Q&A with Chloé Robillard: Rawfoods Chef and holistic devotée.
1. So what makes a Superfood any different than the classic stick of celery?
The classic stick of celery!! Celery is a superfood. But it isn't... a Superfood. The term superfood is disputed. I definitely consider fruits and vegetables superfoods.
The celery stick versus the wheatgrass. What makes the superfood different from the Superfood? The latter meets many of the following criteria:
Low in calories.
Unusually high in antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients and/or trace minerals*.
Unique in taste, color, texture, smell and/or biological makeup.
Cultural. Most Superfoods have been consumed long before we've seen them in cute packagings on our grocery shelves.
Sparse, in general.
Produced and packaged with attention, care and integrity.
Excessively marketed, they can come across as elitist, maybe even obnoxious. Don’t confuse the food with the idea of the food. Whether your idea is positive or negative.
To study them more truthfully, I find it useful to temporarily ignore quick facts, cute infographics, and colourful fonts. To revert back to what they initially are when they come out from the earth, when they grow when they are harvested and at every step up until the 1, 10 and 60 minutes post consumption. What's the overall score? That locally grown, locally squeezed wheatgrass. I think it might be positive.
Fundamentally, they are good foods. For various and measurable reasons. From the production to the transformation, to the consumption. I guess I am anticipating the next question.
2. What’s the importance of Superfoods on a global scale?
Produced with integrity and empathy, they are the epitome of small scale farming and fair trade practices. The uniqueness of most Superfoods - based on the criteria I mentioned before - means they are tightly linked with a particular land and culture who has been consuming it for some time. Also, their rarity means that, especially when made globally available, they require the particular attention any new innovative product does when it first lands on the market.
On a global scale, that means that in general, you can’t package a Superfood without getting in contact with a local culture and understanding what it is, where it grows and how it is consumed. This requires effort and care. A Superfood product is a delicate balance of meaning, biodiversity, and nutrition. They are the opposite of commodity crops. That is their true power. That’s why I call them revolutionary. They actively empower consumers to contribute to the bettering of the food system. They introduce wild variables in a system that thrives on commodity, control, and predictability. Just by nature, they shake things up.
On a side note, Superfoods can be used and exploited improperly. Both intellectually and physically. I think it’s really lame to say do your research.
Do your research. Not too much to forget to feel, but just enough to know how you feel.
3. Will they make me lose weight?
Do you want them to?
4. Will they make me super-human?
5. What can I do with Goji berries?
Since my background is a chef, think of where goji berries are grown, what their taste profile is and most importantly, what you love to eat! Which other foods grow in that area? What’s in your fridge? What are your personal taste preferences?
I really love to make this tea in the morning. I boil two cups of water. While the water is heating up, I peel a piece of ginger and mince about a tablespoon's worth. Then I slice a lemon in half. I squeeze the juice in a cup, and throw that half in the cup with the juice. Then I add the chopped ginger, a handful of dried goji berries and some honey. By then the water is boiling; I pour it in the cup with the lemon juice, squeezed lemon half, ginger, goji berries, and honey.
That’s a very delicious morning drink if I have goji berries in my house. When I finish drinking it, I eat the plumped gojis.
Goji berries work really well with green and white tea, sweet tropical fruits like mango and kiwis, cashews, carrots, nori, rice, chocolate and also savory dishes because really, if you snack on a couple goji berries, you notice they are unlike other popular berries. A goji berry is shy, wild, unusual. It tastes citrusy and flowery.
6. Doesn’t Cacao have caffeine, and isn’t that a bad thing?
Cacao does have caffeine! Cacao is a heart food. Try to buy fair trade.
Do you feel edgy, jittery, drained and dehydrated? Then yes, it’s certainly not doing good. Maybe lay off the chocolate, coffee and steer clear of anything marketed as energy boosting. There is a point where caffeine becomes detrimental, and don’t lie to yourself. You know when you have reached that point.
On the other hand, caffeine can enhance cognitive alertness, improve mood, and tastes delicious. It can even cure baldness! Check it out.
7. If Maca and Holy basil are both adaptogens, then why use both? And what’s an adaptogen anyway?
In this case, an adaptogen is a Superfood that can stabilize body functions. An adaptogen can help decrease or increase stress, body temperature and pH in response to environmental conditions, supporting your body in its attempts at homeostasis.
Maca is a root and helps to increase energy and balance hormones. Holy basil is a herb, also called Tulsi. It helps to reduce stress, blood pressure and inflammation. The former is more exciting and the latter is more calming. Both promote equilibrium.
When you are comparing a plant and/or a food, often the part of the plant being consumed and where it grows influence its therapeutic properties. Maca is a root, grounding, earthy, rich. It is home. Holy basil is a herb, light, green, pure. An herb is direct energy absorbed from the sun, a root is energy pulled from the earth. They embody different things; they affect your body differently. I am getting off topic but really, it's a great road to take off topic. Get to know what you eat, what it means to you, what you mean to it. It's the exchange that matters.
8. What is the super’ist food of all so I can eat just that one and forget the rest?
That would be water. The highest quality you may find! And don’t eat it, that might be weird.
If you are asking what my favorite superfoods are, I would say that the ones I find myself eating the most often are:
Açai: I just love it. I love it as a bowl, mostly. It's weird the first time I ever ate it I was living in Florence one summer and I was 17 and frankly I had no idea what açai was. Even raw food at the time was just a cool hobby of mine. On one of my long walks, I crossed Ponte Vecchio. Hungry, I saw this little place called Cantina del Gelato. I'll take that purple thing with granola and banana slices. Ever since it's something I like eating.
Cacao: cacao is heart opening and you know it tastes good.
Spirulina: this one is tricky. Quality and growth environment are really important. Giddy yoyo has a great one. I don't particularly LOVE their chocolate - don't get me wrong, it is good - but in terms of taste, it is a bit too astringent, sour and citrusy to me. That is why my favorite giddy flavor is the lemon-lime and the spirulina, because, it just works as a whole mouth experience.
Wild Blueberries, brazil nuts, hemp seeds, wild mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and young coconuts (the whole thing, water, meat).
9. Blue Green Algae what is it and what’s the big difference between Spirulina, Chlorella and E3 Live, are they all the same?
The term blue-green algae generally describes a photosynthetic microorganism. It is only because it lives in water and produces its own food - through photosynthesis - that it is called algae. It really has nothing to do with Nori or Dulse, which are more lettuces that grow in water. That means that unlike us, humans, blue-green algaes produce energy - think sugars - with sunlight and water and few other things, and release oxygen as a by-product.
The differences between Chlorella, Spirulina and E3 Live are mainly biological.
Chlorella is technically not a blue-green algae because it is a plant and not a bacteria. It is a green algae. No blue. It has a circular shape surrounded by a cellular wall made of cellulose. It is unicellular.
Within its cellular walls, Chlorella contains a nucleus and houses various cellular components such as chloroplasts. The chloroplasts are little pill-shaped structures living inside the Chlorella cell; they transform sunlight into energy. Chlorella can grow in salt water and/or in freshwater, just like Spirulina.
Spirulina prefers the pH of freshwater. Its shape is coiled. It is a bacteria and not a plant. Spirulina is categorized as a blue-green algae because it has no separated cellular components and yet produces energy from sunlight, like the green algaes. Basically, unlike Chlorella, everything floats in its belly freely. The whole organism produces energy from sunlight, not just a component inside of it, like the chloroplast in the Chlorella. In other words, Spirulina is very similar to the chloroplast living inside the Chlorella cell, not the whole Chlorella. In that sense, it is more ancient in a way. Having evolved into being a component of Chlorella. The Chloroplast maybe? At this point, it is getting very scientific and I am not sure I am a micro algae expert.
Nutritionally speaking, Chlorella and Spirulina both have high amounts of protein, essential fats and trace minerals. Spirulina is generally more easily absorbed by the body because it doesn't have a cellulose wall protecting its insides like Chlorella and most plants do. Spirulina contains all the amino acids. It has higher quality and more protein by weight then Chlorella. Chlorella contains a special growth factor which helps repair body tissue.
E3 Live is a type of blue green algae called AFA (Aphanizomenon flos-aquae). E3 Live is the name of a product and not the actual organism. AFA is, like Spirulina, a bacteria. It grows in freshwater. The special thing about AFA is that is is sold frozen, and therefore claims to be more alive. AFA has a softer outer shell then Spirulina, and may be easier to assimilate by our bodies.
The fact is, Superfoods are more expensive food products because everyone up and down the chain - given that the company has integrity - is valued and celebrated as essential to its existence. The land, the people, the animals, the energy. The complex network of interconnected systems. A true superfood is delicately crafted, authentic and revolutionary.
So, is the classic celery stick exciting and empowering and magical? Well I guess it’s up to you to decide. Where did you buy it, how did you eat it? Again, ask enough questions to know how you feel, but not too much to forget to feel.
Understand that any thing named super is meant to sound exciting and liberating! Whether it is or it isn't is a combination of personal experience, opinion and science. I think that Superfoods have a potential to be tools of change and of overall goodness.
And you probably don’t need them. Until you try them.
*Trace minerals are essential in small quantities to the functioning of our bodies. Examples include zinc, manganese, selenium and copper.
Find out more about Chloé on her website here.