Written by Haley Brucato
Bags of fresh fruits and vegetables line the steel counter tops in a cramped college apartment. The vibrant colors provide a stark contrast to the habitual empty Seniore’s pizza boxes and abandoned Quickly’s cups usually lining the corner of the kitchen. The group of students work together in a line, and pass down dozens of tomatoes, apples, oranges, carrots and heads of broccoli methodically. One pony-tailed girl rinses at the sink, while a small, muscular male brushes the hair from his eyes and begins slicing quickly, halving a pear, chopping zucchinis and stacking up eggplants, forming a teetering tower of produce.
A motor suddenly hums to life in the background, whirring in rotation, ready to swallow anything that gets thrown in its mouth. A young student begins shoving things in the opening, and expertly pushes everything in reach through the top. Juice slowly drips out of the spout. First red, then orange and green -The food creates a liquid rainbow. This frothy concoction will be dinner. Grumbling stomachs eagerly await the tomato shot for dessert – though their taste buds beg to differ. These five SF State students will repeat this process more than three times a day for about ten days.
Juice cleanses are all the craze right now, evident from the well publicized celebrity detoxes, and the recent growing popularity and inspiration stemming from Joe Cross’ documentary film, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” in which Cross takes on a 60-day cleanse to transform his health and successfully rid himself of an impairing skin disease. With independent juice bars beginning to pop up all across the country, this fad is quickly becoming mainstream. Angela Trinh, owner of PowerSource Cafe and juice bar, has seen a recent spike in popularity of her fresh squeezed juices.
For the cleanse, fruits and vegetables will be freshly juiced multiple times a day, and replace solid food for three, five or even ten-days. And the biggest catch – no alcohol, no caffeine, no nicotine. Not exactly an easy feat for a group of college students whose bodies are accustomed to ingesting those three detriments on a regular basis.
Though the idea is for participants to feel healthier, more energetic and in essence, rebooted, it is still up for debate if the complications outweigh the benefits. Usually participants are looking for a quick weight loss, a boosted immune system, lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, improved health of skin and an increase in energy and mental clarity.
As she sucks down a less-than-appealing brownish liquid, Stephanie Woods admits that she is not the healthiest eater. The dark, curly-haired 20-year-old is a physiology student at San Francisco State and a proud vegetarian for nearly half a decade. She sustains herself on coffee, bread, candy, energy drinks, late night binges – a typical college diet, she laughs, flashing a brilliant white smile. She decided to take on the ten-day detox challenge with several other students after watching the documentary about juicing. Woods explains she generally maintains an unhealthy diet which leads to low energy and less concentration. She had hoped the cleanse would regulate her diet focus throughout the day. But the results were far from what she expected.
“The first days were awful, all I did was sleep,” Woods explains. “I thought it would get better and that I would have more energy. But there really wasn’t much of a difference.”
She would juice mainly fruits for breakfast in the morning, and vegetable mixtures for lunch and dinner. Woods explains it felt like her body was in starvation mode, so she initially shed a few pounds – mainly water weight – and gained it all back once she started eating normally again. After the cleanse, Woods went back to drinking coffee every day and indulged on a massive plate of cheese raviolis for her first meal.
“I’m still working on it,” she sighs. “Overall it was kind of pointless. I want to say that I could pay attention more in class but I don’t know if that’s true. I’ll probably do it again in the future, but for shorter. I just missed chewing solid food.”
Michelle Hall, founder of Living Greens, a company that delivers fresh organic juices to clients in different parts of the bay area, believes that few people are aware of how to make green juices taste delicious and that juice bars are lacking in the city. For those looking to do a short cleanse, Living Greens is the go-to business. Though experiences differ depending on the person, cleanses challenge the body just the same. Hall explains that juicing and cleanses do an amazing justice to the body.
“Everybody has pretty positive experiences after they finish a cleanse,” the young woman says energetically. “They feel great, their eating habits have changed, they get glowing skin, lose weight and have more energy. I wanted to do something that benefits the well being of the community that we live in.”
The usual initial side effects include fatigue and minor headaches, but usually dissipate after a few days. Hall suggests that because it causes tiredness in the beginning, students wait until a break from school to prepare their bodies for a cleanse.
“I strongly believe that what you put into your body has an effect on how you feel and your mental thinking,” Hall adds with enthusiasm. “I think it’s not for everybody, but juice cleanses are a great way to reset eating habits and put a foot in the right direction.”
One cup of juice in the morning gets in all fruit servings for the entire day, and is easily sipped down on the way to class – much more convenient and efficient than eating a couple apples, oranges and bananas throughout the day would be.
“Nothing is better than a reboot, a jump-start for a healthy diet,” Elliot Savio, dietetics major at SFSU, says. The slender 21-year-old admits that recently the college lifestyle has caught up with his overall health and he has not been eating the way he should.
“Day one was shit, nothing is worse than not having a real set of calories and carbohydrates to get energy from,” Savio laughs. “I knew it was all healthy but it sucked. By days four and five my headaches went away and I was more energetic.”
During his cleanse, Savio drank sixteen to eighteen ounces of juice every hour to two hours in order to satisfy his appetite and curb his hunger. Despite this, he had to confront the biggest problem most participants face: keeping up the calories in comparison with the rate of metabolism. Also, his number one complaint? Having to run to the bathroom every twenty minutes. Not exactly as glamorous as all the celebrities make the popular fad appear to be.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things and it’s definitely something everyone should try at least once,” says Savio. “Every reaction is different and for me, the outcome was really great, I just couldn’t go the 10 days again.”
Safe and effective juice cleanses need to be very specific to the individual person partaking in one. They should not be taken lightly, according to Deborah Riordan, an experienced health practitioner. Many of her clients partake in juice cleanses to give their digestive systems a break.
“It’s a good way to look at what you’re eating and why,” explains Riordan. “Since cleansing is pretty involved, it needs to be adjusted accordingly after looking at how a person’s energy is, how their digestion is and what their life is like,” Riordan advises.
Aleeza Brown, a classics major at SFSU, juices her breakfast every morning. She uses a few apples and one orange to make her first daily meal. Brown explains that she feels healthier and more energetic for school. Brown is one of the five college students who underwent an intensive juice cleanse. Courtney Wilson, 20, decided to take on the challenge for an entirely different reason than her companions.
“I wanted to detox from smoking and drinking mainly,” she reluctantly admits. “I wanted all the bad stuff I put in my body out of it, but it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. People don’t realize how much your body really comes to depend on the bad stuff you put in it over a long period of time.”
Her number one lesson learned: getting off nicotine was not as simple as drinking some liquefied produce.
Avid juicers recommend going to cheaper markets and produce stands to buy in bulk – a single cup requires a large amount of fruits and vegetables. Most of the produce gets wasted in the back of the machine, while only a small amount of juice is squeezed from each fruit. It can get expensive, but going to markets in the Mission district of San Francisco can provide the best deals. Multiple bags of produce purchased for under $15 is manageable for students who have to worry about other expenses. Despite this, the cost of eating out and juicing at home averages about the same.
Mckenzie Metzger, a third-year geography student at SFSU, reluctantly pushed herself through most of the detox. Most of the long-time athlete’s juices had over ten different types of produce – and some of the combinations were far from appealing.
“I decided to do the cleanse because everyone else was doing it. Peer pressure,” she states flatly, hinting sarcasm. “Plus I like fruit juices and figured it would be an interesting thing to try to jump-start better eating habits for myself.”
After trying the cleanse Metzger felt awful, irritable and hungry. She would lose energy and constantly feel hungry. Looking for answers she hit the Internet. According to countless articles she found, juice diets are essentially a form of starvation. After the whole experience Metzger is more aware of what she puts into her body but recommends a three-day cleanse for most students because of the harsh reaction she experienced.
With no solid scientific proof these cleanses actually work, the glorious benefits bragged about aren’t necessarily tangible after gulping down a few cups of foul-tasting juice. Most likely this fad will rot out, and the juicy concoctions will be left behind in favor of solid foods, healthy diets and routine exercise.