Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Superfood Giveaway from Sacha Vida

At last year’s NYC Veg Fest I met Carlos, the young and energetic founder of Sacha Vida. Sacha Vida is a new company that recently started bringing some of South America’s best superfoods up North to share with us. They pride themselves on their sustainability, and the very high quality of their products.  I have been impressed with Sacha Vida since first meeting Carlos and really loved the sample of Maca they recently sent me. To help build a little holiday excitement, Sacha Vida has agreed to do a giveaway of a bag of their maca as well as a bag of their delicious chocolate covered goldenberries! I know once you try it, you’ll be as convinced as I am about its health benefits and Sacha Vida’s quality.

First tell me a bit about who you are and the founding of Sacha Vida.
Sacha Vida comes to life from my desire to share the amazing super foods that are native to Peru.   After I graduated from college I started to work for an international shipping company and traveled all over the world.  During my travels I always ended up talking about maca and other super foods from Peru and people would always ask me where they could buy such products.  Eventually I started thinking about my own company and ended up leaving my job to work on Sacha Vida full time.  It has been an amazing journey and we are excited and grateful for the great support that our products have received in the U.S. 

I love your company’s mission statement about providing healthy plant-based foods while also preserving the environment they grow in: the Amazon. Can you talk a little about why the Amazon is so vital to protect?
I’ve travelled in the Amazon many times and am always impressed by its beauty and its rich biodiversity.  The Amazon rainforest provides most of the air that we breathe and it is also the best source of natural remedies that could probably cure most of today’s illnesses.   Many people don’t know that  a lot of medications are derived from plants that grow in the Amazon.   The Amazon is also home to many native tribes that have survived for thousands of years only to be kicked out and robbed of their land by industrial agriculture and deforestation.  We need to protect the Amazon in order to ensure that our planet fights back against global warming and to ensure that we protect the natural ecosystems that our planet needs to keep going.

When did you first learn about Maca?
I learned about maca when I was in college, during one of my travels to Peru one of my friends talked to me about this natural powder that he used before he played soccer (we are talking about playing soccer at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level).  I did a little bit of research and found out that the Chasquis, which were high distance runners in charge of delivering messages on behalf of the Incas used maca during their journeys.   I tried maca powder and felt more focused and energized and have been hooked on maca ever since.

Why do you think Maca is such a vital ingredient? How can it benefit us?
Scientists have proven that maca is an adaptogenic plant, that means that it has the capacity to adapt and benefit your body where it needs it most.   For example, a woman suffering from menopause symptoms will  take maca and feel relieved and another woman who is trying to conceive will take maca to produce healthier eggs.  Likewise, an athlete training for a big event will take maca before workouts and a scientist will take maca before going to work.   Maca is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and it also supplies your body with calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.  In addition, maca is known for its aphrodisiac powers and in Peru is known as “Peruvian Viagra.” I heard countless stories of people using maca to enrich their sex lives and to help them conceive.  I use maca for its energizing properties, nothing helps me focus and concentrate better than a spoon of maca in my morning smoothie and I have friends that swear that a maca smoothie before hitting the gym makes their workouts more intense.

What is the best way for us to incorporate Maca in our daily lives?
Best way is to add a tablespoon to your daily smoothie, juice or oatmeal in the morning.  It is best to start gradually and start with one tablespoon in the morning or before your workouts.  

There are generally two types, raw or gelatinized. What is the difference? Which, in your opinion, is better?
People familiar with maca will know that raw maca is a lot cheaper and harder to digest than gelatinized maca.   Besides the digestibility issue you can also tell the difference with the flavor, raw maca has a much stronger flavor that many people dislike or can not tolerate.   Raw maca is made by pulverizing the dry maca roots,  gelatinized maca undergoes an additional step where the natural starches of maca are removed in order to make the maca powder more digestible while concentrating its nutrients.  Some people’s digestive systems are more sensitive and have to work harder to digest starches and other compounds in raw maca, consequently they experience stomach pains or a feeling of discomfort during the digestive process and may not give maca a second chance.  Gelatinized maca powder does not cause those side effects as it goes straight to your system allowing your body to absorb all the nutrients and minerals found in maca immediately.   Sacha Vida currently carries gelatinized maca and so I am biased towards gelatinized maca which in my opinion is a better product than raw maca.  Now, on a related side note, in Peru maca is always consumed cooked and never raw, people who cultivate maca in the Peruvian highlands added it to their stews or toasted but don’t eat it raw.
I also want to highlight that we are the only company in the market that sells maca products that are Fair Choice Certified  which is a certification system based in the International Human Rights Declarations and Labor Conventions.   I support this certification process because it seeks to protect and assure the fair treatment to everyone involved within the control of the company that implements the certification system so it benefits the overall community of growers and producers.   This is the first fair-trade standard created in Latin America that takes into consideration local market and producing conditions and it also includes requirements on health, safety and environmental protection.

Do you have a relationship with the growers of your product? What are the conditions Maca is grown in?
I have a very strong and close relationship to the farmers that produce our maca products.  I visit the maca farms every time I travel to the highlands of Peru and have shared many meals and interesting conversations with our farmer partners.  They are invested in producing a high quality product and are very excited to see that their products are reaching the U.S. market. Maca is usually grown in high altitude lands, where  lots of sunshine during the day and freezing temperatures at night make it difficult for other plants to survive. Maca has adapted to this environment and thrives by absorbing all of the minerals and nutrients from the soil in order to grow and survive. 

Tell me about Sacha Inchi. There is a lot of buzz around the seed of this beautiful star shaped fruit.
I am very excited about sacha inchi finally getting the recognition it deserves.  Sacha inchi is a vine and grows in the Peruvian Amazon, it is a very sustainable crop because you can cultivate it many times a year.  The seed has one of the highest plant based concentrations of Omega 3 fatty acids along with protein and vitamins.  This seed has been consumed in the Amazon for thousands of years and the oil has been used by native women to protect their skin.  What distinguishes sacha inchi from other plant based sources of Omega 3 is that sacha inchi also has naturally occurring vitamin E which helps the oil preserve its properties without oxidizing quickly like flax seed oil for example.  In addition the oil is very light and is a great complement to salads, dips, smoothies and cold dishes.   I recommend that the oil do not be heated because the Omega 3 bonds will break with heat and the nutritional value of the oil is compromised.  Sacha inchi seeds are super healthy snacks, they are full of protein and Omega 3 and are a great additional to trail mixes or enjoyed on their own.  We are currently working on expanding our sacha  inchi line and will have new sacha inchi products available online soon.

Anything else you’d like the readers to know?
We are a family owned company competing with big companies, what makes us different is that our products are always organic and that we truly care about following fair trade practices with our partner farmers.  For example, our maca products are the only ones in the market that are Fair Choice Certified. In addition,  I pick our partner farmers carefully and usually spend weeks with them understanding their processes and learning about their motivations.  I believe that a great part of being a successful entrepreneur is associating yourself with partners who are as passionate if not more passionate than you are about producing and delivering a high quality product.    I grew up in Peru and unlike other entrepreneurs  I am vested in seeing our partner farmers grow and prosper.  Economic development of their communities along with access to education for their children are the first steps in the process.   We have exciting projects in the pipeline with these goals in mind and I hope to share them with you soon.

Besides online, where can we find your stuff? Also what is the best way to connect with you (Instagram, twitter, facebook?)

You can find our products in New York at the Live Live Organic store in the East Village, you can also find us in California at the Rainbow Grocery Coop in San Francisco and in Massachusetts at Cambridge Naturals.  We are always looking to add more stores and if you want to see our products sold in your local store I encourage you to speak to the food buyer at the store  and ask them to add our products to their store inventory. You can always connect with us through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, we love to hear from you!

Thanks for doing the interview Carlos! Now for the exciting part. We are doing a giveaway (call it a little holiday gift!) of a bag of Organic maca and chocolate covered goldenberries!

Here are the rules. First, the winner needs to live in the United States (sorry international readers, no disrespect). The contest will end on December 30th at midnight. To enter, you must be a subscribed reader to BYOL. To increase your chances of winning leave a comment on this post or/and "like" "Sacha Vida" on facebook. You will also gain a point if you "like" Bring Your Own Lentils facebook page. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cristina's Story

Last year I shared a post from my good friend, Kat and how changing her diet has literally changed her world. I’m happy to report that both her and her husband have continued to thrive on a plant based, whole-food, vegan diet. Today I have another shining example of someone very close to me who has transitioned to a plant based diet and has taken charge of her life, her family's health, and accomplished goals she never dreamed of! I’m happy to share my cousin's, Cristina’s story.

I always thought of myself as a pretty active person. Growing up my parents had enrolled me in ice skating, ballet, and jazz. I spent most of my life in Europe where I also started skiing at the age of 4. Even though I lived in Europe I grew up eating and loving standard American food - processed foods and lots of meat and dairy. Years went by and I met my husband, who was once a ski instructor in his hometown before joining the Army. The two of us bonded on some of the highest peaks of Europe. In addition to skiing, I ran, but never more than a 5K.

I eventually married my ski instructor/soldier, moved to Germany, and had a beautiful baby boy.  We promised each other that we would continue being an active family. I hiked a couple smaller mountains (with baby in tow), ran a race in Prague pushing a BOB stroller but even still, for the first time in my life, I was struggling with my weight. While I’ve always been thin, my post-baby weight was the same as my pregnancy weight, and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. 

We moved to Fort Benning, GA in 2012. Like your typical Army spouse, I had to start my life from scratch. In an attempt to meet some new friends, I joined the Columbus Stroller Strong Moms and that’s when I noticed how out of shape I really was. I was so intimidated by these women who were running past me with their double strollers, not even breaking a sweat. I often felt discouraged because these ladies seemed to be in such better shape than I was. I could see every single muscle in their bodies. That said I became good friends with many of them and in addition to encouraging me to keep working out and pushing myself, these Mommas taught me to never give up.

In November 2012 I completed my first half marathon, in exactly 2 hours. I could not believe I completed this, but instead of being happy and proud, I saw pictures of myself and could not believe how “big” I looked. I wondered, “how was it that I was working out almost every day and not losing any weight? Why were my knees and overall body always in pain?” I was always active as a younger child and adult; I simply couldn’t understand why I felt as if I was continuously struggling. Initially I thought that I was simply comparing myself to some unrealistic and unattainable goal.

Big Dog Heat Wave Five Miler 2012

My husband deployed yet again, to fill the time I found myself spending an increasing amount of time exercising. I could not get over the fact that I still looked bigger than ever despite the amount of exercise I was doing. I decided to seek medical advice and was referred to a dietician. My blood results showed that I had genetically high cholesterol – 210! My thought was, “I am too young for pills!” I always thought I was eating a healthy diet, but after several long talks and email exchanges with my cousin I quickly realized that I was buying into a lot of hype and marketing. Knowing that my cousin and my aunt were both thriving on a plant-based diet, I began to research and then transition to a cleaner, plant-based diet, with the support of my doctor and dietician. Within the first month I noticed inches come off my midsection, which was the area I struggled with most. My physical performance dramatically increased, and my body felt stronger. Within 6 months I had lost a total of 13lbs. I had muscles where they had never been before. More important than losing a couple of pounds, I felt better - stronger, awake, and energized. Despite having “genetically high cholesterol” my cholesterol dropped to 158!

My race times throughout the year have dramatically improved and in November 2013 I ran my first full marathon in 4:04. I felt a little sore the next day, but nothing more than typical long run soreness. I felt amazing pre, during, and post marathon. I finished the marathon hungry for more.

Some dude getting “chicked” by my cousin.

Changing my diet and my eating habits has been the best thing in my life. I now realize how unhealthy the “healthy” version of the Standard American Diet is. I realized how unhealthy the food itself can be and how it plays a dramatic role in our entire life. I became vegan for dietary reasons, not for ethical ones. Despite this, I DO feel a sense of responsibility when I see how animals are treated and how they are mass produced for human consumption. It definitely puts things in a different perspective. In addition, becoming vegan has proved to be more than just a personal lifestyle change, I feel like I am contributing to our Earth – making it a better place. 

I tell everyone who will listen about my lifestyle change and how well it worked for me. I did not become vegan because of Hollywood trends, nor because I “never really liked meat anyway.” Trust me, I loved steaks and the occasional Big Mac.  I became vegan because I want to LIVE! I want to be an active and healthy person for the rest of my life. I owe it to my husband and my child who are also embarking on their own healthier plant-based journeys. As a family we are more vibrant than ever -  and we were able to do this in the Deep South proving that were there is a will, there is a way!

Always listen to your body, seek professional advice, and experiment!  You will be amazed how being a vegan goes above and beyond eating just kale and various salads. You create meals that the average person had never even heard of and you will LOVE it! Your body will thank you and so will the planet.    

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.