Food & Drink

Good health by the glass

There comes a time when even the most willing hedonist decides to give it a rest. The body demands care, and any nutritionist will tell you that one simple approach to revitalization is to take sustenance through juice.

A good juicer costs a bundle, takes up space in the home kitchen and can be time-consuming to clean, so for the detox without the mess, Good Foods Market and Café offers an organic juice bar. Here vitamins, minerals and enzymes come in bracing and sweet flavors, freshly extracted from their original packages. The juice bar opened in 2002, a recent addition in the Co-op's 36-year history.

After so long, what inspired it?

"We got suggestions from customers," said Crystal Stites, the co-op's marketing manager. "People would go to other towns and other co-ops and asked us why we didn't have one here. Some of our best ideas come from our customers."

So a humongous juicer from Miracle Exclusives — the Miracle Pro MJ800 — was bought and set up in a little room evocative of the Wizard of Oz's furtive workspace, from which emerge a variety of blended juices using carrots and beets, ginger and apples, spinach and celery, parsley and lemons ($2.99 to $4.49 for 12 ounces, $3.49 to $5.29 for 16 ounces).

I really like the shots ($1.29 to $1.99) — perhaps because of the bar-like nomenclature? — that are "chased" with a wedge of apple, reminiscent of tequila and lime.

These pure delicious beverages provide enough energy for a natural high, enough beta-carotene for sparkling eyes, and enough nutrients to wash away, or feel as if they wash away, the consequences of any recent indulgence.

One can only hope.

There also are smoothies ($3.99 to $4.49) created from bananas and berries, apples and peaches, milk and honey, even peanut butter — organic when possible — that might be sweet or rich, tart or tropical, and for a small extra charge (50 cents to 99 cents), they can muscle up with a jolt of healthy esoterica such as spirulina and echinacea.

The staff is careful to avoid making medical statements, unfounded claims or guarantees for juice's benefits. Rather, Stites and colleague Cathy Burnett, coffee bar (and juice bar) manager, communicate the conventional wisdom about the efficacy of juice in getting vitamins and minerals into the body and the accelerated metabolization of their concentrated form.

"Juicing breaks down elements to make fruits and vegetables more digestible and allows quick absorption in nutrients. You get a lot in one cup," Burnett said.

But there is no need to undersell the flavors. Carrot juice is luscious. Wheatgrass is like chugging a liquefied but clean front lawn, or so one imagines. A ginger lemon jolt is welcome for its sunny citrus notes and its spicy heat in the damp winter months, and who has to be persuaded to enjoy berries?

Drinking garlic might be a little intense — I haven't graduated to drinks with that ingredient — but during the holidays, as we delight in baked goods and toddies and unbridled indulgence, the value that any juice provides allows you be good while you're being bad.

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