The ultimate fast drink

In Palo Alto, Calafia’s “Beet Generation” drink is made with beet, fennel, parsley, and carrot juices.

Photographs by Lane Johnson

Eat your fruits and vegetables. Most of us have heard this refrain since childhood, expounded by well-meaning family members and physicians. Even our government lends its voice: The USDA Food Guide Pyramid recommends that we consume three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit each day.

Yet many of us struggle to achieve these numbers. Although we know that a diet rich in whole, organic foods and a variety of produce helps to prevent a myriad of diseases, our hectic lifestyles often get in the way. Could the answer reside in a glass?

The answer can be yes, when that glass contains fresh vegetable and fruit juices. Consuming raw fruits and vegetables in liquid form provides a level of ease that’s hard to match. Juices are the ultimate fast food, providing a healthy boost when you’re on the run.  Drinking juice allows you to consume larger quantities of fruits and vegetables, since there are usually several servings in a single glass. In addition, your body absorbs liquids more readily than solids; it doesn’t have to expend as much energy on digestion.

Fresh juices and smoothies are made differently, and their benefits are different, too. Juices are made by pressing or squeezing; the pulp is then discarded. Smoothies utilize the whole fruit, fiber and all, which creates a thicker consistency. Both are delicious and, as long as excessive sweeteners are not added, will support a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few of our favorite places to get a liquid fix around the South Bay:

Café Gratitude, Whole Foods Market in Cupertino
Café Gratitude, with locations in San Francisco, Berkeley, Healdsburg, Oakland, San Rafael, and in the South Bay at Whole Foods Cupertino, may be the ultimate juice bar in the Bay Area. Its juice offerings such as “I Am Healthy” (made of lemon, kale, celery, and cucumber), and “I Am Rejuvenated” (made of wheatgrass, apple, ginger, lemon, and sparkling water) are nutritional powerhouses. Dawn Shalhoup, public relations manager for Café Gratitude, says that the cafe is unique in that it has custom-built juicers that press the produce rather than cut it. “The juice is a concentrated version… by pressing the vegetables, oxygen doesn’t reach the beneficial cells, so it’s a more pure version of the juice.” The cafe also offers a variety of creamy smoothies to satisfy a sweet tooth, including the popular “I Am Luscious” (made of hazelnut milk, figs, dates, raw cacoa, and vanilla) and the seasonal “I Am Peachy Sweet” (made of peaches, almond milk, dates, and vanilla).

Customers run the gamut from high school kids needing a quick calorie fix to seniors who have been instructed by their physicians to cut gluten out of their diets. Rea Morales, a Café Gratitude employee, says, “Our customers tend to be people who are really focused on sustainability and are committed to their health. We also cater to a lot of people who are on restricted diets… gluten-free, all vegan, mostly raw, low-glycemic.”

Café Gratitude also stands out because of its philosophy. True to its name, the company operates from a perspective of “gratitude” and encourages employees to be present and grateful. The owners, Matthew and Terces Engelhart, believe this has made the biggest difference in the success of their company. 20955 Stevens Creek Blvd. (inside Whole Foods Market), Cupertino,

Blendz, Los Gatos
In Los Gatos, juice and smoothie aficionados head to Blendz, where a mix of cyclists, hikers, high school students, and parents refresh themselves with wheatgrass shots and fresh vegetable and fruit juices. Customers are encouraged to create their own juice blends from ingredients including orange, ginger, beet, tomato, and carrot. Voted “Best Juice Bar in Silicon Valley” for seven years running by Wave Magazine, Blendz offers an extensive menu of smoothies, many made with non-fat yogurt or sherbet, in addition to salads, panini sandwiches, and soups.

Shawn Charnaw, owner and president of this local franchise of the Blendz chain, is committed to supporting the community that supports him, and sponsors the Los Gatos High School art and athletic programs in addition to other local school and church efforts. The company also employs sustainable business practices in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint and minimize its impact on the environment. As a carbon neutral business, Blendz uses 100 percent biodegradable and recyclable cups, catering products, and packaging. 81 W. Main St., Los Gatos,

Calafia, Palo Alto
In Palo Alto, Calafia has a limited but alluring assortment of juices and smoothies. Having received many accolades for its California cuisine and vegetarian menu options, Calafia is the culmination of chef Charlie Ayers’ vision to provide healthy, affordable food to customers while supporting local farmers in the process. The fresh juice concoctions offered here are intriguing: “Glamour” consists of cucumber, lemon, avocado, and melon juices, and “Green Eyed Lady” is made with zucchini, broccoli, arugula, celery, and garlic. Smoothies include the Facebook Freeze (blended blueberries, peaches, peanut butter, and yogurt) and the Google Gulp, a combination of black tea, soy milk, strawberry, banana, and honey. 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto,

Smoothie King, Sunnyvale
Looking like a cross between a Jamba Juice and a GNC, Smoothie King has a loyal following of customers who take offense to comparisons with the smoothie leader. Says owner Eric Pham, “Jamba Juice adds sherbet and yogurt to their smoothies, which adds so many calories. Our smoothies are healthier, as they’re more fruit based.” Each smoothie is made to order using real fruit and frozen fruit purees, and patrons can add “enhancers” such as “Antioxidant,” which contains pomegranate, goji berry, acai, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium; and “Immune,” with vitamin C, green tea, zinc, echinacea, selenium, and beta carotene. All drinks are sweetened naturally with turbinado sugar or honey, but calorie-counting customers can opt to make their drink skinnier by leaving out the sweetener. Smoothie King also offers fresh carrot, orange, and wheatgrass juice. 398 W. El Camino Real #110, Sunnyvale,

Swirls Frozen Dairy & Juice Bar, San Jose
Located in downtown San Jose across from the Tech Museum, this small, bright shop offers an assortment of fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, frozen yogurt, and sandwiches. The busy lunch hour draws a mix of professionals, museum-goers, and students from nearby San Jose State University. Futuristic bar stools and tables line the narrow pathway to the front of the shop, where juice connoisseurs experiment to find their favorite combinations, utilizing fresh cucumber, carrot, parsley, celery, green apple, and beet juices. If smoothies are your thing, Swirls offers an enticing array of flavors, from the popular fruit-based options to the denser meal replacement smoothies made with nut butters and soy milk. As at many smoothie shops, you can include a shot of protein powder in your drink to give you that extra lift in your step.179 Park Ave., San Jose,

Smoothies At Home
When you want to enjoy a glass of something energizing and nutritive from the comfort of home, just break out your blender and get creative. Begin with a liquid first. Common liquid bases include apple juice, milk, or rice milk. Then add whatever fruit strikes your fancy. Top it off with nut butter for added protein or coconut butter for essential amino acids, and a spoonful of wheat germ for a boost of fiber, vitamin E, and folic acid. Blend, pour, and enjoy. Bottoms up!

Avocado Banana Smoothie Recipe
1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1 cup organic milk
1⁄2 cup plain organic yogurt
1 banana
Combine the avocado, milk, yogurt, and banana in a blender;
blend until smooth.

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