think you need and what you want and we will put something together to meet those needs,” Petch said.

■ Juice cleanses

Alexis Schulze, co-founder of Nekter juice bar, known for its ready-to-go juice cleanses, said replacing solid food with juices for a while “gives your digestive system a much needed break.”

Nekter’s daily juice cleanse contains six cold-pressed juices, which are consumed in place of other foods for anywhere from one to five days.

The combined produce content of a one-day cleanse is approximately 15 pounds of fruits and vegetables, with a drink heavy in protein as well, to load up your system with nutrients that help it operate at its peak, and little else.

Goldwasser said Juice Crafters offers daily cleanses and meal-replacement smoothies that are nutrient-packed, as well as “wellness shots” of lemon, ginger and cayenne, and turmeric (known for its anti-inflammatory and possibly anti-cancerous properties).

Farm to Fork, though not offering juice cleanses, sticks to a strict recipe for the same pre-bottled juices and there are no custom juice blends.

■ Juicing in La Jolla

Juice Kaboose, at 22 years, is La Jolla’s oldest juice bar. When the company first opened, Michael said, there were no others. When Jamba Juices became so popular, juice and smoothie bars started popping up, he said.

“But even then, juice bars were more like Jamba Juice and we had a more health-based model,” he said. “But about three years ago, everyone started looking at organic and fresh squeezed juices and more vegetable-based juices, like what we were serving.”

He added that up until a few years ago, fruit smoothies and vegetable juices were kept separate, until people started realizing they didn’t have to be. So he started exploring which flavor and nutritional combinations went over well with customers.

■ A word of caution

Gordon Saxe, M.D., Ph.D. a physician at UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, agrees that juicing is an easy way to get vegetable nutrition, but he also has a word of caution about the practice.

“With juices, it’s not a whole food you’re getting. Plus with juicing, while you concentrate the phytonutrients, you might also concentrate the sugar,” he said. “Furthermore, you lose healthy things in the pulp, such as fiber.”

For example, he said, “Think of carrot juice. If you were to eat the whole thing with the fiber and the pulp, the sugar load wouldn’t be as great and the burden on your body wouldn’t be as great as it would be with carrot juice. Juicing concentrates the sugar, which is a harder on your body to process.”

However, juicing deeply colored vegetables also increases the amount of carotenoids like beta-carotenes, lutein and lycopene that people conventionally do not get enough of.

Additionally, juicing also eliminates one key step of the digestive process — chewing.

“To fully digest a food, we want to chew it. We have molars to chew and we should do that,” Saxe said. The act of chewing food, he added, improves blood circulation to the brain.

Additionally, when it comes to juicing, the USDA-recommended amount of fruit and vegetable servings doesn’t translate.

“You can’t get a serving (of fruits or vegetables) from juice because it’s not the whole thing,” he said.

“You are concentrating certain parts of the food and eliminating others. You are not including the pulp and those nutrients get thrown away. People may want to make that equation, but it’s fabricated.”

A smoothie, he argues, would translate because the whole thing is being used.

Increasing vegetable intake with smoothies, he said, is an easy thing to learn. “It’s one thing to learn to cook beans and nuts and whole grains that make up a whole-food plant-based diet, it’s another thing to throw some vegetables or fruit in a blender — or go somewhere that does.”

Saxe and UCSD offer workshops on how to make juicing part of an overall healthy diet. cim.ucsd.edu/cooking

La Jolla’s neighborhood juice bars

Farm to Fork Juice 5646 La Jolla Blvd. (858) 888-2250 farmtoforkjuice.com

Price range: $10 (plus $1 deposit for glass bottle) Open since: 2011

Fruitittude 7777 Girard Ave. (858) 459-8887 fruittitudeup.com

Price range: $4.75-$7.99 Open since: February 2014

Juice Crafters 935 Silverado St. (858) 459-0569 juicecrafters.com

Price range: $5.25-$10.50 Open since: November 2014

Juice Kaboose 7556 Fay Ave. (858) 456-9300 juicekaboose.com

Price range: $3.50-$9 Open since: 1993

Lean and Green Café 7825 Fay Ave. (858) 459-5326 leanandgreencafe.com

Price range: $6-$11 Open since: 2008

Nékter 834 Kline St. (800) 385-1650 nekterjuicebar.com

Price range: $4.75-$8.75 Open since: 2013

SeaSide Smoothie 5517 La Jolla Blvd. (858) 456-2617 seasidesmoothie.com

Price range: $4-$8 Open since: 2013

Trilogy Sanctuary 7650 Girard Ave. (858) 633-3893 trilogysanctuary.com

Price range: $7-$11 Open since: August 2014

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