Last year, Kim Wilcox and his wife, Tamara, were flipping TV channels when they stumbled on a movie with an attention-grabbing title: “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”
The 2010 documentary follows Australian entrepreneur Joe Cross as he reboots his health with a 60-day fruit and vegetable juice fast. After watching it, the Wilcoxes bought a juicer and stocked their fridge with produce. They started juicing for breakfast and lunch on weekdays but continued eating whatever they wanted for dinner and on weekends.
The downtown Kansas City couple loved the energy boost they got from all that nutrient-dense juice, but they didn’t want their friends to think they were hard-core health nuts.
“We initially hid (the juicer) when our friends came over,” says Kim Wilcox, a communications instructor at Metropolitan Community College, “but after a few months, we came out of the closet and put the juicer on the kitchen counter.”
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A few years back, juicing was associated with people on strict raw food diets. But recently, it has spilled into the mainstream, thanks in part to documentaries, kale-sipping celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek and an abundance of new books filled with recipes for delicious and nutritious juice blends that you can make at home. (See sidebar.)
Juice bars, which have become about as common as coffee shops on the coasts, are starting to seep into Kansas City.
A vegetarian restaurant and juice bar called Foodoo opened last month at 3605 Broadway. The menu features bold blends such as the Cobra Verde, a green juice that combines cool cucumber and pineapple with hot jalapeno.
T. Loft, a tea and juice shop, opened its first location at 8025 State Line Road last year. After opening a second location in Leawood in February, owner and admitted juice addict Jill Minton is prepping a third in Lawrence. T. Loft’s menu features detox-friendly shots of spinach juice alongside juice blends with names like Mean & Clean and Extreme C.
Coffee Girls, a breakfast and lunch spot at 7440 Washington St. in the Waldo neighborhood, recently rolled out a juice truck called the Thirsty Girl that serves green smoothies in the West Bottoms on First Friday weekends. Owner Lindsey Patterson is also retooling her shop’s menu to focus on juice and smoothies such as the Greenie, which blends cucumber and apple juice with ginger, parsley, spinach and celery.
At Cafe Gratitude, 333 Southwest Blvd., fresh-pressed juices are becoming so popular that owner Natalie George is considering opening a sister business focused on juice and juice cleanse packages.
Cafe Gratitude’s popular juice cleanses cost $59 per day and come with six 16-ounce bottles of organic juice pressed with a $14,000 Goodnature X-1 Commercial Cold Press Juicer. The refrigerator-sized contraption squeezes fruits and vegetables until they give up their juice.
“Cold-pressed” juicing is different from the method used by many at-home juicers, which employ centrifugal force to spin fruits and vegetables over a metal blade. The resulting juice, which is heated slightly in the process, is strained through a mesh basket.
The $100 Power Juicer that “godfather of fitness” Jack LaLanne endorsed in 2002 is a centrifugal juicer. So is the $150 Breville Juice Fountain endorsed by Joe Cross, the maker of “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”
Sales of Breville juicers usually tick up a notch after “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” airs on TV, says Michael Wimbs, manager of the kitchen store Sur la Table, 430 Nichols Road on the Country Club Plaza.
Pryde’s, a locally owned kitchen store at 115 Westport Road, has expanded its offerings of juicers over the past two years. The store stocks Breville juicers alongside hand-operated citrus juicers and $500 Vitamix blenders capable of liquifying whole oranges, carrots — even pineapple cores.
“They’re the Rolls-Royces of blenders,” says owner Louise Meyers. Despite the high price tag, they’re becoming extremely popular.
“People are really into health,” Meyers says. “They want to get as many nutrients and fiber in as possible.”
New to juicing at home? Start with sweeter blends, says Patterson, the owner of Coffee Girls. Her favorite “gateway juice” is called Liquid Sunshine, which brightens carrot juice with orange, strawberry, apple and lime.
Just don’t overdo it on the fruit, warns Kodi Watson, a registered dietitian who works at the Hy-Vee store at 8301 N. St. Clair Ave.
“You wouldn’t sit down and eat three oranges, four stalks of celery, an apple and three bananas,” Watson says. “When you juice all of that, you’re getting concentrated sugar and no fiber.”
Once you get a taste for fresh juice — which is often less sweet and more opaque than the stuff on grocery shelves — bump up the vegetable-to-fruit ratio by adding savory selections such as celery, kale, cucumber and spinach.
Watson suggests making green juice even more satisfying by blending it into a smoothie with ice, Greek yogurt, protein powder, peanut butter, flax or chia seeds. She says those ingredients add protein and healthy fats that make you feel fuller longer.
The dietitian doesn’t recommend long-term juice fasts because she says they lack calories, fiber, protein and healthy fats. The lesson: You don’t have to drink juice for 60 consecutive days to reap the health benefits of juicing, which, at its core, is just another way to replace processed meals with fresh vegetables and fruit.
Take it from Kim Wilcox, who says he and his wife now crave their spinach-loaded smoothies more than fast-food cheeseburgers: “We feel better when we eat better.”
Enterprise reporter Sarah Gish writes a monthly cooking feature for The Star’s food section. Contact her by calling 816-234-4823, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweeting @sarah_gish.
Five fresh-picked books on juicing
Want more info on juicing? Check out the health or cookbook section of your local library or bookstore: Chances are, they’re overflowing with books on the juicing trend. Here are a few that debuted this year.
“The Juice Generation: 100 Recipes for Fresh Juices and Superfood Smoothies,” by Eric Helms with Amely Greeven (Touchstone 2014)
This comprehensive book is loaded with beautiful photos of fruit and vegetables, in-depth nutrition info and tons of recipes that helped the Juice Generation solidify its reputation as one of the most successful juice bar chains in New York City.
“The Reboot With Joe Juice Diet: Lose Weight, Get Healthy and Feel Amazing,” by Joe Cross (Greenleaf Book Group Press 2014)
In this book — which is part autobiography, part health book — the Australian entrepreneur behind the 2010 documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” shares his story along with recipes, tips and insight into the emotional and physical side of adopting healthier habits.
“Superfood Juices: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-Dense Recipes,” by Julie Morris (Sterling 2014)
In this colorful and recipe-heavy book, natural food chef Julie Morris incorporates “superfood” ingredients such as spirulina powder, sea buckthorn berry juice and hemp seeds into juices, smoothies — even granita and ice cream.
“Juice: Recipes for Juicing, Cleansing, and Living Well,” by Carly de Castro, Hedi Gores and Hayden Slater (Ten Speed Press 2014)
In this newly released book, the founders of Pressed Juicery in Los Angeles outline the health benefits of juicing and share tips that help anyone incorporate juicing into a healthy lifestyle. There are also 75 recipes inspired by Pressed Juicery’s best-selling drinks.
“Best 100 Juices for Kids: Totally Yummy, Awesomely Healthy, & Naturally Sweetened Homemade Alternatives to Soda Pop, Sports Drinks & Expensive Bottled Juices,” by Jessica Fisher (Harvard Common Press 2014)
Kids and kale juice don’t always mix, so this book is a good pick for parents who want to ease their children into the idea of drinking something other than apple juice. With fun names like Minty Melons and I Yam What I Yam, these recipes make eating (and drinking) the rainbow fun for everyone.
With its sweet, earthy flavor and bright red color, this juice is a fun way to start the day.
Makes 1 serving
1 large raw red beet
2 Golden Delicious apples
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger
Process all the ingredients in a juicer and drink immediately.
Per serving: 169 calories (4 percent from fat), 1 gram total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 38 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 76 milligram sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.
Source: The Medicinal Chef: Eat Your Way to Better Health (Sterling 2013)
I Yam What I Yam
It might sound strange to juice a raw sweet potato, but when you mix the bright orange juice with fresh citrus, it’s a revelation.
Makes 2 servings
3 large carrots
2 medium orange sweet potatoes
1 medium navel orange
1 medium lime
1/4-1/2 inch slice fresh ginger
Trim the carrots. Peel the sweet potatoes, and cut the orange and lime in half.
Juice the carrots, sweet potatoes and ginger according to the directions on your juicing machine.
For a larger yield of juice and less waste, juice the orange and lime with a citrus juicer or reamer. (If you prefer, you can juice them in the juicing machine. Peel the fruit, if desired, prior to juicing.)
Pour the two juices into a pitcher, and whisk to combine. Add water to taste if you prefer a milder juice.
Per serving: 224 calories (3 percent from fat), 1 gram total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 54 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 56 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber.
This refreshing juice tastes like summer in a glass. It’s fairly sweet, so it’s a great pick for kids and those who are new to juicing.
Makes 2 servings
2 cups cubed honeydew melon
2 cups cubed cantaloupe
2 or 3 sprigs fresh mint
Juice the honeydew, cantaloupe and mint according to the directions on your juicing machine. Whisk to combine. Add water to taste if you prefer a milder juice.
Per serving: 126 calories (3 percent from fat), trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 35 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Source: Best 100 Juices for Kids (Harvard Common Press 2014)
Expert juicers will love this veggie-heavy green juice. Not sweet enough? Add an apple.
Makes 2 servings
10 celery stalks
1 romaine lettuce heart
3 large kale leaves
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
1/2 lemon, juiced
Juice the celery, romaine, kale and parsley, and stir in the lemon juice.
Per serving: 58 calories (8 percent from fat), trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 188 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.
Source: Superfood Juices: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-Dense Recipes (Sterling 2014)
Hail to Kale
You can’t taste the kale in this juice blend, which is a best-seller at the Juice Generation, a popular chain of fresh juice bars in New York City.
Makes 1 serving
1 cup kale
1 cup watermelon cubes
1 medium apple
1/2 medium lemon, peeled
Per serving: 202 calories (8 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 42 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 33 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.
Source: The Juice Generation: 100 Recipes for Fresh Juices and Superfood Smoothies (Touchstone 2014)