BEIRUT: Put down the steak, throw out the cigarettes and lock up the coffee – the juice fast has come to Lebanon.
The Qi Juices cleanse is the country’s very first juice fast – a break from tobacco, solid foods and drinkable vices like alcohol that is meant to detoxify the body and recharge digestion by drinking fruit and vegetable liquids cold off the press.
“There was no such thing in Lebanon. The only place you can get fresh juice is at the juice stands, where the source of the fruit is completely unknown and where they probably add honey or nuts,” says Hana Alireza, co-founder of Qi Juices, which officially opened for business last month.
“The cleanse is just to have a break from all of the toxic things that we put in our bodies – caffeine, sugary drinks, cigarettes – the things we all indulge in,” she says.
Juice cleanses have gained in popularity, particularly in the United States. For some, they are part of a holistic shift to eating only raw foods; for others, they offer a way to cleanse the body of toxicity; and for others still, they are a way to shed some kilos.
Famous testimonies for juice fasting – like the popular documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and celebrity endorsements by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow – have aided the rise of juice fasting by promoting the weight loss and believed detoxifying ability of a pure fruit and vegetable juice diet.
Though the idea was imported from the U.S., everything from Qi Juices’ organically grown produce down to its labels are made right here in Lebanon, and all the juices are pressed at the company’s small Beirut kitchen.
Giving a tour of their facility, buried on a side street in Ashrafieh’s Sioufi neighborhood, co-founders Alireza and Leila Fakih Nashabe explained exactly what a juice cleanse entails.
It actually starts several days before any juice is consumed, as clients prepare for their fast by cutting out meat and cheese and limiting their caffeine and tobacco use.
For the juice fast, clients choose a one-, three- or five-day cleanse. Each day of the fast, clients drink six different juices, each containing kilos of fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, spinach, celery, carrots and beets.
Nothing but pure produce goes into the juices, which are sweetened with things like apples or pomegranates and flavored with juiced mint or lemon.
Each day, the six juices can be supplemented with lots of water and some green tea. That’s it.
Qi Juices’ price range falls a little below the cost for a juice fast in the U.S., which averages around $75 per day. By comparison, a three-day Qi Juices cleanse costs $195.
The cost covers a lot more than simply throwing food in a blender. Qi Juices comprise completely organic fruits and veggies. The juices are also hand delivered each day to the faster’s door.
“It’s about convenience,” Alireza says. “It’s really difficult to make your own juices at home six times a day. Between bringing the vegetables, washing them and juicing them, it’s like a full-time job.”
The results are so far positive.
“People tell us that after the cleanse, they stopped eating as much chicken and meat, one quit smoking, some people cut down on how much coffee they drink,” Nashabe says.
During the fast, heavy coffee drinkers tend to get a headache from caffeine withdrawal, something the green tea is meant to help. No one has felt sick or hungry enough to give up, the pair says – though one client gave into half a burger on his last day.
“It’s a challenge for some, it depends on their eating habits. Some are surprised by how easy it is; others are surprised by how hard,” Alireza says. “Mentally you’re hungry but you’re physically full because you’re drinking several kilos of vegetables in each juice.”
The daily calorie consumption on the Qi Juices cleanse comes out to around 1,100 calories.
The clients have also found different purposes for juice fasting.
One woman was preparing for a trip to France on which she expected to fully indulge in food, cheese and wine, Alireza says. She asked for a Qi Juice cleanse immediately following her return, so that she could transition back to a healthier lifestyle.
On the office whiteboard of orders, Monday is absolutely packed by comparison to other days. The pair say many of their clients like to do a one-day cleanse once a week. “They call it makeup Mondays,” Nashabe says, with a laugh.
The health-nut co-founders (who offered some delicious vegan, sugar-free brownies upon arrival to their kitchen) are adamant the Qi Juices cleanse is not a weight-loss program. Rather, the fast is a way to reset one’s consumption habits and adopt a healthier habits.
“We’ve all felt it after holidays, like Christmas, Ramadan, Eid. You naturally want to take a step back. You wake up the next morning and just want a piece of fruit,” Alireza says.
Qi Juices buys its produce from several organic farmers in Lebanon, and in many cases has had to place special requests to get the veggies they need.
Before Qi Juices, kale – a leafy, green super food– was unheard of, and farms have increased their production of things like carob and watercress to meet Qi Juices’ demand. The company also makes its own almond milk because it can’t be bought fresh here.
In addition to certified organic produce, Qi Juices uses a cold-press system that leaves the juice “live,” meaning none of the beneficial enzymes have been killed in the process.
Most electric home juicers use a centrifuge to separate the fiber from the juice and heats the juice slightly. The rise in temperature kills off scores of beneficial enzymes in the process.
In contrast, the cold-press system leaves the enzymes intact. Qi Juices’ shiny steel juicers are the same Norwalk brand used for making juice treatments for cancer patients, the pair say.
The pure juices aren’t just used for fasting. The pair has made a special celery and apple juice with a little extra water that is perfect post-workout.
And their children – six between the two women – are among their most loyal clients. Their families are the at very root of their interest in healthy eating, they say.
“After having children, we became more conscious about what we have in our refrigerator, in our cabinets and on our shelves,” Nashabe says.
Their work has even affected the way their children understand juice. While most kids might know “orange juice” as the typical sweet, citrusy morning drink, Alireza’s daughter expects carrots and ginger.
Nashabe’s son has become so used to thick fresh juice being watered down that he calls juice “asir mai,” meaning watered-down juice, as though its one word.
Pointing to a picture of a smiling baby boy sitting in the Qi Juices kitchen, Alireza says, “There’s our quality control.”
For more information about Qi Juices, visit their Facebook page at QiJuiceCleanse, or call their office at 01-427-704.