Why juice? The answer may be different for everyone, but it all starts with a desire to live well, be healthy and feel good. We’re kicking off the new year with a healthy juicing habit, talking to some top juicing experts and learning why they juice, along with their best tips and favorite combinations. See our full guide here.
Meet Eric Helms, founder of Juice Generation in New York City. He founded his fresh juice bar in 1999, way before the rest of the world jumped on the bandwagon, and he’s been serving up delicious, nutritious juices ever since. He recently published his first book, The Juice Generation, full of new recipes and tips for healthy living. Read on to hear his story, and try his cleanses here.
WHY I JUICE: Whether I’m refueling after a training session or sipping lunch on the go, juicing allows my body to keep up with the fast-paced New York City schedule demanded of a business owner.
You were on the juicing trend in 1999, before it was a trend. How did you get started? How did Juice Generation come about?
Fifteen years ago, I started a small juice bar called Juice Generation in the heart of New York City. It was a ballsy move: Back then, people would walk into our oxygenated oasis, look at our juicers and ask “Where’s the food?” But we persisted, making juices and smoothies fresh-to-order for a small band of loyal customers. Our first fans were Broadway’s hard-working actors and dancers, who relied on us to sustain them for long house in rehearsal and on stage.
As foot traffic increased, we began to serve a bigger cross-section of Manhattanites. Our business has grown significantly since those pioneering days, and now we’re witnessing a juice boom that is in full swing. Over the years, we’ve become pretty good at tempting people to take a walk on the raw side.
How did you decide to write your book, The Juice Generation?
We created this book to distill our fifteen years of wisdom into a field guide you can use to help you find juicing confidence in your own kitchen. We’ve created what we hope is a foolproof method that takes anyone from beginner to experienced in terms of their skill and taste palate. It’s called The Green Curve, and it’s based of our many years of seeing how our patrons have naturally expanded and evolved.
Tell us about the Green Curve. How does it help people evolve their juicing?
The Green Curve is a step-by-step journey into a new food world that is simple, fun and satisfying while helping you integrate raw juices and sumptuous smoothies into your life at a natural pace.
It’s based on years of real-life observations at our stores: First-time customers tend to start with drinks on the sweeter, fruitier side, eyeing the greener drinks from a distance. A few visits later, they get more curious, venture out of their comfort zones, and experiment with one of the sweeter green juices, like a watermelon-kale. Convinced by the refreshing uplift they’ve found, they eventually go the whole nine yards.
Some weeks or months after first coming in, our new recruits discover a new range to their palate that didn’t exist before, and they’ve successfully developed a “a happy green habit.” When it comes to getting started in your own kitchen, this unfolding can happen in the same way. Learning to carve out extra time in your day, starting with simple recipes, and keeping costs within your budget, are equally important; The Green Curve addresses these by guiding you at a comfortable gait.
What’s unique about the book?
The Juice Generation is more than just a basic juice recipe book with a side of smoothie recipes. We teach you to make meals and drinks from raw, unprocessed produce that fit into any meal. That includes our Juice Farmacy chapter with hot blends, our lesson on acai bowls and even how to make you own nut milks.
And all that is in addition to the wealth of information on how to shop for produce, ways to turn your kitchen green, our Green Curve and encouraging tips and recipes from celebrities and athletes who’ve come to depend on our juices.
What juicer do you use and why?
At Juice Generation, we use large commercial juicers and a hydraulic press. At home, I use – and recommend – a Breville juicer. They’re a type of centrifugal juicer, which grind produce to a pulp and release the juice by spinning it through a serrated metal basket. They’re fast; easy to clean, and help you get the most out of each piece of produce.
What does your juice routine look like today? How does it figure into your diet as a whole?
It’s hard to remember a time when juicing and blending weren’t a part of my daily routine. I start every morning with a freshly cracked young Thai coconut on my balcony overlooking the Hudson River. I swim or run three days a week and train with weights three days a week; I stop into one of our stores every time to pick up a Protein Buzz – it’s the best part of the routine.
Being so involved in choosing our vendors, being certified USDA Organic and non-GMO, being a vocal proponent of the local movement – these aspects of running Juice Generation all figure into my diet. I always seek out a menu item with local ingredients; I love to see how chefs incorporate what’s made available to them in their own communities.
How do you use your leftover pulp?
Pulp is full of good things for you and the earth. At Juice Generation, we compost every night and even put free pulp out for neighborhood gardeners. In addition to composting, you can use the pulp in snack recipes, such as dehydrated flax crackers or to flavor moist muffins and carrot cake.
What health improvements did you notice when you started juicing?
Juicing puts the pharmacy in the palm of your hand. And the aesthetician! Famed for their rejuvenating properties, they give your skin a vibrant, healthy glow, help your eyes shine bright, help you maintain an ideal weight, and generally contribute to a younger and more vital appearance. One swig of an emerald-green fruit-and-veggie nectar and you feel it instantly: You’re revitalized, inspired and poised for action.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to juice and why?
I gravitate towards recipes heavy on leafy greens. And not just because my palate has graduated from The Green Curve; I like knowing that I’m getting as many nutrients as possible per sip. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with turmeric: one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatories, I’ve had success adding it to juice, smoothie and hot blend recipes.
Any surprising ingredients or combinations? Favorite recipes from the book?
At Juice Generation, we fancy ourselves international superfruit sleuths, seeking out and importing yet undiscovered delicacies like pitaya and mangosteen. In The Juice Generation, we unveil the aronia berry: the first superfruit native to North America, as well as unexpected ways to use maca root and other ingredients you’ve seen around but never tried.
Don’t fruit juices contain a lot of sugar? How do you balance that?
Smart juicing means becoming savvy about sugars in your drinks. Successful long-term juicers learn to liquefy greens and vegetables on a daily basis, and to juice sweet-tasting fruits in moderation. Ensuring your liquid meals frequently feature greens and low-sugar fruits like berries or tart green apples is a key to a healthy juicing and blending habit.
Any prep or make-ahead tips?
No matter where your fresh produce comes from, washing all produce is important. If you’re trying to institute a morning juice habit, it helps to portion out and cut your produce the night before. That way, all you have to do in the morning is run your Breville then run right out the door. Five minutes or less, we promise.
How does fat work in juicing,and what are some of your favorite sources?
A dash of healthy, unprocessed fat added to a juice can help with absorption of nutrients from vegetables and fruits, making your drink truly liquid gold. Adding healthy fats to your drinks, in the form of avocados, seeds, nut butters, or even via flax oil or coconut stirred into fresh-made juice, is a great source of your energy for your body.
What’s the best balance of juices for an average week?
This depends on the person, their palate and their health. As you move through the three phases of The Green Curve, we encourage your juice breakdown to go as follows:
- Phase 1: Your goal is to make juices or blended drinks with 30 percent green factor – meaning at least some of them must contain greens.
- Phase 2: Your goal is to make five drinks a week with at least 50 percent significant greens.
- Phase 3: Your goal is to make green-filled drinks every day. We’ll call this a 90 percent green drink habit – to keep it realistic with a little wiggle room.