I eat a lot of takeout and junk, then periodically I try to clean up by going on a cleanse. I spoke with Denise Mari, the founder and executive director of Organic Avenue, and asked her to tell me more about her juicing empire, why it’s important to say your affirmations, and raw vs. cooked food.
Denise, you founded Organic Avenue in 2000 because you believe in whole foods and healing. Why did you focus primarily on juice instead of raw foods?
Actually, I focused on the whole lifestyle from the very beginning, even more extensively at first with food, fashion and education. I believe in a holistic view of life and an organic LOVE* (Live. Organic. Vegan. Experience)-based lifestyle that includes juicing, cleansing, raw and vegan foods, beauty and skin care, fashion, education, inspiration and meditation. I feel that a commitment to the LOVE* lifestyle requires focus and dedication and a well-rounded approach. Juicing is key and a jumpstart to cleansing and detoxification, which assists in focus and motivation, as health benefits and results are noticed quickly.
What is the origin of the name L.O.V.E.: Live, Organic, Vegan, Experience?
A lifelong journey of learning and discovering led to relationships that inspired me. A dear friend, Dr. Shawn Miller from California, encouraged the use of LOVE* as a tagline to what Organic Avenue was about. I tweaked it a bit to come up with Live. Organic. Vegan. Experience, yet he was largely the inspiration for the use of this acronym. I give him credit and am eternally grateful to him. Therefore, LOVE* is the central theme of my life and business.
Your LOVE*deep cleanse is 1, 3 or 5 days of all juice (I recently did it for 3 days), but you have other cleanses that are 5 days long and that include salad and/or raw food. What are the differences between your cleanses, and who should do which?
Each cleanse can be taken on by a novice or experienced raw foodist; it all depends on your level of motivation and desired goals. Some people want a break from their diet and would like to give their bodies the highest-quality nutrients on a per-calorie basis, while others want to lose weight or gain energy fast. Some people choose to periodically abstain from solid food intake all together. Whether you choose LOVE*easy (raw food and juice), LOVE*fast (salad, soup, juice and smoothies) or LOVE*deep (all juice), the benefits can be felt. LOVE*easy is by its name easier and gives the satisfaction of chewing. It has plenty of raw calories and is a novel experience that allows the individual to sample many of our raw entrees, salads, juices and desserts. Upon completion of this cleanse a person has a really good idea of how to continue eating and juicing on their own. LOVE*fast reduces solid food intake, speeding up the detox process. And LOVE*deep is typically for someone wanting to gain energy and lose weight quickly. It greatly improves the glow and clarity of everything from skin to removing fuzzy thinking!
How do you come up with the juice combinations, like the Green LOVE*—spinach, swiss chard, kale, cucumber, celery, green apple, and lemon juice—and my favorite, Green Lemonade: lemon, spinach, cucumber, celery, alkaline water, ginger, agave, Himalayan salt?
Often by accident! From experimentation of combining existing juices together to come up with new favorites, to taking recommendations from clients and customers, to working with the best chefs. Recipes evolve over time, and we LOVE the creative process! I am often just the director of the process yet allow the creative collaboration to produce recipes that are delicious, focused on top-quality organic ingredients, produced consciously for greatest nutrient retention and bottled in our signature glass for an unmatched experience.
How do you determine the order in which the juices should be drunk over the course of the day?
Usually from lightest to heaviest, the most alkaline and hydrating, then work toward blends, soups, smoothies and foods with the fiber intact. If it’s pure juice, we start with sweeter, fruit-based juices, then more mineral-rich vegetable juices later in the day.
Why do you suggest that people “chew” their juice?
We are encouraging them to be present and to slow down. Others suggest that the enzymes produced by the salivary glands, mixed with the nutrients in the juice, help with absorption as well.
I’ve been told that including protein in a cleanse is necessary for ridding the body of toxins, but with an all-fruit and –vegetable juice cleanse, the protein is minimal. What do you think about that?
There is protein in our cleanses, and minimal is what is needed. We have nut and seed-based entrees and drinks, and even a 16 oz. Green LOVE* has 7 grams of protein. The best forms of protein in my opinion are plant-based sources of amino acids that the human body arranges into protein structures, perfect for building blood and healthy tissues (including muscles!).
You say elimination should occur about 20 minutes after eating or drinking a juice, but I found myself somewhat, um, stopped up while I was doing your LOVE*deep cleanse. Why is that?
Yes! This happens to so many people—you are constipated! Most don’t even realize it because they think it’s normal to go once or less a day. A truly healthy colon releases within 20 minutes of consuming. My baby boy does this as his colon has not been damaged by the standard American diet and his food is mostly pureed, giving access to fiber-rich foods for easy elimination.
During the cleanse, you recommend massages, saunas, yoga, meditation and dry brushing, among other things. I’ve always wondered: Are there benefits to brushing your skin while it’s dry that you don’t reap using a loofah or scrub brush in the shower?
I believe dry brushing has optimal benefits. There are reasons for doing it dry! Yet I believe much of the same can be accomplished with a little water in the mix as well. There is a technique, and you can find information online as to the exact procedure and incorporate it into your morning routine.
You also recommend saying affirmations. How important are they, and why?
I think they are so important. They help get control of the mind, which may be on autopilot. This way you can reestablish what is going on in the mind and direct it toward positive, health-supportive messages. Quieting the mind also relieves stress. What you think has a lot to do with how you feel and how stressed you are. Affirmations help calm the mind and focus on what is good and positive, improving both internal stress and physical interpretation of the thoughts.
What kinds of support do you offer people who do your cleanses?
We have a call center full of talented people who are there to answer questions about our cleanses and all of our products. I consult on an individual basis when I can, and we have a network of qualified health practitioners to whom we refer people as needed.
You offer food prep classes, and you sell a number of prepared raw foods, including Cashew Scallion Cream Cheese, Portobello Reuben Wraps, Cucumber Basil Soup, White Chocolate Flan, and Cheezcake. Yum! What’s your favorite raw food?
Hmmm, I have lots of favorites. Our SunFlower Falafel and Raw Green Soup top my list right now. We also have a new Veggie Wrap and a Coconut Yogurt that I LOVE too! Our fresh coconut water and Green LOVE* juice is a daily necessity.
Are you competely raw?
No, I consider myself high raw, yet I eat cooked vegan food too. I was 100% raw for five years and now incorporate some cooked vegan food, typically for dinner. Then I do periodic cleanses with all raw foods and juices. I’m always striving to eat more raw and drink more green juice, yet I find that consciously cooked and novel vegan foods make the lifestyle even more approachable and sustainable. I’m often inspired to head back toward 100% and encourage anyone who wants to feel the full benefits to take it full on for as long as possible. This way one will always know how to look and feel younger, or heal from any nagging symptom before turning to pharmaceuticals (always check with your MD and make sure a raw diet is right for you). In my experience, it’s a natural and miraculous way of eating and living.
Do you recommend a completely raw diet for everyone?
Everyone is on their own journey, and it will happen in due time. I would suggest starting with a 5-day LOVE*cleanse and see how you feel. Read more information that backs up what common sense tells us about a whole-food, plant-based, unadulterated diet and lifestyle that promotes peace and environmental cleanliness, along with incredibly vibrant health. Create a new foundation on vegan eating, then begin to increase the amount of raw in your diet—occasionally 100% raw and at other times feel comforted by consciously cooked foods as well.
You have a new book, For the LOVE of It, coming out next year. What’s it about? Will it contain recipes for any of the dishes you sell at Organic Avenue?
Stay tuned—more will be revealed soon! :-)