Raw-food fans endorse health by the glassful

01/24/2014 12:59 PM

01/28/2014 12:06 PM

Juicing just might be the new black, as the health trend is appearing everywhere from the runway to the red carpet.

Celebrities and fashionistas have helped kick-start a craze that has arrived in Fort Worth with the opening of three new raw juice outlets during the past few months.

Former ballet dancer Hillary Biediger returned to her hometown of Fort Worth seven years ago after living in New York City for a decade and jumping on the raw juice bandwagon.

“All the health food stores up there had juice bars,” she says, adding that she was hooked at first sip.

“I’ll never forget the feeling when I had my first all-green juice,” Biediger says. “I thought, ‘I have never felt this good.’ I had instant energy. I started juicing at home and it just became my routine.”

Determined to open her juice bar in Fort Worth, she soon realized Cowtown wasn’t ready to go raw. Jamba Juice and Smoothie King were big, but actual juicing — drinking vegetables like nutrient-rich kale and beets in pure liquid form — was still a foreign concept. That was until 2012, when Biediger learned that juice bars were opening in Dallas and experiencing success.

“I said, ‘OK, it’s time,’ ” she says. In November, she opened Juice Junkies, a storefront selling organic, cold-pressed juices and healthy snacks. “We’ve gotten such a positive response,” she adds. “It’s really nice to hear people say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’ ”

With a staff of 10, Biediger is cold-pressing more than 16 varieties of juice blends (each named for her favorite rock songs) using powerful ingredients like ginger, turmeric, green apples, carrots, spinach, parsley and garlic. The elixirs contain from 3 to 6 pounds of produce in each bottle.

“You’re getting more nutrients and enzymes in one bottle than most people get in a week,” she says.

What makes cold-pressed juices unique (and pricey) is the lengthy, tedious process involved in production. Vegetables are slowly grinded and then pressed into liquid form, allowing the juices to retain the maximum amount of nutrients possible, Biediger explains. Most home juicers are of the centrifugal variety, which means they whip air into the vegetables at high speeds, which can cause oxidization or heat, and potentially kill off beneficial enzymes.

“But anytime you can juice at home, do it,” she adds. “You just have to drink it right away.”

‘Not a substitute’

Leslie Needleman was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, leading her to pursue a healthier lifestyle, and juicing became an important part of that.

“It was kind of uglier than most,” she says of the disease. “It had gotten into my lymph nodes. There’s nothing scarier and that’s enough to change everything. And I did.”

In her efforts to remove everything toxic from her life and help others do the same, she opened The Gem juice bar in Dallas two years ago. She says juicing has given her much better energy and clarity, her immune system has been boosted, her skin looks better, and her health is vibrant.

“But not everybody has to be scared into this,” she says. “Once you get on board, it’s something that your body just responds to and you just know it’s the way to go.”

Needleman recently partnered with Abundio’s Studio in Fort Worth to offer The Gem juices via the fitness studio’s new retail outlet. Folks can pop in to purchase her organic, cold-pressed juices from the cooler, or order juice cleanses in bulk for scheduled pick-ups.

“It’s not a substitute for your vegetables,” she says. “But your body will start to crave it.”

About those cleanses

Juice cleanses, also increasing in popularity, involve a more complicated process of dedicating three to five days, or more, to restricting food intake to just juicing. The intent is to remove bodily toxins that come from foods and, also, the environment.

“A lot of people typically get freaked out and say, ‘There’s not enough protein,’ but you’d actually be surprised,” says Chris Sanchez, founder of Dallas-based Simply Fit Meals, which opened its first Fort Worth store last fall. Simply Fit Meals offers cold-pressed juices, and among them are several creative varieties that include jalapeños and Himalayan sea salt. “About a pound of kale, which is in some of our juices, has about 20 grams of protein. But if you were going to eat a pound of kale, it would probably be about two shoe boxes full.”

Sanchez admits that juice cleanses are not a “magic concoction” that will rid your body of years of abuse. He describes cleansing as more like a reset for the body, a great technique for wiping the slate clean and building a lifestyle of better nutrition. As a former personal trainer and marketing executive for Whole Foods, Sanchez cleanses about once a year.

“I think the fact that celebrities are doing it has given it a little more notoriety,” he says. “It makes it a little more mainstream.”

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