Juice is the new wine for growing numbers in US
MIXING kale, cucumber and spinach at her home in Venice Beach, yoga teacher Kia Miller explains her passion for juice, which fans say can trigger a health reboot.
"I like to do it twice a year, it's like a reset button. You have an opportunity to think about your relationship with food," the 44-year-old told Agence France-Presse in the trendy ocean-front district.
"It's a wonderful way to get powerful nutrients into your body," added Ms Miller, whose house has been transformed into an ashram, a place of peace away from the bustle of Los Angeles, half an hour away.
Juice bars are everywhere in southern California, which has long embraced New Age culture. In upmarket areas like Santa Monica or Beverly Hills, they are on every street corner.
And it is not uncommon to see Angelenos saunter down the street with a polystyrene cup full of vegetable juice, instead of coffee.
"It's the new wine," said Ms Miller, serving up a greenish brew to two visiting journalists.
Veggie juices can contain anything from kale to ginger, mixed with beetroot, carrot, coconut milk or almond. For fruit lovers there are dates, nuts, bananas and apples, while cucumber or celery produce lighter juices.
And while some limit themselves to the occasional juice at a neighbourhood bar, others have turned it into a lifestyle option.
Indian juice-bar manager Baba Ji has opened two outlets in the last two years in the hipster areas of Silver Lake and Los Feliz, just east of Hollywood.
"In the last few years, juicing has exploded - everybody wants to open a juice bar. Everybody wants to do a detox," he said.
In July, financial news weekly Barron's estimated the value of America's juice industry at US$5 billion (S$6.3 billion), with annual growth of 4-8 per cent. The country has some 6,200 juice bars, concentrated in Los Angeles and New York.
And in a sign that the trend is really taking root, a branch of the national Walgreens drug-store chain in Hollywood has a juice bar. And cafe giant Starbucks opened its first juice bars this year in Seattle and San Francisco.
But nutritionists, while welcoming the growth of vegetable juices, warn against taking it too far with juice-only diets.
"It is kind of extreme, and for the general population it's not necessary to exclude all food," said Ms Julieanna Hever, a dietician specialising in plants.
"Why not just eat a more balanced overall diet? We all would be better off if we ate healthily all the time."
She added: "Our body is made to detoxify. It's got kidneys and a liver and our skin. Our organs are made to constantly detoxify.
"So if we stop putting in all the toxins, we are going to get healthy anyway. We don't need to go for a special juice cleanse to detoxify."