A new year’s cleanse? Oh yes you Can Can

The winter cleanse.

The winter 3-Day Cleanse from Can Can Cleanse.

BODY & SOUL | BARBARA KATE REPA

Those who doubt that juice cleanses work haven’t met Teresa Piro, owner of Can Can Cleanse, who recently opened an outpost at 2864 California Street.

She practices what she preaches. When discussing two of her passions, nutrition and cleansing, listeners begin to feel and believe the exclamation points that populate the text on her website.

She preaches gently, copping to a personal penchant for coffee and red meat. “Cleansing is not a gimmick, but it’s a commitment and requires mental discipline,” she says. “If you don’t feel up to it, don’t do it.”

Piro, who is slight and fit, says she inherited the family curse of high cholesterol at age 14, when doctors gave her the usual dictate to follow a low-fat diet and avoid red meat.

“That didn’t do anything for my cholesterol level,” she says. “So I began to explore the idea of whole foods at a very early age.”

She honed that exploration after moving to San Francisco in 1999. She did a stint at Blue Barn Gourmet on Chestnut Street, a mostly take-out deli embracing slow, seasonal and sustainable food. And it was there that the idea for her business was born.

Teresa Piro, owner of Can Can Cleanse

Teresa Piro, owner of Can Can Cleanse

“Customers were telling me they got juice cleanses shipped across the country,” she says. “And something about that didn’t make sense.”

Piro honed her knowledge of nutrition with studies in Berkeley and became a true believer in using cleanses to allow the body to do its own detox.

“I began guiding people on cleanses, but the feedback was that it was too stressful,” she says. The time, effort and expense involved in sourcing and procuring fresh fruits and vegetables — and especially the drudgery of juicing them — got in the way for even the most motivated souls. “That’s where I knew I could step in and help,” she says.

Piro says her focus on seasonal cleanses makes special sense in Northern California, with its easy access to fresh produce. Can Can’s juice offerings change each quarter, incorporating celery root, sage, purple grapes and pears in the fall; warming spices in winter; carrot and fennel in spring; and lighter, peppier flavors in summer, when the body craves coolness.

Can Can’s cleanses also include some fats in soup and nut milk. “You need fat to keep up; you can’t run on empty,” Piro says.

The company offers several cleanse programs, from the 1-Day for those who want to try out the concept to the 10-Day Challenge, which includes some salad, for veteran cleansers. But Piro recommends the 3-Day Cleanse for most first-timers.

“Three days is the perfect amount of time for most people to monitor the changes going on and not feel too deprived,” she says. “After three days, most people say they feel lighter and brighter, more energized. They stand taller. Their self-esteem is greater, and best of all, they’re reinspired to eat well and make healthy decisions.”

While the 3-Day Cleanse is not a weight-loss program, most people typically lose a little weight: two to four pounds for women; six to nine pounds for men.

Piro describes Can Can juices as “food in liquid form.” It takes 16 to 18 pounds of organic produce, fruit juices and nuts and vegetables to supply one 3-Day Cleanse.

All juices are made fresh to order at Can Can’s processing kitchen in South San Francisco, each dose sealed in a jelly jar numbered and labeled with directions for how and when to ingest it; clients can place orders 36 hours in advance, then either pick them up on California Street or in Marin, or arrange for a delivery to home or office.

“Some people miss chewing — and I tell them: ‘It’s only three days,’ ” she says. “Or have an apple if you must chomp on something.” That’s on the list of “permissible eats” — along with half an avocado, a hard-boiled egg or cucumber for cleansers wavering in willpower.

And for both the waverers and stalwarts, Piro extends another unique feature that wins accolades from first-timers and repeat cleansers: personal support in daily email messages and phone calls if needed.

Piro admits that cleansing is not for everyone — and recommends against it for the very young or old, women pregnant or breast-feeding and those with compromised immune systems. But she’s unswayed by the skeptics and naysayers, emphasizing that the cleanses contain a “giant dose” of vitamins, along with fiber and a minimum of 1,000 calories daily.

“The new year — that’s our season. People resolve to be healthier. We offer a tool that can help, and set them on the right path,” she says. “After one day you won’t feel much different. But by day three, you’ll feel different indeed.”

For more information, go to cancancleanse.com.

DIARY OF A CAN CAN CLEANSE | BARBARA KATE REPA

I picked the best and worst of times to cleanse: the week before Christmas. But the holiday season had brought on some unseemly habits, such as snagging sugar cookies trimmed in bright blue icing that arrived at the office as holiday gifts. And I don’t even like bright blue. So the Can Can Cleanse’s slogans called like siren songs: “It’s time to jumpstart your health!” and “It’s a spa retreat for your insides!” I was all in.

A Few Days Before: Piro sends a chipper email, gently reminding me of the pre-cleanse warmup guidelines posted on the website designed to help ease the body and psyche into the cleansing days ahead. None of the rules seem onerous: cut back on caffeine, alcohol and nicotine and increase the intake of water and raw vegetables. Only one gives cause for pause: Eliminate or reduce consumption of dairy. That means cheese, my favorite food group. I repeat the Can Can mantra: It’s Just Three Days.

Day 1: The first can to be consumed is labeled Lemon Ginger Juice, with an advisory to drink it heated. It’s got a goodly dose of cayenne that makes it feel like a jumpstart to the day. Piro urges doing something nurturing for yourself while kicking off the cleanse, but I’m slated by necessity to do the opposite: Brave a trip to the post office on Geary Street during the holiday season.

There’s a loose schedule for downing the eight cans of juice, one every hour or so. I have to tote five of them to work, and decline invitations to both a holiday office lunch and an afterwork drink with a friend. The biggest surprise is how busy I am monitoring and imbibing the jars of juice; I run out of time to quaff the assigned jars and opt to skip the white one labeled Mixed Nut Milk, which I later learn is a big mistake, since it’s the most delicious of all, kind of like a milkshake.

Day 2: Truth be written, I’m feeling just a wee bit churlish — not even cheered by the attaboy email message Piro sends titled “Halfway!” The hardest part is downing the two jars of the aptly named Green Juice, which tastes kind of like grass. Piro later says that others also struggle with it, although its churned combo of 12 fruits and vegetables mean it’s loaded with vitamins.

My husband exacerbates my mood by tucking into a carton of some newfangled gelato he heard about while standing in line at Mollie Stone’s. It has the improbable slogan “Better ingredients make happy spoons” — and he keeps purring and making a crunching noise while eating it. Then I make the mistake of asking if he’s proud of me — and his eyes roll the same way they did when I took boxing and painting and ice skating lessons. But I am beginning to feel lighter and something palpable, although I can’t quite give it a name.

Day 3: I wake feeling a bit lightheaded, but different. I’m firing on all cylinders, beating all comers at Words With Friends — even the guy in New York who seems to do nothing else. And I’m thinking optimistic and profound thoughts. Maybe America has something to learn from Cuba about public education and health care. And some disturbing ones — like maybe I’ll never eat solid food again. I have identified the same feeling that was setting in yesterday: self-righteousness.

I barrel through both jars of Green Juice, and delight in the midday serving of Winter Orange Soup, warming it and eating it in a bowl with a spoon, just like solid food.

The Morning After: That was definitely self-righteousness setting in, although not in a bad way. It’s good to feel focused and disciplined and to accomplish a challenge. I’ve lost a couple of pounds, which also feels good. And I’ve gained a new resolve to eat and live more mindfully. That may sound grandiose, but ’tis the season. And now I have help — a sort of faint voice in my head. Just today I heard it whisper: “Step away from the blue cookies.”

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