Diary of a Juice Cleanser

If the holiday season didn’t kick your health conscious ways to the curb, clearly you didn’t have a good time. Or, you’re much stronger than the rest of us. But with the New Year brings a need for rejuvenation, often from the inside out. And for you, dear readers, I’ve completed such a rejuvenation via a juice cleanse and reported back on the results (someone had make sure it was delicious). As a first time juicer it wasn’t all smooth sailing upon the liquid diet seas. While seasoned cleansers may scoff at the mere 120 hours of me trying not to stuff my face with tortilla chips, here are my brief highs and lows of my first cleanse, made possible by Anthony Spadaro and his Tiny Empire line of organic cold-pressed juices. Spoiler alert: it was all delicious and I lived to talk about it.

Day Before the Cleanse:

Before I walked out of the store with the first two days worth of juice, I was told three simple things to remember:

● Like a baby that needs a bottle, the juices should be drunk every two hours. The heavier juices come at the end of the day to settle any lasting hunger pangs. ● Since I drink coffee, I may get slight headaches. I’ve compounded this with the fact that I quit coffee cold turkey the day of the cleanse and anticipate a world of pain. ● Relax and take it relatively easy; try not to push myself through vigorous exercise.

I walked out with my liquid gold, set to commence.

Day 1

"Romantic Hopes to Feel Awesome"

I imagine that the first juice of any first detox is like a first date: so full of hope with only great expectations to feel terrific afterwards. So, in the spirit of a romantic rendezvous with getting healthy, I sip my morning juice dutifully and find that its a refreshing, jolting blend of orange, grapefruit & cayenne that packs a punch and stings my lips. But I feel better already and it’s only 10:30 in the morning.

Two hours later, I crack open juice #2, a blend of cucumber, celery and kale. My first taste of it produced an involuntary face that would probably offend Spadaro. However, a few more sips of the creamy blend follows nicely after the kickstart in the morning. Juice #4 is my favorite from the green bottles, flavorful with hints of green apple and ginger to round out the robust vegetable taste.

In the late afternoon, I feel the forewarned caffeine-withdrawal headache coming on. It only gets worse as the night continues. But sleep (after a dinner of ruby red beet and carrot juice with some almond milk) is a welcome refuge.

Day 2

"Headache gone, but hunger begins."

When I wake up, the headache has subsided. The routine begins all over again, and while I begin to feel lighter, hunger is slowly but surely making a cameo. I quickly realize that the organic almond milk, blended with dates and Himalayan salt is my sweet crutch, able to stave off any uncomfortable thoughts of the number of hours left in the day. It’s only noon? I’m in trouble. The only thing that saves me are copious cups of peppermint tea that gently suppress a growling intestine.

Day 3

"Is this the start of better things to come?"

I found that my energy is holding at a steady frequency, with just a whisper of hunger. I feel lighter by the minute and all while never having to do a morning run! I’m also strangely awake in my decaffeinated state. Granted, when I walked out of the office to pick up an espresso for my boss the whole way back I was sniffing the fumes like a junkie. But at no point did I ever consider blasting my detox with the box of chocolate almond clusters sitting on my desk.

Day 4

"Dreaming of Nachos."

Forget it. Those almond clusters are painful to look at. Today is not about hunger, it’s about texture and the need for salt. Juice is tasting old and routine, vegetable smoothies are more of a nuisance to drink, and for the love of carbs, can you imagine what I must be craving by now? I’d say it fluctuates between a nice piece of chicken covered in cheese and a piece of bacon. Or a big plate of nachos.

Then I think about how great I feel. And I know that I wouldn’t be feeling this fantastic if I was eating chips drowned in sour cream.

Day 5

"Feeling Good, a Little Sad."

I’ve made it to the last day. And it’s actually melancholy. My concerns are less about being hungry and more about how fast I’ll pick up my “poor” habits again. How long will I be able to continue drinking non-caffeinated herbal drinks? How long can I keep from sipping a glass of wine? Will I go back to eating a daily cupful of Hershey’s Kisses? These are the temptations that I’m quite sure will surface faster than I’d like to believe.

To break the cleanse, I’ve been told to eat something easily digestible like steamed vegetables with small amounts of steamed or grilled fish and brown rice. (More vegetables?!)

Still, I’m reeling in the fact that I’ve given my digestive track a rest, while exhibiting psychological discipline in a city that makes it much too easy to fall off the wagon. While I can’t help but love the somewhat superficial perk of slimming down after a mere five days, the real high comes from internally cleaning up and recentering. Whatever your personal journey, a juice cleanse from Tiny Empire is a gift you should give yourself this year. After all, a place like this makes you feel at peace in a big city.

Photos: Diana Tsuchida

This Juice is Worth the Squeeze

Nestled between busy restaurants on North 6th Street and the beaten path of Bedford Avenue lies an organic health oasis called Tiny Empire. Walk in and find yourself facing a rainbow assortment of fresh-pressed juices and healthy dessert options of açai bowls and chia seed pudding. Face the counter and get thoroughly confused on what to order as you decide between earthy, delicious blends like raw cacao, blueberries and maple syrup or kale, coconut meat and bee pollen smoothies.

Certified adrenaline junkie Anthony Spadaro brought Tiny Empire from his first Woodstock location to quirky Williamsburg and as its founder, is as laid back as they come. His mission (and some might say, social experiment) in bringing high quality juice blends go far beyond health reasons: his focus is to build a community of people who find just as much passion in living for nutrition and organic quality as he does, or at the very least, to bring that option to the neighborhood.

While I could wax poetic here about the fresh kale growing out of a box inside the store, the bags of rustic Travelers Bark lining the shelves and the awesome team of juicers he’s assembled, it’s all besides the point. Because after our chat concluded, Spadaro turned the tables on me:

“Why don’t you do the cleanse for five days?” he proposed.

From what I recall, I responded with some awkward laugh. Me? Cleansing? Kept away from my daily dose of an 8-ounce chocolate bar and morning coffee? Yet somewhere between Spadaro’s coaxing and my gut telling me to give it a rest for once in its life I consented, knowing full well this was going to be truly beneficial.

Starting next week on Monday, I’ll be embarking on the journey of the cleanse while providing healthy tips for living, courtesy of Spadaro. And if you’ve never sipped juices for a continuous five days before either, it might just be the best glimpse into watching what happens when a food fanatic gets deprived. The rules, if you may, are six juices a day drunk every two hours plus a bottle of organic almond milk for good measure. Peppermint and chamomile tea are recommended supplements.

Follow along and see how my Tiny Empire detox unfolds and whether it’s right for you, whether you’re a newbie or expert cleanser. After all, one too many trips to the office holiday candy bowl is bound to catch up with you.

Can’t wait to get your juice on? Find Tiny Empire at 142 N. 6th St. between Bedford Ave. and Berry St.

Photos by Diana Tsuchida

Best Juice Combinations for a Healthier You

In the foodie world, juicing has quickly become the newest healthy habit around. Juice cleanses and juice bars are popping up everywhere faster than cupcakes shops and food trucks. The biggest positive from juicing comes from the fact you're consuming optimal amounts of vegetables and nutrients in an efficient, straw-driven manner.

The Cancer Institute of America suggests we all have five servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit every day.  With that said, given our busy lifestyles and the whole "fast-food" nation epidemic, it's becoming more and more difficult to consume the proper amount of healthy nutrients every single day.

Once upon a time, smoothies had their big "moment," and while the fruit-driven drinks are nevertheless a healthy option, the prevalence of juice bars and "green" drinks are momentarily outshining their fruity fro-yo counterparts.

Juicing, especially with organic, fresh and local ingredients, allows you to absorb all the possible nutrients vegetables have to offer. You're able to add a wider variety of vegetables into your diet given the numerous options for juicing today. We all know how beneficial it is to cook with green vegetables (spinach in salads, sauteed with pasta and kale is totally having a moment right now) but who knew how easy it was to get those green vegetables in a juice? If you don't have time to cook those veg, blend them in a drink instead!

We recently visited two of Harlem's juice bars and asked for their take on the best green juices most beneficial towards our health and well-being.

Uptown Veg: 14 E. 125th between 5th & Madison Avenue

1. Kale, celery, spinach, cucumbers and a dash of lemon

To cut the bitterness of all the green vegetables, the lemon is added for an acidic taste and burst of flavor. Feeling tired? Celery will certainly do the trick, as the crunchy veg adds nutrients that help arthritis, reduce inflammation and especially promote restfulness and sleep.

2. Parsley, watercress, spinach and ginger

Ginger is incredibly helpful for digestion - it rids your stomach and intestine of gas and aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Additionally, if you're looking for a juice that is herb and mineral driven, look no further. The antioxidants and vitamins in spinach and parsley are plentiful, chock full of Vitamin A, C and E and minerals like iron, copper, potassium and magnesium can be taken into the cells of the body within 15 minutes by juicing organic and local vegetables.

Organic Juice Bar: corner of 126th and Madison

1. Ginger, lemon, celery, cucumbers, parsley, apples

With the additional fruits, this "super green" juice fulfills your daily fruit and vegetable requirement to a tee. The nutrients from ginger and green vegetables promote hemoglobin, which quickly sends oxygen to your cells. By using organic fruits and vegetables, green juices cleanse your body and regulate sugar content in a healthy manner.

2. Acai berry juice, agave nectar and ice

The acai berry comes from the acai palm tree native to Central and South America and the berry itself is small, about an inch long and reddish-purple in color. With a higher antioxidant capacity than other good-for-you fruits like raspberries, cranberries and blueberries, this superfruit turns this juice into a super-good-for-you drink you can sip while imagining yourself on a beach, dipping your toes into the sand. Sweeter than its green counterparts, this juice isn't full of the processed sugar found in so many drinks in most superstores sold all over the country.

To brush up on your juices and benefits of drinking your vegetables rather than eating them, click here.

What are you favorite juice combos?

For more healthy tips, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

What To Put in Your Juices: Top 6 Juicing Ingredients

By: Michele Wolfson

When it comes to juicing- I'm hooked. If I don't have a fresh juice in the morning, I feel somewhat deprived. As hooked as I may be, finding new and interesting ingredients can be difficult to come up with. So we went to the experts in search for which ingredients would be not only creative, but would bring the most nutritional value per juice.

The eatery Uptown Veg in Harlem has a juice bar with many different concoctions to select. I asked the juicer named Drew to tell me what juicing ingredients are the most nutritious to add to my drink. He suggested ginger and celery stating, "Celery is a must-have in all juices." I asked Drew about beets and he said that they are great to add to juices because they are one of the most powerful vegetables available.

Vegetable and fruit juices are well suited for our fast moving lifestyles because it makes it possible for all of us busy people to add more healing foods into our diets with minimal effort. Below is a list of the top 6 juicing ingredients that pack a nutritional punch and should be included in any juice that you create.

Also, be sure to check out our list of 5 Healthy Root Vegetables and try using some of those in your juices as well!

1. Ginger: Ginger is beneficial for digestion because it rids the stomach and intestines of gas. It also aids in the digestion of fatty foods, alleviates high blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol levels. For those of you who are on a boat, or pregnant... or a pregnant and on a boat- add ginger to your juice because its known to treat morning and motion sickness.

2. Beets: Beets are said to really cleanse the blood and kidneys. Beet juice is an antioxidant-rich source of carbohydrates. However, when it comes to juicing, some believe that its best to combine beets with other fruits and vegetables. This is because too much beet juice can upset the stomach.  Consider mixing them with cucumbers, celery, apples, and carrots.

Beets are chockfull of cancer-fighting antioxidants. Betacaine, which give beets their rich red color, starve tumors and hinder cell division. Adding a quarter cup of beets to your daily diet can reduce your kidney cancer risk. Beet juice also promotes weight loss.

3. Celery: Adding celery to juices is beneficial because it contains vitamin C and helps lower cholesterol. It also may be useful in cancer prevention. Celery is excellent for cleansing the digestive system of uric acid. It is also useful for people with gout and urinary infections. Celery juice also helps calm the nerves and promotes restfulness and sleep.

4. Apple: Sometimes when I am having juice that has garlic, ginger or something potent, I balance the flavor with a sweet apple. Apples are a delicious fruit base for juices and are rich in beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, vitamins, and phosphorus. Try having a glass of apple juice a day to keep the doctor away. Being high in fiber, it helps lower cholesterol, is an ideal antioxidant, is an immune system booster and also aids in cleaning the digestive system.

Honey crisps are my personal favorite apple for juice and general consumption because they have the perfect balance of crunchiness and sweetness.

5. Mango: Adding fruits to juices makes a vegetable based beverage taste great and is a clever way of getting a substantial amount of fruit into your diet. One medium mango contains a large amount of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Like most fruits, the mango is low in protein, but very high in fiber content. Mango juice and mango pulp contain no cholesterol or saturated fat, low sodium and contain only about .6 grams of total fat. This fruit is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium.

Since it's such a good source of dietary fiber, mangoes are effective against degenerative diseases, especially with regards to the heart. Their nutritional composition may help prevent certain types of cancer, as well as lower blood cholesterol levels. An average-sized mango can contain up to 40% of your daily fiber requirement. Replenish lost potassium and energy after a long jog or workout with healthy mango and cucumber juice. Add a splash of vanilla and drink it on ice- YUM!

6. Dandelion Greens: Ever hear of this vegetable? If not, you should get to know it well. Dandelion greens are loaded with magnesium, a mineral our bodies seek for energy and stamina production. This leafy green can be nutritious and delicious when juiced with other ingredients.

Dandelion greens should gain recognition for containing nearly as much iron as spinach and four times the amount of vitamin A found in lettuce. Because of their greenness and their bitterness, you'll want to juice them with another vegetable such as carrots to add sweetness to the juice.

Since dandelion greens taste mildest in the spring, juices from dandelion greens are used as an excellent spring tonic capable of cleansing the system and strengthening the blood and bones.

Perhaps most importantly, dandelion greens are a superior source of magnesium, which helps the body's natural abilities for energy and stamina. If you are anything like me and tend to increase your physical activities during the summer months, adding dandelion greens to your spring juicing routine is an excellent idea.

What other fruits and vegetables are you putting in your juices? We want to know!

Photo: Food Thinkers

For more healthy tips, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)