by Susan Schenck 

I pondered the menu at Cuenca’s hot new healthy restaurant: Live Organic, located at Gran Columbia 9-87 and Padre Aguirre.  I felt like I was back in California as I saw ingredients I hadn’t ever seen in Cuenca restaurants, such as superfoods like goji berries, hemp seeds, kale, wheatgrass, maca, acai berry and spirulina.

Drinks fall into two categories. The first is smoothies, which includes “Green Machine” with wheatgrass, alfalfa, spirulina, almond butter, honey, and almond milk. Another alluring one is the “Energy Smoothie,” made of spinach, kiwi, coconut water, maca, and almond butter. The second category is called “Refreshing Drinks.” These include “Whipped Strawberry Lemonade” and the familiar luscious carrot and beet juice. Twelve-ounce drinks are $2.50, whereas a 16-ounce is only $3. As in the U.S., there are create-your-own drink options, and add-ins for a bit extra. And you can get a card with drinks marked off so the 7th one is free.

There is nothing like fresh juice for peak energy and health. The green drinks are especially alkalizing. An alkaline body (from a diet that is 80% alkaline, ideally) cannot grow cancer. I point out in my book The Live Food Factor all the science behind this, including a Nobel prize for a study that proved it. The superfood add-ins like goji and acai berries are rich in minerals and antioxidants. Maca is a Peruvian root that balances the sexual hormones, increases libido, and prevents menopausal symptoms.

Dan Prince is from Dayton, Ohio, and has been here for seven months. He’s co-owner with his Ecuadorian girlfriend, Maria Paz Garcia.

"My partner is my girlfriend Maria," Dan says. "We were eating junk every day, because it was convenient, and the end result was we were feeling very sluggish and unhealthy. So we relied on Red Bull for our energy. There was a change that needed to be made in our diets, so while we were changing our diets, we decided that it would be a great idea to offer the same thing to Cuenca."

Dan and Maria have started growing their own kale. Beyond that, Dan says, "We're looking to grow wheatgrass in the next month and offer it in flats, and for those without a wheatgrass juicer, we'll serve it in juice form. In the near future, we're also looking into blueberries, goji berries, pomegranate, and different leafy greens that aren't available here. Also in the future, we hope to expand to raw-food snacks, and to offer products so that customers can make the shakes and smoothies at home.

As for where Dan and Maria shop, Dan insists it hasn't been too hard to find organic food. "Everybody we talk to claims that their fruits and veggies are organic. The hard part is finding proof. We shop a lot at the Tienda Cooperativa near Feria Libre. For some items, we shop at Feria Libre itself. We try to stay as organic as we can. We'll definitely check out the organic farmer's market on Saturday mornings."

Dan adds, "We're an evolving business and learning new things, and finding products that we never knew existed, every day. If anyone has suggestions, complaints, or would like to see us offer different products, please don’t be afraid to email or just stop in -- our hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday -- and let us know! My email is danprince91@hotmail.com or liveorganico@hotmail.com.

Susan Schenck, LAc, is a raw-food coach, lecturer, and author of the two-time award-winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, which has gained a reputation as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet, as well as Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work. Go to www.livefoodfactor.com and register for the free newsletter to get a copy of the first chapter of The Live Food Factor. Susan also holds raw-food-prep classes in Cuenca and can be contacted at livefoodfactor@yahoo.com.