Juice cleanses were once fad diets for which practitioners sipped nothing but lemonade spiked with cayenne pepper, but they have evolved into sophisticated blends of raw fruits and veggie juices designed to detox your overworked organs. Not to be mistaken for meal replacements or protein shakes, juice cleansing is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of health trend because of the controversial methodology and lack of data to support the health-benefit claims. Whether you treat your cleanse as a quick way to shed a few pounds or a way to flush your body, there are plenty of options around town if you’re looking to clean out your system. Fresh juice comes at a cost, though, so we evaluated a few options to help you determine the right package for your money.
231 Milwaukee Street
Aspen juice has two cleanse options. The standard comes with six 16-ounce juices for $55.75, and the adrenaline junkie, which includes two additional juices with higher protein content for active individuals, rings in at $75. The shop is an upscale juice bar in the heart of Cherry Creek, but all juices are actually made off site, so it’s more of a storefront with a cooler.
This cleanse has you start your day with the "Kale in Comparison," a light-green concoction that actually tasted fairly good thanks to the absence of celery (meaning I didn't have to force it down). Pineapple, mint, lemon and cucumber made it taste more like a fruity spa water, and I finished it easily. The second one, called the "Sa Sa lemon-aide," scared me a little with its '90s Internet recipe that includes maple syrup, cayenne pepper and lemongrass. And like those original blends, this one doesn’t taste good, no matter how much you try to dress it up and put it in a pretty bottle.
The red juice called "Beet It!" uses pomegranate to downplay the beets significantly — along with pineapple and tarragon, an unusual and sweet combination. And next up was the "Casablanca," an exotic blend chock-full of gala apples, turmeric, ginger, burdock root and more of the dreaded cayenne, although this time, that ingredient was more subtly masked.
And for dinner, the appropriately named "A-Mylk-Shake," which did in fact taste like a vanilla shake and felt like a dinner portion.
How I Felt: I was already hungry when I woke up, so I thought this was going to be a long day. But surprisingly, these juices had me feeling fairly energized (especially for a Monday). While my stomach would occasionally rumble (if I haven’t mentioned it enough, I really like food), I never felt like I was starving.
Afterthoughts: Taste-wise, this was my favorite cleanse program — despite the cayenne pepper. I also felt the most stimulated.
Pressed Juice Daily
1111 Broadway (and a few other locations in metro Denver)
PJD has a few different cleanse options based on your goals (weight loss, immunization, etc.). I went with the best seller: the Pressed Juice Daily 1-Day, which was $65 and included six 16.9-ounce juices and two specially formulated waters. The Shop is just a basic storefront in the Metlo building on 11th Avenue and Broadway.
The first green juice was palatable thanks to the addition of pineapple for sweetness and a tang of ginger. The red juice was tasty but deceiving, as it was overwhelmingly carroty despite the color. Later in the day, the second root-veggie mix was even more carroty and gingery, with a sharp, biting aftertaste. Again, the almond milk was the tastiest, this time sweetened with dates and vanilla.
How I Felt: I’d get hungry every few hours and then guzzle more juice or a glass of water. But I’m definitely a texture person and miss the best parts of a solid meal — like chewing.
Afterthoughts: The Chlorophyll water blend was an off-putting murky green (and the name reminded me of chloroform) but didn’t taste much different than regular water, and was actually quite refreshing. The bottles were each clearly numbered, making it easy to follow. PJD has one option, “juice until dinner,” which would be a good entry-level cleanse for someone looking to feel it out.
The Juicing Tree
2025 West 32nd Avenue
The 5280 Signature ($63 for one day) is the most popular here, but the 5280 Foothills ($39) is recommended for weight loss. Both came with six 17.5-ounce juices. There are also locations in LoHi and Park Hill; the Highland location was just a walk-up window with no signage, and I actually walked right past it — twice.
Once I had my juices in hand, I was excited to start with something other than a green juice. The carrot-apple-ginger combination was quite refreshing to wake up to. The green wizard, with kale, romaine and spinach, tasted like salad in drinkable form – which is actually quite trippy. There were three greens total that were all pretty similar, and two reds that were also very similar. I definitely could have used more variety. Unlike the packages from the other companies, the Signature did not come with a refreshing nut milk at the end (the Foothills does, in your choice of flavor).
How I Felt: These juices, more than any others, made me very thirsty for some reason. I was pounding water most of the day, which helped fill me up. I started getting hangry mid-afternoon and was thankful that they threw in some healthy carrot-cake bites as a snack.
Afterthoughts: The Juicing Tree touts the fact that the juicer used is one of the most sophisticated on the market, one of the best for extracting raw minerals and vitamins. I couldn’t taste any difference, but if the nutrient makeup is better, who am I to argue with science?
1710 Pearl Street, Boulder
Formulated in partnership with a Conscious Cleanse, the 1-day package is $70, which includes six large juices. The shop is a full-service restaurant in Boulder.
Zeal gets you going with another green juice; this one had no sugar added whatsoever, making it brutal to force down. The orange was pretty good, a spicy carrot mix that helped curb cravings. Red was my favorite because it was the sweetest (as you can tell, I detest being healthy). Early afternoon was supposed to be a light green, but my package came with a yellow instead. The second green was also missing, and in its place was a (likely) tastier seasonal light pink with fennel. The almond milk for dinner was nutty and filling.
How I Felt: Around 2:30, my stomach started rumbling and I started getting a headache, so I forced myself to drink more water. The almond milk went down the easiest, and I downed half the bottle in just a few gulps. I didn’t feel full at the end of the day, but I wasn’t starving, either.
Afterthoughts: The sequence of the cleanse was a little tricky to figure out, since numbers on the bottles (which looked like elements on the periodic table) didn't necessarily indicate which order you were supposed to follow. There was also nothing in the accompanying directions that listed the ingredients, so I had to match it up to information on Zeal's website. In general, it was a lot of juice to put in your body; I just can’t drink that much liquid. I’d have a few sips and be good. When I started feeling hungry again, I’d take a few sips of the next color to mix it up, but the bottles were still half- to three-quarters full by the end of the night.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.