I’ve been looking at several juice-based, 3-5 day cleanse programs lately as I feel like I sort of needed to reset things. I generally eat healthily, but wanted to start 2014 fresh and pure as I embark on my “clean14” challenge. The key things I was looking for were to be organic and fresh. Too many nutrients breakdown over time, and pasteurization kills a lot of the good stuff for the sake of shelf life. That means many of the juice cleanses out there need to be used right after being made, some with daily deliveries of fresh juice. As a result, a lot of the options out there are hyper-local and direct – no going to a chain grocery store to buy mass produced stuff. You have to live in the city where the company is based, and often get it from them or one of their partners.
Boston has some options (though not as many as NYC from what I saw), including Newton-based Joos. A bit of serendipity struck in that my wife got a Groupon offer from Joos as I was looking at them as an option. As these cleanses can be quite expensive, I decided this was the way to go. As this would imply, I paid for the Joos I’m reviewing here – no free/media sample action, so no risk of bias.
What it is & how it works
Joos works with many local businesses which act as depots where they can drop your order off. They have a very long list of depots (I counted 28) throughout the greater Boston area, so it’s a good, convenient option. They also offer home delivery in several towns for a small delivery fee. The depots get product Mondays and Thursday, so you can get the Joos those days. What is a little confusing is that the info for their Newton HQ says you can pick up any day. When I inquired about doing so, I was told I could only pickup on Monday or Thursday. This discrepancy between their website and practices was an early indicator of things to come, but more on that later.
They offer several options, with three, five and seven day ‘cleanses’ which they call ‘reboots’ being the core product. They start at $149 for the three day, but there are lots of different options for how you go about it, with pricing easily getting into the low-several-hundred range if you go all out. This is pretty competitively priced, and cheaper than many NYC-based options I found. I chose the three day. They also have these great little mini-muffin looking things called Joos Bites that are essentially little baked treats using the fiber discarded from the juicing process.
You get two types of Joos comprised of all different flavors. The types are elixirs (fruitier) and presses (green or citrus-y with chia). I’m actually not really sure what the difference between these two types is as they don’t really make it clear. The documentation you get doesn’t mention it either, but references Joos20, which you don’t get. More on this later. Their website lists five flavors (Antioxidant Blast, Green Lemonade, Vitality Booster, Green Power, Citrus Refresh) of Joos, which I think you get (if memory serves), but I seem to remember getting more flavors. Since there’s nothing in the documentation and I already recycled the bottles, I can’t confirm that.
You have four 16 ounce Jooses a day – a morning drink that has chia (for energy), and then a mix of red (from beets) and green (kale, chard, etc) juices throughout the day. They generally say what’s in them very clearly and boldly on the front, and the presses have nutritional info labels on the back. Oddly, the elixirs lacked this. More on that later.
Add to this hot lemon water, which is how you start each day, so five ‘prescribed’ drinks, plus all the water you want during the day.
Unlike all other cleanses I found, Joos is not a juice-only approach, as you eat a large lunch and a dinner. Both should be vegan. You can also eat at other times, but the guidance is to be plant-based (fruits and veggies). They provide two Word documents that provide guidance, philosophy and recipes to help you through it all. They gives you a table format of what to do when during the reboot program, and also gives guidance on how to continue on after finishing with their products. I actually didn’t receive these two documents, but had their older, less clear document that needed a bit of clarifying from the staff at Joos for me to know what to do. More on this later.
The top thing I hear from people in relation to juicing and juice cleanses is that they taste bad – undrinkably bad – and you feel like you have no energy all day. By the end of the cleanse, you’re totally zapped. I’ve also heard of a few that really strip stuff out of your body via frequent trips to the bathroom (the sitting kind of trips).
I have to say, the prevailing good impression I got from Joos is that it isn’t like the stereotypical cleanse people are afraid of. The juices aren’t like fruit punch or anything, but they’re definitely tolerable. I found the elixirs to be pretty tasty (you’d be surprised how good beet juice can be). I’ve had a lot of different green juices, and this was no worse than any of them, and probably the easiest to drink. The toughest ingredient to handle in a juice is typically raw ginger as it can be spicy and burning on the way down, which many of these have. Ginger does a lot of good in you, so it’s worth it. Yes, it does make the juices bite more on the way down, but the team at Joos did a really nice job balancing things out.
Additionally, their Joos Bites are fantastic. It’s really a clever idea to use the ‘waste’ product of juicing to give you a fiber-rich, super-tasty snack. They look like mini-muffins, and taste sort of like bran muffins with an overtone of veggies. They have vegan chocolate chips in them, though and there’s no ingredients or labeling to tell me what they were specifically. Cacao nibs, maybe? I’ve had other vegan chocolate chips, and found these good but not as chocolatey, which is why I wondered if they are cacao (they’re not as sharp of most nibs I’ve had). Whatever it is, the things are tasty, moist, and addictive. Just be careful – since they’re basically pure fiber (with some kind of gluten-free flour. I’d imagine it’s something like fava-garbanzo or almond flour, but I don’t know – um, yeah, more on this later).
Lastly, the pricing is competitive to good, and they often do Groupons. Many three day cleanses I found start closer to $200 than $150, so Joos is very reasonable. That said, see the final section for my thoughts on the value.
Speaking of value, the idea of going to a vendor for a juice cleanse is something you need to stop and think about more broadly. A good juicer (like this outstanding Breville for $199 or the next model down for $149) costs about the same as commercial juice cleanses. That means once you do your first one, you’re only in the hole the cost of the produce (maybe $40-60). But when you do your second, you’re now ahead by $100 or so, and have ‘paid’ for the machine you bought the first time around. And you can have fresh juice any time you want. I’m not really reviewing the value of Joos’s offering on these economics but rather under the idea that you chose to go with a prepared option, and Joos stacks up well in that arena.
However, if we’re talking about having someone else make it, Whole Foods has been putting juicing bars in many locations (we have two within 15 minutes of our home) that sell three sizes of juice, with the largest being an (almost) $8 24 ouncer. They have a lot of flavors and will make custom juices from their bountiful, organic produce inventory. If you are willing and able to go get it made there, know what you want in each juice, you would save about $53 over a three day cleanse. Relative to this option, no prepared cleanse stacks up well, but you need to ask yourself if the hassle is worth it. To me, I wanted to just have it taken care of and highly portable. Was that worth $53? Probably something around that, so I’d give Joos another check mark here. You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. With the Groupon, that price difference all but went away, so it was definitely worth it.
I like what Joos stands for, what they’re trying to do, and how hard they’ve worked to setup easy ways to get their product all around Boston. My biggest issue with their product can be summed up in one word – clarity. Or, better yet, lack of clarity.
Their website is beautiful, but not helpful enough. It doesn’t have a clear “Product” page to learn about what elixir or press juices are about (or what the difference is). They didn’t have a clear schedule for how to use their product when I got it (they do provide this now, but it’s still not on their website – more on that in a moment). I wanted to look at depot locations to do a pickup, but “location” wasn’t a page. Instead, you have to go to the ordering page to see the locations. That’s not a huge deal, but I bought a Groupon, so I wasn’t going to order, so it didn’t occur to me to look there to see their locations. None of this is earth shattering, but it would be much nicer if things were more intuitive.
I spoke with the CEO, Lauri Meizler, and she informed me that they have a new site in the works, and it addresses these types of things, which was great to hear. I’d add that Lauri was great to talk to, clearly passionate about the space, and really took all of my comments and thoughts to heart (and made some immediate changes based on my feedback, so I knew she was being genuine and not just trying to smile and nod while ignoring what I shared).
Getting the Product
Intuitiveness aside, there was a bigger issue. In the list of depots, they mention their office in Newton where you can pick up your Joos any day after 6:30am. I happened to be off from work on a Wednesday for an appointment near there (about a week after I reached out to them to get my Groupon redeemed), so I requested picking up my order there and then. Here is where things sort of broke down. I was told that deliveries only happen on Mondays and Thursdays. I responded saying that I wasn’t asking for delivery (home delivery or depot pick up are the options, and I was talking about depot pick up), but wanted to pick up in Newton on that Wednesday, which fits the options listed on their site. I was again told that deliveries are only on Mondays and Thursdays. OK, I didn’t feel like arguing about it anymore, so I settled on a Thursday in Boston near my office.
Two days went by with no response. I chased, and heard back quickly that I was scheduled for Thursday, November 14th at the location I mentioned. I was told the Joos would be there after a certain time, which was fine. I moved a meeting so I could pick it up, walked over to the depot, asked for my Joos, and the receptionist couldn’t find it. I called the number I had, and got no answer. I left a message, and got a call back from the very nice lady I had been emailing with. She claimed not to know anything about my order, but she’d look into it for me. I reminded her that we had been emailing back and forth (I mentioned that I’d be doing this blog review, which I had told her in my initial email). I got a call back a little later stating that she realized she had put me in for the wrong date (despite confirming the right date back to me). She apologized profusely and genuinely, and proceeded to go over and above to get me product the next day – she said she’d have a batch made that day, pick it up herself that night and deliver it the next day, which is what happened. Unfortunately, the Bites wouldn’t be available until Monday (see the next section on product life), but that was ok. I wanted to do the cleanse over the weekend, so I could still do it this way.
I know this is in the ‘depressions’ section yet sounds positive. It is. They messed up. That happens. The question is what we do when we make mistakes, and the team at Joos really stood by their product and me as a customer, giving of themselves personally, outside of hours, to make things right. I really want to commend them for that. Also, Lauri informed me that they are going to change the text around that Newton depot or change the pick up options so the two align.
Listed Product Life
While the effort to make things right was great, some things were a little odd with what I got. Since you can’t pick it up before you’d need to drink your first one, I asked when I should start the cleanse (they don’t give any guidance online or in any of their guidance docs). I was told to wait until the next day (start Saturday). Recapping the dates, this means the juice was made on the 14th, delivered on the 15th, and I’d start my three day cleanse on the 16th. The juice is best fresh, and has no preservatives or pasteurization, so it doesn’t have much of a shelf life. I knew that, but I was really surprised to see that the elixir’s were marked as “Best by 11/16/2013”. As in the day I’m supposed to start drinking them? As in, 2/3 of the reboot would be with product past its “best by” date? The presses were marked December 5th, so there was no issue there.
That said, I didn’t notice any flavor issues with the product and didn’t get sick from it, so I’m sure it wasn’t spoiled. However, what I’m concerned about is the vitamins and other nutrients were not as potent as they are intended to be, which does matter. In speaking with Lauri, she informed me that they’re very conservative on their “Best By” dates, so the juice really was fine. I figured that was the case.
The Bites are really the only thing that lack much of a shelf life. The Joos itself keeps for several days (or nearly a month for the press flavors). I don’t recall a “Best By” date on the Bites, but their limited shelf life was made clear to me when we were straightening out the issue I had in getting the product (that’s why they couldn’t be delivered until Monday as they are only baked twice a week).
As I mentioned, the Bites have no description or nutritional info at all. It’s not the end of the world for me, but if I was gluten-intollerant (I only found out they are gluten-free after I had them), had a nut allergy, etc, then it would be something that concerned me. I didn’t really care about fat or sugar content, so it was more about what it was I was eating, which really matters to some people.
The elixirs also have no nutritional info, and the chia drinks don’t even list chia on the ingredients list, but you can see them floating in there. The caps have the word “CHIA” stamped on them at least. Lauri told me that labeling is being addressed as they’ve only recently launched this new line of flavors.
The biggest issue I had is the guidance document they sent me. It is really long (16 pages), including background on Joos, why you should use the product, what a reboot is (their term for cleansing), and many pages of really useful, clean-eating recipes. You could almost describe it as a brochure for the company. They advocate a 21 day clean eating program that begins with a reboot, so they provide guidance to help you get there. Unfortunately, the document lacked guidance on what to do with the Joos itself during the cleanse. I realized that the document is actually out of date as it references their old product and reboot program. That explains a lot. Lauri took my feedback on this, and split the document into a recipe guide and a more general guide document that now includes a clear table of what to drink or eat when. It still has a lot of info that can just be a lot to take in or get through when all you really want or need a simple, clear “do this, don’t do this” list. There’s a lot of philosophy and background that’s interesting but isn’t truly necessary in this context. It’s the difference between what and so what.
Luckily, they are very responsive by phone or email (including on the weekends), and offer lots of advice and guidance. After reviewing what I had picked up and being totally clueless as to what to do, I called them up and was given a rundown of how to structure my day on the reboot. I love to see that they now include a simple table on what to do do when. Easy, clear, instructive.
This is a tough one to comment on. I generally eat cleanly, but I’m not vegan or vegetarian. I was hoping to clean out my system, and was prepared for some major gastric issues. It’s good that I didt have any, but I didn’t come away with the feeling that I was lighter (not weight-wise, but sort of in terms of my energy and health). I’m not sure if a) one actually should expect to feel this from any cleanse (the online anecdotes from lots of cleanse vendors suggest you will, but who knows), b) I was already clean enough so there wasn’t enough of a shift for me to feel it (I doubt that given years of eating stupidly), or c) I screwed up something major and stopped the product from working. I would discount c because I did what I was told on the phone and what matches the new instructions they set up, eating from their food guidance in the long document they sent when I was told I could on the phone. Perhaps that guidance is totally wrong, but I doubt it as the advice is healthy, clean, vegan food – sort of the whole food equivalent of what I was drinking. I ate raw and cooked veggies plus fruit, ate organic (I do this anyway), and cooked with little oil and no sauce. The only seasonings I used were cayenne, cinnamon and ginger, which are fine according to their document and at least cinnamon and ginger are in their drinks (cayenne may be, I just don’t recall).
Something they mention in their document is using a Vega shake if you’re an athlete to get extra protein. I am an athlete and do drink vegan protein shakes daily (1-2). I don’t use Vega products as I don’t like their ingredients or nutritional profile, so what I use should be even cleaner. To me, though, supplementing your cleanse with a protein shake, no matter how vegan, raw and organic it may be, seems counter-intuititive at best, and counter-productive at worst. It’s an engineered, processed food. How can that fit in here? I ended up only having one on days one and two, and then completely skipping it on the third day to see if that made me feel any cleaner. It didn’t seem to matter.
I do wonder if something like the shakes, and eating cooked food counteracts the way a cleanse is meant to work. I’m not educated on these things enough to know, but it is something I’m curious about. When I looked into various juice cleanse options, Joos was the only one who talked about eating while on the cleanse. The team behind it is super knowledgeable and committed to this space, so I feel like I can trust them, but it is curious that no other cleanse I found works this way. When you add that to how I didn’t feel during (light headed, gastric issues) or after (not necessarily rebooted), I wonder even more.
To buy or not to buy
This is something to take in pieces. First, let’s assume you aren’t going to buy a juicer, and you don’t want to go to Whole Foods or some other juice bar every day for fresh juice, get mason jars to store it, and keep it chilled. Then let’s assume you live in the Boston area, which about 315 million of you don’t.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can focus on whether you should get a Joos reboot since you’re now officially in their addressable market. I know I wrote a lot of ‘depressions’ above, but I think that 90% of it can be addressed by an updated website, better guidance and clearer product labeling – all things they’re working on. So let’s assume that the product is really clear, the way to use it really clear, and you want to do a cleanse that you buy ready to go.
In that situation, I would say Joos is a very strong contender. As much as eating and using protein shakes seemed odd to me, I think it made it something anyone can do. Just drinking four 16 ounce bottles of juice plus some water doesn’t sound feasible to me. And it’s not that I can’t commit to doing things for my health. If you’ve read my blog or followed me on Twitter, you know that I am passionate doing so many things for my health and have stayed committed to them for a long time now. Given that, what good is a cleanse you stop doing before the first day is done?
We have to be realistic in our path of being healthy. There’s nothing unhealthy about what Joos structures in their program, it’s just a question of how extreme or intense it is. This is probably why they really advocate a full 21 day approach. The reboot isn’t meant to strip your bowels clean of years of bad eating. It’s meant to literally reboot you onto a new path of healthful eating habits. Remember the old adage that you need to do something for three weeks for it to become habit. Guess what 21 days is? Follow that another three to four weeks after doing the reboot, and you have shifted your eating habits. That’s something I can really get behind. That’s how you enlighten.your.body.