Like coffee, adult colouring books and artisanal ice-cream, cold-pressed juices are currently having its share of the limelight in Malaysia's Klang Valley. Walk into any shopping centre, and you are likely to encounter a cold-pressed juice bar offering raw fruit and vegetable goodness in a bottle. It’s an industry that is expanding to more and more retailers, even reaching your local Starbucks.
For busy urban dwellers, cold-pressed juices present a quick and easy way to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, or act as a filler to a more balanced diet. Juicing for health is not new. In the late 19th century, American physician Norman Walker advocated drinking fresh raw vegetable and fruit juices for health reasons. While juicing can discard the all-important fibre and concentrate fruit sugars, cold-pressed juice presents a healthier alternative to carbonated beverages and traditional pasteurised juices.
And the growing number of cold-pressed juice bars make it easier to grab a bottle on the go. La Juiceria is a fast-growing chain of juice bars in the Klang Valley, offering everything from juices to juice cleanse programmes and slow juicers for juicing at home. On its juice menu, you will find offerings with health-giving names like Gold Glow, made up of orange, turmeric, carrot, celery and pineapple. The Goodness Green is even more exotic with the inclusion of Japanese cucumber, organic spinach, organic kale, parsley, celery, apple and lemon.
LifeJuice founders, Dax Lee, Roen Cian and Juhn Teo, would have their business meetings at juice bars instead of coffee shops. They started to question what was going into their juices, and if it was good for them after all. They started juicing at home, liked the results and founded LifeJuice.
Their juice concoctions are a creative combination of everyday produce and some lesser known ingredients. LifeJuice's Salad-in-a-bottle boasts two kilogrammes of vegetables and fruits per portion, a mighty boost of cucumber, spinach, parsley, romaine, celery, apple, jicama and lemon. Nutty Professor is an intense energy booster made up of almonds, cashew, hazelnuts, medjool dates, raw cacao and soy milk.
Romaine in our juice? Jicama and almond milk? A few years ago, many balked at even the idea of wheatgrass juice and its vibrant green colouring. These days, it’s not unusual to have loyal juice drinkers waxing lyrical about the taste and how good it makes them feel.
For those who like it simple, Strip Juice offers one-fruit juices, such as the freshly pressed orange juice, pomegranate juice or grapefruit juice. A bottle of Strip Juice's orange juice can contain six to 10 oranges, depending on the size and yield of the fruit. Founded by a blogger, Nicole Tan, the business has expanded from a home-delivery service to include a brick-and-mortar shop in the upscale Bangsar neighbourhood.
But what is cold-pressed? As the name suggests, fresh fruit and vegetables are “pressed” instead of being put through the traditional centrifugal machine, so the maximum amount of juice is extracted from the pulp and fibre. The belief is by crushing the fruit slowly, rather than generating heat by slicing it rapidly, the juice contains more vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
However, the jury is still out on the claimed benefits of cold-pressed juice. There is little evidence that the nutrients in cold-pressed juices are higher than eating a whole fruit or juicing them at home, says Dr Tee E Siong, President of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia.
“Cold-pressed juices can be consumed. However, it is not going to be the miracle juice that will cleanse your body or prevent you from cancers or any disease,” says Dr Tee. He does not recommend replacing all the fruits and vegetables the body needs by taking cold-pressed juices. At premium prices, it is unlikely that many can afford to make cold-pressed juices an everyday habit.
Many of the cold-pressed juice companies offer juice cleansing programmes. A juice cleanse is a diet that consists of not eating any solids but drinking juices for one or a few days, a programme that has celebrity followers like Gwyneth Paltrow. Juice cleanse advocates have claimed benefits of detoxifying the body, improving energy and weight loss. Going on a juice cleanse gives the digestive system a rest from the modern habit of over-consumption.
Nutritionists counter by saying that there are other, more natural ways to bolster the health of the body, such as eating fruits and vegetables, and drinking enough water. “Our liver and kidneys are the organs in our body to cleanse our body of toxins,” says Dr Tee.
What it lacks in science, juice cleanses makes up for in testimonials by practitioners, many of whom use it as a reboot to a healthier lifestyle or to break the cycle of an unhealthy one.
Juice cleanse advocate, Codi Mansbridge, went on a juice fast in 2012, and was inspired by the results to start Lifestyle Juicery. “Fasting has been around for centuries. This is the easier, softer way, as long as you are drinking the right juice, raw, freshly pressed and mostly veggie. For the doubters, try a six-day cleanse; you will be amazed,” says Mansbridge.
A home-delivery service only, Lifestyle Juicery cleansing programmes are designed to encourage customers to increase their intake of vegetable-based juice. As the programme advances, it includes more green juices such as the Mean Green, which contains a melange of greens such as kale, spinach, cucumber and broccoli, with hints of apple, lemon and ginger.
Mindful of the debate that surrounds juice cleansing, Mansbridge says, “We always ask people to consult their doctors and do not offer advice past the basic juice cleanse information all newbie juicers need to know.”