This month Helms brings the gospel of juicing to the masses with his book The Juice Generation: 100 Recipes for Fresh Juices and Superfood Smoothies (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), written with Amely Greeven, with a foreword by Hayek, who has been drinking fresh juices - aguas frescas - since her childhood in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico.
Helms' book isn't the only one to hit the stands lately. Juicing tomes published in recent months include: The Juice Cleanse Reset Diet: 7 Days to Transform Your Body for Increased Energy, Glowing Skin, and a Slimmer Waistline by Lori Kenyon Farley and Marra St. Clair (Ten Speed Press); 40 Juicing Recipes for Weight Loss and Healthy Living by Jenny Allan; and Juicing: the Complete Guide to Juicing for Weight Loss, Health and Life from Rockridge Press.
If you're of a certain age, you know juicing is nothing new. Maybe you even owned a juicer in the '60s or '70s, when the late fitness guru Jack LaLanne was hawking the benefits of juicing - along with his own brand of machine.
But juicing is no here today, gone tomorrow trend, Helms said.
"I wanted to write this book to address the eye rollers who think of juicing as something crunchy hippies and rich people do," Helms said. "Juicing doesn't have to be a luxury. You don't need to run out and buy fancy equipment. Most people already have a blender that can work.
"It's not about chiding people for eating processed foods or trying to get everybody to become vegan. Everybody needs more energy, and sugar and caffeine-laden snacks and drinks just don't deliver."
The benefits of raw
Proponents of juicing say the practice can help reduce food cravings, stimulate weight loss and boost the metabolism. In his book, which is chock-full of eye-popping photos, recipes and practical advice, Helms promotes what he calls the "Green Curve," a three-phased approach to gradually add more densely nutritious vegetables and superfoods like acai, pitaya and aronia berries into your juice diet.
Raw juices and blended drinks are rich in antioxidants, minerals and enzymes, and their regular consumption can brighten the skin and make a person feel energized - even younger.
Juicing isn't part of the job description at Vuid, one of the tech startups at Interstate General Media's Project Liberty Digital Incubator at 8th and Market streets. (IGM owns the Daily News.) But the Breville juicer gets a workout most lunch hours, said company co-founder Karen Meidlinger. "I try to make juice my lunch, and now our CEO and a few others from the tech team do the same thing."
Meidlinger, who has lost 10 pounds since July, favors juice made with kale, cucumber, cilantro, apples, lemon and ginger. "I feel really good - I think it energizes all of us," she said.
For Scott Stein, juicing is a family affair. The restaurateur, whose latest project is Mozzeria, an osteria set to open in Wayne this spring, took his family to a resort in Mexico on vacation. "The resort made fresh juices every day and we all loved them," he said. "We get home and I'm in Bed, Bath and Beyond buying a $200 juicer."
Stein and his wife make green juice out of ingredients like spinach, kale, carrots and apples, and add fresh or frozen fruit to create healthful smoothies for the kids. "We use it as a supplement in our diet, not to replace meals," he said. "The kids love it because they help make the juice with us."
Although he dreads the routine of cleaning the juicer, he loves the way he feels after just a few months of daily juicing. "I feel 25 again - no kidding. Maybe it's all in my head, but I'm going with it."
A $20-a-week habit
Juicing isn't the most economical route to good nutrition, noted personal trainer (and Daily News fitness columnist) Kimberly Garrison, who has been juicing for years. "I still think it's better to eat whole fruits and vegetables than juice them," she said. "And if you're trying to go cheap, juicing isn't for you."
For his family of four, Stein estimates that he spends about $80 a week on organic fruits and vegetables. That gels with Helms' admonition that one person can juice for about $20 a week.
Helms advises saving money by buying locally grown produce that may not be certified organic. When you do buy organic, spend the extra cash on fruits and veggies that otherwise would be particularly high in chemical additives, such as apples, carrots, lettuces, strawberries, celery, cucumbers, peaches, spinach, kale, chard and collard greens. Help your grocery budget by buying fruits in bulk at their seasonal peak and freezing for later use.
If you're curious about juicing, begin by making blended drinks in a basic blender, Helms said. Taking it to the next level, Helms explained that there are essentially two kinds of home juicers: centrifugal juicers that grind produce to a pulp and release juice by spinning it through a metal basket at high speed; and masticating juicers, which push produce through a slow-moving drill to squeeze out juice.
Masticators get more juice out the veggies and are more expensive, from $300 and up. (A single-gear, or single-auger, masticating juicer is more affordable and easier to clean.) Centrifugal juicers are faster and cheaper - you can get one for less than $100 - but they waste more produce.
"If every second counts in your morning . . . look for one of the good-quality, speedy centrifugals," Helms suggested.
Garrison has tried just about every brand of juicer around, and she loves her (expensive) Vitamix Blender. "You don't lose any fiber in that thing," she said. "I think you could put wood chips in there and it could handle it."
Speaking of fiber
The notion that all juicing techniques eliminate fiber is a myth, noted Helms. "A cold-pressed juice such as the ones you drink during a cleanse are indeed fiber-free. That's necessary since your stomach would have to digest the fiber. Pure, cold-pressed juice allows the nutrients to flood your bloodstream.
"The traditional centrifugal juicers we use in our stores - and that most people have at home - keep the fiber intact."
If the health benefits of juicing sounds interesting, but you're not ready to commit to an appliance, give fresh juice a test run at the Red Owl Tavern in the Monaco Hotel near Independence Hall. It's one of the first of San Francisco-based Kimpton's restaurants to launch a raw juice program with options like Beets Me (red beets, carrot, ginger, cilantro) and Being Green (cucumber, celery, spinach, kale, lemon), made to order.
Or if you've had an especially active Saturday night, head to Jet Wine Bar on South Street for its weekly Sunday Recovery Brunch featuring fresh-juiced fruits and veggies - spiked with gin or vodka if you must.
"Bottom line is: Fresh juice isn't just good for you, it tastes good," said Helms. "That's why I have thousands of repeat customers every day. But really, juicing is so great, why not just do it at home?"
Beth D'Addono has been writing about the Philadelphia and national restaurant scene for more than 17 years in local and national publications. Read more at unchainedtravel.com.