To Juice, Or Not To Juice?

With the arrival of bikini season, it's no surprise that many are turning to juice cleanses to help transform their less-than-stellar physiques into veritable eye candy. If you are open to drinking your meals for a few days — and willing to shell out a considerable amount of cash — a juice cleanse may be just the thing for you.

After watching my co-worker enthusiastically power through a cleanse in April, I agreed to do one with her in May. Why would I want to drink my meals for three days? Several reasons: To re-evaluate what, when, and why I eat; to kill my sweet tooth; and to — hopefully — lose a few pounds.

So we did it. "It" meaning one introduction day of three 16-ounce juices plus a snack, dinner, and dessert — all vegan — followed by three days of six juices each. Check out my Cooler Cleanse Food Diary to see my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Beach body dreams aside, cleanse advocates champion the controversial practice for its alleged toxin-eliminating abilities and energizing properties. They suggest that cleanses allow the body to detoxify while still getting essential nutrients. But doctors and nutritionists tend to argue that the body cleanses itself and that juicing is not necessary for optimal health.

The Daily Meal connected with the founders of two popular New York City-based operations to see what inspired the creation of their programs and how they benefit the body.

Chatting with Eric Helms, Founder of Cooler Cleanse

When friend — and avid juicer — Salma Hayek challenged Helms to create tasty but effective juices, he delivered Cooler Cleanse, a program that offers an impressive variety of fruit and vegetable blends.

"Glowing skin, bright eyes, and the disappearance of hard-to-lose pounds are all common results of juice cleansing," says Helms, who opened Juice Generation, the first of his eight juice bars, in 1999. He believes juice cleanses allow customers to feel lighter, more energized, and clearer in both the body and mind.

Regarding naysayers, Helms agrees that the body cleanses, heals, and detoxifies itself, but explains that "the modern routine of restaurant dining, takeout food, late-night meals and drinks, and just being too busy to eat in a healthy way stresses our natural cleansing systems."

Overtime, these toxins build up in our systems and cause small imbalances, according to Helms. "We're making more demands of our bodies' detoxification and healing systems than they can handle."

So how are the juices made? To extract the juice, Cooler Cleanse uses a hydraulic press, which applies 5,000 pounds of pressure to fresh produce. The result? Pulp-free juice that can be absorbed into the blood stream within 10 to 15 minutes, shares Helms.

Although he serves thousands every week — and does see an increase in the warmer months — Helms says January and February are busiest for him. Due to New Year's resolutions and cold season, perhaps? Cooler Cleanse is available for pickup and delivery in New York City, and nationwide via FedEx.

Thoughts From the Founders of BluePrintCleanse

"Our goal was to make cleansing accessible to more people and to remove the stigma it held as a practice only fit for the new-age, raw food universe," say Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss, founders of BluePrintCleanse.

The line was created after Sakoutis, a certified nutritional consultant, had a nasty cold in early 2000. She turned to a raw-foodist friend for help, and was prescribed a juice cleanse. The fantastic results inspired her to create a less extreme version of it, so she teamed up with Huss, a former colleague, and the result was a line of cleanses that offers multiple levels of intensity.

"We knew that in order for cleansing to be effective, people had to want to do it; it needed to be convenient enough to fit into the busy modern lifestyle, and it needed to be customized based on one's dietary habits and history," they explain. Boasting clients in the hundreds of thousands, they seem to have hit the nail on the head.

Sakoutis and Huss say that "a cleanse allows the body, and specifically the digestive system, to rest while it is also being flooded with vitamins and nutrients." They practice what they preach, and try to cleanse at least three days a month; they believe a good rule of thumb is to cleanse once each season or whenever you feel like your body needs a rest.

"We definitely notice a bump in sales either before the summer months or after the holidays when people feel like they need to give their bodies a break and reset their habits," they say. BluePrint Cleanse is available for delivery in New York City and Los Angeles, and nationwide and in Canada via FedEx.

Interested in juicing? Check this out to see if a cleanse is right for you. For those eager to jump in, we've compiled the best combos of fruits and veggies for you to make delicious juices jam-packed with nutrients right at home.

We'd love to hear from pro juicers — leave us a note below with your favorite juice blends!