Squeezing out the Truth
The image of a massive orange slice — set against a skyblue background — sets the tone as you step into Raw Pulp + Grind on Preston Street.
Hot pink, orange and grass-green accents stand out boldly against sleek, white countertops, and a rack of glossy brochures urge you to choose between a one or a three-day cleanse, called The Raw Reboot. It’s clear this brand-new Ottawa café is not only serious about juicing — they’ve marketed the concept in a way that has customers literally drinking it up.
“We’re all over social media and we love that,” says Sabrina Madore, who heads kitchen operations. “We have a five-star rating over a lot of the review sites; it’s been a really pleasant surprise, the enormous following that we’ve gotten so far.”
A 20-something distractedly peruses the menu, talking to the woman behind the counter while simultaneously talking to a friend on her cell phone. This, it seems, is a large part of Raw’s demographic.
“I’m really surprised — it’s the younger generation that has really gotten on board, I think, with veganism and raw eating,” says Jordan O’Leary, who partnered with Melissa Shabinsky and Richard and Nicola Valente to open the restaurant last October. “It’s the 19- to 21-year-olds; heavy Facebook and social media users.”
Indeed, social media is ripe for sharing stories of cold-pressed juice cleanses from willing converts. But for the self-professed juice-cleanse virgin, trendy ingredients like activated charcoal, hemp milk, acacia and chaga are daunting. What does it all mean and — more important — is it truly as healthy as advertised or just a lot of pulp fiction?
“I like to describe cold-pressed juice as a liquid shot of multi-vitamin or health,” says Stephanie Kay, of Stephanie Kay Nutrition, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and a graduate of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. “If you’re getting really fresh, good quality ingredients you can get a lot of nutritional value in just a small bottle.”
Kay explains that because there’s not a lot of fibre in cold-pressed juice, it’s easier and faster for your body to absorb it. “The vitamins and enzymes will get to your cells quicker because it doesn’t have to be broken down in the same way eating a physical apple or carrot would be.” However, she cautions consumers about some of the catch phrases common in the juice industry.
“People will say, ‘We’re going to detox the body,’ I find those words get thrown around a lot,” says Kay, who offers a unique, 28-day nutrition program called The Real Food Reset. “I think what people don’t understand or realize is that your body is constantly detoxifying itself day in and day out. That’s what your liver is there for, that’s what your kidneys are there for — they’re there to eliminate the toxins and keep the good stuff in.”
That’s not to say the body doesn’t need a little help sometimes, which is where cold-pressed juice fits in. At the Urban Juice Press on Parkdale Avenue, owner Justin Gauthier further satiates my thirst for a scientific explanation of the juice cleanse.
In a blog post and during our in-person discussion, Gauthier points to research out of the University of Southern California (USC), School of Gerontology and the Longevity Institute where fasting has been shown to promote stem cell-based regeneration of blood cells and significantly boost immune health.
“The point of doing a cleanse is it actually turns off a gene called PKA,” explains Gauthier, who holds a bachelor of science in human kinetics from the University of Ottawa. “When that gene turns off, your body goes into this mode where your white blood cell count goes down; in a nutshell, your immune system rebuilds itself.”
But Gauthier didn’t launch his business based on science alone — he had a personal health crisis that inspired him to embrace cold-pressed juicing.
“I woke up one day — it was super awful — I had all this gut pain,” recalls Gauthier. Soon afterward, a doctor diagnosed him with Crohn’s disease, medically classified as an auto-immune disorder. While he was prescribed medication, he felt there was more he could be doing to help himself.
“I’m all for medication if you really need it, but is it just a band-aid for the symptoms?” says Gauthier. “Western medicine has its place, but it didn’t do anything for me — it actually made me sicker; I lost a ton of weight, I wasn’t digesting anything, I missed a lot of work.”
Using his own educational background as a starting place, Gauthier spoke with a nutritionist and a naturopath, which prompted him to take a different path to health.
“They inspired me to think outside the box and think holistically; I decided to change my life and think better about eating.”
Juicing was a big part of that change for Gauthier — and was the catalyst for him to start his own business and share his improved lifestyle with others. He has been symptom-free for four years and no longer requires any medication.
In January, he anticipates many customers will be looking to clean up their habits following the indulgences of the holidays, and adds that his largest demographic is women 35 and older who seem more mindful of nutrition than men.
“You’re partying, you’re drinking, you’re eating a lot and then you realize, ‘Oh my God, I just went two weeks with all of these carbohydrates and fatty foods and processed foods,’ and you’ve got to do something, right?” says Gauthier.
Urban Juice Press serves up 10 different juice blends, including its popular Black Lemon-Aid. Gauthier explains that the 1,000 milligrams of activated charcoal in each 250-milliliter bottle — which turns the drink black — binds to viruses and pulls them out of the digestive system.
“It’s a great juice to have if you’re hungover,” he says.” Or, if you’re fighting an infection or travelling and have diarrhea and an upset stomach.”
He also offers four different juice cleanses, helpfully labelled according to the consumer’s experience level, from beginner to advanced. For the newbie interested in trying a juice cleanse for the first time, Gauthier says the ‘Kickstarter’ — which retails for $129 — is a great place to start.
“The KickStarter is an absolutely fantastic one for someone after Christmas,” he says. “It’s a better price point for most people because you’re getting less juice, but you’re also getting a bunch of smoothies — so you’re getting a finer balance between the calories and the micronutrients.”
He adds that planning for a cleanse is important — especially if you’re trying it for the first time.
“We get a lot of customers who come in and want to cleanse right away,” says Gauthier, cautioning that symptoms like headaches and malaise are more likely if you don’t prepare properly. He suggests customers check out the pre-cleanse information on his website prior to diving in.
“A lot of times people just want to go from zero to 60, but we suggest you ease into it,” says Gauthier. “Do it a couple times a year and see how it works for your body.
“We try to make it the most seamless experience for people.”
Raw Pulp + Grind
440 Preston St., Ottawa, Ont.
rawpulpandgrind.com, 613.569.RAW1 (7291)
Urban Juice Press
340 Parkdale Ave. (entrance on Spencer St.)
380 Elgin St., (inside Th e Common Eatery), Ottawa, Ont.
urbanjuicepress.ca, 613.694.BEET (2338)
Cold-pressed juice 101
Registered Holistic Nutritionist Stephanie Kay explains why all juices are not created equal (in order from worst to best).
Juice from concentrate: Available from the freezer section of the grocery store, this is “the old school pink-and-yellow lemonade,” says Kay. “These are essentially just sugar when you break it all down; it’s just so far removed from being juice because it has been so heavily processed.”
Pasteurized juice: Many popular name-brand juices fall into the pasteurized juice category, which includes most on the shelf at your local grocery store.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that even if it says 100 per cent oranges or apples — all of those juices have been pasteurized, because they have to sit on the shelf for weeks,” says Kay. “When you do that, because fruit is so susceptible to heat, you essentially denature or kill the enzymes in it, so there’s very little nutritional value left in the actual juice.”
Cold-pressed juice: Named for the two metal plates that press the fruit together, cold-pressed juice doesn’t rely on a spinning, centrifugal process.
“The spinning heats up the juice,” Kay says. “Cold pressed means it has been pressed with mechanical plates; nutritionally speaking you’re not losing anything in the process of making the juice.”
Kay adds that ideally, you want to drink cold-pressed juice immediately, which explains why the purists press fresh every day. “The longer it sits, or the longer it’s exposed before they bottle it, the more it will oxidize; the air has gotten to it and it has lost nutritional value.”