One of my favorite Disney movies of recent years is WALL-E. The love story is cute and sweet, the message of stewardship over our home is timely and important, and the portrayal of our evolution as a species is, possibly, prescient. That part when the captain encourages everyone on the ship, the Axiom, to get their septua-centennial cupcake in a cup? Spot on. It seems we’d much rather drink our calories than eat them these days, as evidenced not only by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban large beverages in an effort to save money on health care costs, but by the preponderance of coffee shops and smoothie stands popping up all over. Recently I’ve learned that it’s not as cool or chic to eat your vegetables, not when you can drink them.
Yes, vegetable juice is a hot commodity these days, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. So hot that a bottle of it can put you back about $10 (or $225 for a 3-day supply of juice, which includes shipping on ice if you live outside of California). At that price your over-priced latte or super-sized fruit smoothie almost looks like a deal. It also means that it’s mostly the rich and famous who are sporting the “bottle-of-green-juice-in-hand” look (with a yoga mat slung over their opposite shoulder, of course).
Now, I personally am a big fan of “green drinks.” We have kale smoothies for dinner every now and then (usually when our collection of over-ripe, frozen bananas is getting out of hand or a bunch of kale is starting to show signs of age in the refrigerator) and my kids have even gotten to the point where they don’t turn their noses up at the green sludge. But I tend to think that $10 for a small bottle of juice is pushing the boundaries of sanity. Or maybe, as the WSJ suggests, it’s just a new way to flaunt the fact that you have money and that you are enlightened/health-conscious enough to spend it on green juice.
Drinking juice for health purposes is not a new idea of course. Juice cleanses have been popular for a while, both to “detoxify” the body and to lose weight quickly. Celebrities tout juice cleanses as a means of dropping pounds to fit into certain roles or to get back in shape after having babies. So it seems a natural step that once juice cleanses became more mainstream, the upper classes would need to find something new to set them apart from the masses. Bottles of $10 juice seems like a good way to separate the haves from the have-nots. I just have to wonder if the “healthy glow” consumers of juice feel is actually their bodies telling them “thank you” or if it’s their ego congratulating them on being able to make such a purchase.
Really though, I wonder if drinking vegetable juice is actually a healthier option. I mean, wouldn’t it be better to just eat the vegetables? (Which is exactly what Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University suggests.) There are reasons that vegetables come the way they do, full of crunch and chewiness: our bodies need the fiber they provide. The fiber keeps us regular, feeling full so we don’t over eat, and helps our bodies absorb nutrients. Drinking vegetable juice does provide various nutrients, but some juices even if they do come from whole foods also contain a lot of sugar, which makes it easy to drink a lot of calories without feeling full.
To me it seems as though WALL-E’s portrayal of the evolution of human beings may not be too far off even if the fluids we are drinking comes from the purest of organic vegetables and are not flavored like cupcakes. With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and eat my vegetables the old-fashioned way: with my teeth.