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Arden's Garden smoothies naturally delicious

I must start with a confession: I am sort of, well, a juicing fanatic. A few years ago, I got a Juice Man Jr. for Christmas and things have never been the same since. To make a long story short, I'm a smoothie snob. I've spent hours (accumulated over the years, mind you) developing the perfect smoothie. And what's worse, I like the Juice Man and his organic-minded ways.

Admittedly my criteria is pretty specific. So when it comes to these frosty drink places, Smoothie King and Planet Smoothie, where there's not a drop of fresh juice involved in the process, just don't make the cut. I mean, they're fine in a pinch, but ... It didn't take long for me to ascertain that Arden's is my favorite of local chains.

Mellow and minimalist, there's no tubs of "weight gain" or "turbo carb" on the shelves in any of Arden's three stores. Instead, the shelves are filled with wholistic nutrition books and information on juicing. Arden's deal is that they make their own juice, which is cold-pressed and bottled immediately, thereby preventing water soluble vitamins from breaking down. Though they have been bottled soon after being juiced, a certain amount of vitamins are inevitably lost in this process. Juicing in the stores would be the only ideal scenario.

Frozen smoothies at Arden's are made with a choice of three juices which, incidentally, do not come from a sealed bottle: orange, apple or pineapple. Then, you can opt to add in frozen fruits at will ($3 for 16 ounces and $3.75 for 24 ounces). Choices include banana, mango, papaya, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. For 50 cents, there's also the option of adding a supplement mix like "Complete Recovery," which includes bee propolis (a resinous, antibacterial substance collected by bees that comes from various plants), royal jelly (a substance secreted by nurse bees which contains all of the B-complex vitamins), bioflavinoids (which aid in the absorption of vitamin C), vitamin C and echinacea.

There's also a variety of juices like cranberry, tangerine and carrot. Simple combinations such as carrot apple or pineapple orange go for $2 per 16 ounces.

There are unfrozen smoothies in the bottle, too, and green vegetable mixes like "Green Energy Machine": a spicy blend of cucumber, celery, parsley, ginger and spinach. Wheatberry grass aficionados will find shots of their beloved wheatgrass juice ($1.75 per ounce). If you haven't tried it, imagine the taste of a half acre or so of mowed grass concentrated into a little green shot. It's intense, but ostensibly a worthwhile drink. Wheatgrass contains vitamins C and B, chlorophyll, plus 17 amino acids. According to Dr. Ann Wigmore, founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston, and the person responsible for popularizing the consumption of this substance, 1 pound of fresh wheatgrass is equal to 25 pounds of fresh produce.

Arden's appears to be a business with its heart in the right place. They serve simple, natural drinks and snacks. Nice to see a place that's offering products like these without trying to cash in on the synthesized power food and weight loss industry. It's just juice, and that's good.