As our mouths gobble on more processed food-like products than ever before, people have started to look for whole, natural alternatives for healthier, longer life without sacrificing the taste. According to Google Trends and Google Insight, “superfood” term is on the rise in the tranquil northern haven with thousands of lakes and pure nature, also known as Finland.
In the past five years or so Finns have started to opt raw chocolate for guilt-free indulging, and cacao isn’t the only star of the show; Chaga mushroom, used as coffee replacement during the war time, was chosen as the herb of the year 2013, and is available in almost any city now. In Finland, people eat more of these and other nutrient-dense treats than any country per capita. Easy access to mushrooms and ravenous bilberry-picking deep in the woods surely can’t be the only answers to why this small, distant country has become the hot spot of the industry. Maybe the Finns are onto something that other countries can follow: Could chaga be the new espresso in Italy, raw cakes replace French pastries, and kale chips beat crisps in the UK?
Foodism: The Why And The How
Curious as we in FSF are, we decided to talk to those who know and have been around superfoods and the whole hype since mr. Goji along with his friends Maca, Cacao and the rest of the exotic super gang first arrived in Finland. A doctor, a reporter, a store owner and a health coach walk into a bar…but that’s a completely different story.
Why have superfoods spread and become such a popular trend in Finland?
Samuli Perälä, co-founder of Numen Oy and the person who is said to be one of the Fathers of Superfoods in Finland, says: “There already was a demand for superfoods, because ‘normal’ foods have become less nutritional during the past years. Superfoods were the easy answer to a natural deficiency.”
Olli Sovijärvi, doctor and Helsinki Paleo podcaster adds, that superfoods are also a response to the government’s monopolies, such as Valio (dairy products) and other great “food houses”.
“in addition to the global health trend, Finland’s natural resources for superfoods such as berries make them more accessible.”, Noora Shingler, journalist, author and owner of the popular Kemikaalicocktail-blog thinks.
Maria Lönnqvist uses blueberries in her raw superfood cupcakes
What made the snowball to roll; when did it all begin and what happened for the demand to increase?
“The first superfood products such as goji and maca started to sell in 2007″, Heini Mikkonen, the owner of Runsaudensarvi eco shop in Tampere, recalls. The following year, thanks to few active, young and athletic guys with a lot of enthusiasm and sometimes aggressive promoting, the media and the masses started to get interested in these nutritional powerhouses. Mikkonen also thanks the fresh style of branding to the popularity of superfoods. She thinks that green smoothies would not have sold so well and the message would not have gone through, if it had been promoted by hippies.
Finland was fast in catching up with what was popular in the United States, and few Finnish companies started importing superfoods through “Finnish channels”. Jaakko Halmetoja, Olli Posti and eager women’s magazines’ reporters were behind the publicity and rapid growth in general interest towards superfoods. The healthy example and experience-based education from Halmetoja, Posti and few other “foodists” kept the interest high, providing them opportunities for public appearances in major tv-channels’ talk shows and other programs. Few health programs in tv and in the radio started to regularly pay interest to superfoods and better overall lifestyle, making people demand superfoods from their supermarkets.
The effects of exposure and example are vital, says Noora Shingler, an active reporter questioning our society: “When certain public personas and bloggers started spreading the word, others became interested. People tried superfoods themselves and found out that they make you feel good and can easily replace nutrient-poor ingredients. The popularity is self-evident!”
Shingler also points out, that superfoods are re-inventing the wheel: “the oldest and most precious ingredients from around the world get value in the eyes of a new target group because of their new, trendy name. I think it’s great that a new word has caught the attention of people. For all I care, superfoods could be called little rocks if it made people enjoy original, healthy and energetic ingredients instead of weak, processed products.”
Sick Of Being Sick, Or Looking For A Healthy Treat?
According to Heini Mikkonen, at first the most popular superfoods were cacao, goji and maca. Because of bad publicity goji’s popularity decreased, which still shows. “The most popular superfoods now are maca, spirulina, chaga, cacao, goji, chlorella, roseroot, guarana, FSF mushroom extracts…” and the list goes on. Mikkonen defines Finns as open to try new and that superfoods suit the “Finnish mentality” with their concrete effects on the mind and body.
“Since superfoods are often used to boost the immune system, protect from flu and other illnesses, they are more popular during the cold months of the year.” (which means basically any other month than in the summer – editor’s note)
Olli Sovijärvi, a doctor specialized in nutrition and exercise, points out that adaptogens such as roseroot are popular due to their hormone balancing effects. Sovijärvi also states that you can fill nutrient deficiencies and boost daily energy and health with superfoods. “Many of my patients use superfoods and by subjective experiences they have proven to be very beneficial health-wise.”
When selected carefully, Sovijärvi believes that superfoods can bring a lot of extra value to health. “Chronic stress, which is perhaps in the background for 90% of diseases, is one of the main reasons for imbalance in the body. Adaptogens, such as schisandra, ashwagandha and roseroot are very effective in healing this.”
“Often people eat too much stimulating superfoods, or then they eat the wrong foods because they don’t know how to listen to their body. Often the usage instructions are not clear enough, which can lead to side effects”, Samuli Perälä adds. However, Perälä has not received any completely negative feedback about superfoods during the years he has been involved in the health field and superfood scene.
All of the superfood experts agree that basically anyone from hipster teenagers to their grandparents buys superfoods. Since the selection is growing wider and wider, people start experimenting with different superfood combinations and recipes, and find their new favorites.
For few years now, bloggers have been active in creating and sharing their mouth-watering treats from superior ingredients. Guilt-free raw dessert cakes and chocolates that look just like their conventional, unhealthy versions seem to appeal especially to the ladies – which makes mastering the art of making chocolate appealing to men, too.
Chocolove by Smoothie Studio
Are Superfoods Here To Stay?
You can buy a raw chocolate kit instead of a cake bake mix, and no one can argue that smoothies take too much time to whirl up. Ashwagandha might be hard to pronounce for some, but luckily it’s not the only option in the superfood clan.
What does this all result in, what are the good outcomes of superfoods’ popularity?
Superfoods have increased general attention and knowledge about nutrients, and the low quality of “regular” food. Everyone agrees that more demand leads to easier access and broader selection, which is generally a positive thing. However, not all products are equally super: “Some products may be taking advantage of the buzzword superfood, like regular milk chocolate that has goji berries and is then marketed as superfood”, Noora Shingler points out.
Heini Mikkonen thinks that at some point the popularity and media attention went out of hands, causing irritation. As a result, natural Finnish products polished their image.
“We have woken up to appreciate and protect Finnish supers: blueberries, buckthorn, nettle, chaga and wild herbs have become better-known.”
“In general people awaken to the fact that processed “food” does not improve health, but it makes you prone to different ailments. Preventing sickness and maintaining health are the most important long-term effects of superfoods, most of which have already been used for thousands of years in China and India”, Olli Sovijärvi concludes.
Finnish honey products, Smoothie Studio honey spiked with chaga (c) Smoothie Studio
Superfoods are now everyday items to many Finns, and they are widely available. Therefore all the interviewed believe that natural, pure ingredients that are marketed as superfoods have become a staple in the Finnish kitchen repertoire for good. One of the keys to success seems to be aggressive promoting from successful people from all walks of life who are more than willing to share their discoveries, experiments and experiences with the new, yet ancient ingredients. But no matter from what angle you look at it, the real change happens through the real-life stories and individuals sharing their own experiences. With slight cultural modifications, other countries can also leverage the example of the Finns and help democratize superfoods around the world.
Blueberries and goji berries can be a match made in heaven in the same breakfast bowl, and they may become our everyday bread for the next decades, even centuries – and why not, since they’ve been around all along.
Little over a year ago Jesse Väänänen was still an Olympic-level cross-country skier. After several years of small and large health issues that severely had affected his career, I was able to convince him to participate in the FSF Challenge where he sampled our first instant beverages for 30 days. He liked the stuff and the rest is history. Today we’re happy to announce that the same guy has started as a FSF Brand Manager. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him onboard. I say this because most people know this 197cm giant as a talented athlete, but underneath you’ll find a man with various talents and an interesting story. Please enter Jesse Väänänen.
Can you first tell a bit about your background and why did you get into sprint skiing? I know your dad might have influenced your decision. “Well I started skiing when I was only 6 years old and from very young age I told people that I want to be the Olympic champion. I lived less than a kilometer away from all the possible sport venues but I chose to XC-ski my days through. I tried some other sports as well but the quiet forest and several hours alone in pain turned out to be my thing. Those who have seen me playing soccer or anything else with a ball or more than 5 guys around me (there’s six guys in one sprint heat ;) ) know how much I suck at that. No kidding. I literally suck. And like you said, my father might have had his little finger in the game also. He used to be an international level skier back in the 80′s and naturally wanted me to follow his steps into this amazing sport.” Photo: Jukka Veltheim
To those who don’t follow winter sports or who have never seen snow, can you elaborate a bit more what did you do for living and what were your accomplishments? “My dream was always to make my living on the skiing tracks and I was lucky enough to live that dream for some years. In Finland it’s rather difficult to make your living as an individual athlete, and I feel very fortunate to have achieved that. I never took the Olympic medal that I dreamed about but I fought for it in Vancouver 2010. I was in the best shape of my life and I had just been 4th in the World Cup race before the Olympics. During the last couple weeks I simply tried too much, lost the sharpest edge and ended up being 22nd. But when I think back to those thousands of hours of training for one piece of metal, I believe this is how it was meant to be. In the end I got what matters the most – amazing and unique experiences.” So, 22 years of XC-skiing ended last spring. What did it give to you as a human being and what was the “end-product” of it all? “At first I consciously took some time apart from sports and started to look around. After all 22 years is a long time. Sports career taught me self-discipline, devotion, self-knowledge and love for the pain among other things. But most of all it taught me that I want to do something meaningful in the future as well. Nine to five is not an option!”
After all the health problems you encountered during your career, what does nutrition mean to you? Also, why did you ever get excited about such marketing hocus pocus as superfoods? I mean, when we met in 2008 you were flawless in recognizing different coke brands from each others in a blindfold test… ;) “Haha. Not guilty. Okay, to be honest, I was one of those athletes who think they can eat anything because they train so much. WRONG. And that is the only thing that I regret a bit about my career. I hope I would have been more aware of the better options and most of all open to try them. When I finally opened my mind and faced the facts, I was overwhelmed about the new reality. My lungs felt different, my muscles were more elastic, I had more energy and most importantly I stayed healthy. I would say the first and hardest step is to change your attitude and beliefs. The rest comes naturally. And what comes to superfoods, as an athlete I always wanted and had to push the limits. Mediocre was never an option. So why to settle for mediocre food when there’s super-quality food available?!”
What are your favorite foods today? Maybe you can list a few favorite dishes and a few superfoods you love. I know you are quite a chef as well. “Well ice cream is ice cream. There’s no arguing with that. I’m bit of a sweet tooth and with raw chocolate it was love at first sight. These two are on their own league but I also love fresh salad with avocado, cashews and quality salt. I eat daily maybe five to ten different superfoods and surprise raw cacao is my favorite. With spirulina and chlorella I have kind of a love-hate relationship. I still don’t quite get along with their taste but I just love the effects!” You recently decided to join our team over several other lucrative job offers that frankly would have probably made you a lot more money. What was the road from FSF testimonial to FSF brand manager? Why are we having this interview right now? “Have you ever heard yourself talking? You can be very convincing ;) Just kidding. Yes, I had some other possibilities and I actually did plenty of things during the last year. But as I’ve known you guys for quite some time and have seen the passion in your work, there was actually only one choice. I’m more than thrilled to be part of this team and I’m dead certain that we’ll do something special together.”
You talk so passionately about helping others and about charity aspect. Can you talk a bit more about that as well? “To be honest my life as an individual athlete was basically to take forward my own interests. That’s what sports eventually are all about. When I had the chance to participate in FSF Charity, I didn’t hesitate a second. I wanted to do something that was never possible when I was XC-skiing. I had travelled to 25+ countries of wealth and prosperity but never been to Asia or “the real world”. This may sound like a cliche but when I saw the kids from Smokey Mountains, it literally made a huge difference to my life. Like I said before, I want to do something meaningful and something with a higher purpose.” Skydiving, photographing, playing classical guitar, making hole-in-ones in golf, painting, practicing imitations, what else…you have the most random list of hobbies. You come across as a fast learner who is always on the lookout for new stuff to try out. Have you always been a curious soul? “Look around! How could one not to try everything possible? Like I said before, I’ve got some serious issues with mediocre. I’ve always been very curious to try different things. Some have gone well, some haven’t. I’ve broken several bones (incl. three vertebrae) and spend multiple days in different hospitals. My lifetime goal has been to jump a base jump but Mr. Pastrana has set the new bar. What the heck, we only live once!”
Lari Laurikkala is a man of many roles in our Team Four Sigma Foods. He’s an Affiliate Manager, the official FSF Chef, and the main coach to retailers about our products. You can spot him in the trade shows we attend or just randomly walking on the streets somewhere in the world. So who is this yet another crazy Finnish guy who could hold the title for the world’s slowest eater, has a worm compost in his kitchen, and who about fifth of the Finland’s population has seen in the TV five times a week for years? Time for the next FSF Profile…
Thinking globally and (literally) acting locally
We two got together in Hong Kong a few months back and you continued your travels
from there. How are you doing now?
I just got back home after 5 months of traveling on ﬁve continents. It still takes a little time getting the daily life up and running while the temperature change from Florida to Helsinki was a nice 40´C also. I’m all good though, enjoying the snow and all the winter activities we can do up here from xc-skiing to ice hole dipping and snowball fighting! First things ﬁrst so it is nice to answer this interview and maybe spread some inspiration to all the FSF followers out there!
This wasn’t your first time abroad! What are some memorable moments from the times on the road?
I have always enjoyed exploring new destinations and meeting people. I have made it to 50 different countries now and every new one still keeps amazing me with their uniqueness and great people. You cannot really pick one memory over everything else but some good stories would come from the time spent on a bee farm in Russia or doing a jump off a bridge at 600ft in South-Africa. This time I’m so thankful for all the help I got from my friends out there and also through Couchsurfing. If you are not yet familiar with Couchsurfing I really encourage everybody to give it a try! What other way can you visit about 50 places on the smallest budget and stay only in a handful of hostels while having a blast meeting awesome local people?
Do you also have some previous experiences about cultural collisions?
When I had just turned 16 I found myself living in the States for a year by myself where supposedly everything is bigger. Well I ended up in a village in Michigan with less than 1000 people. 15 minutes drive away from the “city center”, on a farm with few hundred cows. I have always been unprejudiced but at that time this cityboy had a few things to get used to :) After coming back home I stayed in the exchange student organization as a volunteer and organized tens of workshops and met hundreds of foreigners from all backgrounds. I have a lot to thank these experiences for my open-mindedness.
So then you landed a role in the most popular TV show of Finland (Salatut Elämät) became a teenage heartcrusher, and got more than your share of the 15-minutes of fame. How did that all happen? It seems quite the change.
It was all coincidence and I guess just meant to happen like everything in life. I had no real experience of acting but wanted to try it out so I got through the auditions and was chosen for the role from quite a bunch of people. Naturally gifted, you know :) The soap opera has been cited as the world’s most watched TV show when compared to the population where it is aired and even though I quit two years ago, still sometimes people pull out their cameras on the streets. So it has it’s ups and downs but the work itself was a lot of fun for few years!
Finding the passion towards food and nutrition
How did you get into studying all this nutrition and made your full time goal to find peak performance and health?
Through chocolate, of course :) Actually I had read about coconut oil in some ladies fashion magazine while getting a haircut and went to buy it but the real benefits of it didn’t hit me until a workmate told me about making your own healthy chocolate. I went straight to internet and found all these informative blogs (especially Olli Posti’s) and started ordering new weird ingredients for my cooking. The rest is history :) Clean foods clear your mind and that might just change your life. When I found my first own chaga and started boiling it there was no going back.
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”
-Clay P Bedford (Kaiser Industries)
What do you think are some easy ways to start living healthier and more consciously?
The most important thing I would like to see is people becoming more involved with their decisions in life and start taking responsibility of their own well-being. It doesn’t need to be rocket science, just finding a good balance and believing in nature a little will take a person many levels up. The means for being healthy and happy are hard-wired into us. Be open to everything, try new things and find your ways to keep a positive mindset. The world and life is after all nothing but a big playground so why not enjoy it!
I understood you are are big time into gathering wild foods and spending long days in the garden growing your own food, why all this effort?
Because I love it. You would think it drains your energy to shovel dirt for 8 hours or hike on a swamp all day but in my experience it just gives you more energy. When you do anything from a child-like curiosity and with full drive, your body, mind and spirit gets the best possible nutrition and growth.
The other reason goes back to the poor quality of our daily food nowadays. In the last 100 years the mineral density in farm grown vegetables and fruits have gone down 20-80%. You would need to eat ﬁve carrots to get the same nutrients than our grand-grandparents used to get in one. I think it is a waste. We all can easily vote against this N-P-K-raping of the soils with our wallets by buying organic and in general knowing a little more of where our food comes from. Almost as easily we can plant a few herbs on our yard or windowsill or pick a few nettles during our morning walk.
Third reason is the dependance most people live in today. There are only few days worth of food in the grocery stores and not much more in a normal person’s kitchen. I like at least the idea that I have few things put aside and that I know some basic skills to survive for a while in an extreme situation.
Slow cooking, slow eating, and food experimentation
Now the apparent big snow cover prevents you from both growing and harvesting any of your food. What are your strategies for overcoming this in the winter and do you already have a plan for the spring?
Can’t wait to tap the first maple again in march-april to do a little spring fasting, get boiling my own chaga-maple-syrup and start filling up the cellar with sap-herb-honey-meads. Of course the first goutweeds and nettle shoots are the most delicious things out there. Until that I fulfill my green thumb with sprouting and taking care of baby kefirs and kombuchas, preparing sauerkraut and nut cheeses and starting seedlings of everything I will be growing in the summer. A little container in my kitchen corner converts all the cooking scraps to a great growing medium thanks to the composting worms.
How does your daily cooking look like? For example what you got cooking right now, our official FSF chef au le experiment?
I don’t want to shock you – well actually I do – but right now I got a nice leftover stew coming in the slow cooker with organic pork kidneys, tongue and heart, wild Finnish mushrooms and lots of spices. This kind of food gives me a nice warming bulk-base during these cold months in addition to my pretty regular egg breakfast. But how gross is it to eat all these weird animal parts and intestines or even meat at all? After trying almost every kind of extreme diet I feel that my body and mind functions the best with good balance of heavier and lighter foods while keeping a steady blood sugar. Quality meats prepared well and with love are comforting and empowering at the same time. And I think it is more ethical to use consciously these less valued parts of animals instead of wasting them. I like to always have a bigger batch of good organic cuts or game meat in my freezer. Again to be a little more self-sufficient.
To balance that I have a daily smoothie and/or a green juice included in my diet with all the berries, seeds, seaweeds and other superfoods. In general I aim for at least 50-70% raw in everything. After all that a smoothie a day keeps the doctor away!
I remember you having most of your wrap still nicely in your hand after I had downed mine in an organic restaurant Mana! in HK. You must spend about half of your life just chewing on your food! Are you always that slow? :)
Haha, I have had some funny and sometimes even a little embarrassing moments like that. People have finished their food a long time ago and it might seem that my plate is still about untouched. I just like to enjoy my food. You can make it almost like a meditation every time you sit down with something to nourish your body with. I’ve got a habit to savour every bite and chew it up pretty well to ease my digestion as well.
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work
You seem to always have your to-do list full of stuff so you must like being active.
Despite being this potential snob as a golf player (Tero’s note: Lari has played golf for 13 years), an actor and being grown in a city I have never been afraid of getting my hands dirty. I have actually always loved it and I could be classified as a legendary thinks-to-know-it-all DIY man. If I get an idea of building something or run across a problem I often jump right into it and don’t give up until it is fixed or ready. Sometimes even things that are working properly as is need to be tweaked a bit, just because. In Finnish we call this “hiﬁstely” which means as the name indicates making everything a little more “high-ﬁdelity”, not settling with just average. There is always a way to adjust things a little further, whether it’s your habits, ingredients in cooking, quality and materials of your clothes or trying something like adding strong magnets to your blender jug.
“The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences”
-John Krakauer (Into the Wild)
Now Lari is really enthusiastically spreading the word of mushrooms and holding some cooking classes in the spring with some occasional traveling. You can meet him at our trade shows and events around Europe. For settling down a little later he has some good sounding plans. Where might we find you after some years from now?
Living off the fat of the land somewhere. Hopefully not just a loner in the woods but I bet there will be a way to organize a nice combination of that and an active social life. Let’s leave it to the universe to choose where, how and when that will be. But I know someday it will happen. That’s what matters.
Kate Magic knows the vegetable kingdom and how to enjoy it, too: she has been eating mostly raw foods for over 20 years. Shift to the ever more popular lifestyle started when Kate moved away from home and became vegetarian at the age of 17, then vegan and from there, only raw foods. “I’ve always wanted to find the foods that work for me the best. I’m pretty sure I was gluten and lactose intolerant. I’ve always been big fan of vegetables.”
According to Kate, everyone can benefit from eating more raw food, although going raw once and for all is not the best option for everyone.
“The body has an innate self-healing capacity. When given the right tools, it will do everything it can to heal itself. Once you start feeling good, then you naturally want to start doing more. Forcing yourself is not wise; find a level that suits you. Even just 50% raw makes you feel amazing. There’s definitely a magic, a whole new energy that comes in. It’s a journey.”
“The main thing people need to get back into is a whole foods diet. The majority of the health issues that we encounter are simply due to a deviation from that. In the past, the majority of what we ate was local, not processed and packaged. Currently, the general state of health in Western societies is pretty tragic.“
Who said raw couldn’t be delicious?
Magic Bubble: Superpower Shield
Kate Magic is spreading the raw love to her loyal followers in Kate’s Magic Bubble, her now 3 years old internet community. In The Bubble, Kate regularly updates her collection of over 400 exclusive articles, recipes, interviews and videos regarding raw foods and everything that comes along with the lifestyle.
“This may sound crazy, but raw foods was just my mission. Like someone who has always wanted to play piano, I just always knew I had to do food. I’ve got all this experience to share, and now people are waking up to the benefits of healthy eating. The world is the most insane it’s ever been! People need to find the strength and energy within themselves to deal with the demands and the stresses of everyday llife.”
When it comes to the magical name of The Bubble, Kate tells us: “I don’t know, really, it was just one of those things. This American guy who was helping me set up the site had bubbles on his Skype picture. Now the meaning is about building your own superhero force-field, a protective shield. It’s so easy to get sucked into negativity, so self-awareness and wisdom are important. Don’t let anyone burst your bubble!”
Besides keeping The Bubble bubbling with the latest innovations and innovators, Kate is busy home educating her 3 sons, all of whom are on raw diet as well. She is really excited about Bikram yoga, and is thinking about going to yoga teacher training. “I also go out a lot, I’ve got a good social life. I go clubbing quite a bit, I love music and I’d like to do more DJ’ing as well.” In addition to her hobbies, Kate travels about every week. She loves to meet people and hold events, rather than sit behind the computer.
According to Kate, living raw brings completely new levels of energy
Up the Raw: One In, One Out
What is the best ingredient you know, your favorite in cooking?
“It’s really hard to say…maybe avocado would be one of them. It’s so versatile. Baobab is another favorite. It is a natural flavor enhancer that works in anything, both sweet and savoury dishes.”
At the end of this interview, Kate reveals her special Lion’s Mane avocado pesto recipe.
Do you use medicinal mushrooms / what are your experiences with them? “I really love them. I have used them for about 5 years. I really feel like they’re one of the best things for creating this superhero shield, sense of inner strength. It’s hard to put in words. It fills in the holes, makes you feel like whatever it is, you can do it. They’re also very good in immune-boosting. I love superfoods, because they work both in the physical body and the energetic body.”
Kate’s advice on how to start eating raw includes some trading: “Do a one in, one out system. Choose one thing you’re eating out of habit and drop that. Instead, include a new food that sounds exciting: for example, rather than coffee, drink reishi tea. Instead of trying to include lots of things, take it slowly.”
When it comes to the essentials of the raw diet, in addition to the conventional vegetables and leafy greens such as kale, Kate lists: “Lots of hydration and liquids, since it is important to be fully alkalized. Healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut, flax and hemp are needed, too. Superfoods are good because they are nutrient-dense, helping our bodies which are exposed to pollution and under stress. Little amounts of maca, spirulina and reishi are always good. They really work better if you take them in smaller amounts over longer period of time. Make it a daily habit.”
According to Kate, one can avoid unhealthy cravings by having a small portion of the craving along with a large portion of raw food. “It is not good to deprive yourself and ignore cravings, since they are signs of deficiencies. You should find a way to substitute cravings. Up the raw! The craving will become disappointing when you have something that tastes good and makes you feel good instead.”
A quote Kate is constantly being reminded of right now is from Goethe: “Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” I believe the universe loves it when we take big risks. The more we push ourselves, the more the universe appreciates our courage and daring and looks to support us in making our dreams happen. If the choices we are making for ourselves are limiting and not about accessing our full potential, then those kind of situations never work out optimally. Dream big and see what miracles will unfold!“
Lion’s Mane Pesto
Recipe by Kate Magic 2013
Makes 8 servings
Takes 10 mins
You need a Blender
This pesto is gorgeous spread thinly on crackers or use as salad dressing for some seasonal green leaves.
- 1 large bunch basil
- 1 large avocado
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 1 tsp lion’s mane powder
- 1 tsp white miso
Prepare the basil for the blender. You can use most of it, you may want to discard some of the ends if they are very thick and woody. Scoop out the meat of the avocado with a spoon. Put everything in the blender together, and blend until you have a gorgeous thick paste. Store in the fridge in an airtight container, it should keep for as long as a week.
Peter Emil Nielsen is the co-founder of the Danish Palæo restaurant. Thanks to his health-conscious partner Mads Fischer, Emil has been following the Paleo lifestyle for about 1,5 years now, and there seems to be no end in sight.
“During the week I eat only Paleo, which means there is no bread, pasta or wheat and gluten products on my plate. On weekends it’s not so strict. I personally follow the Paleo lifestyle 80/20 which works for me. Most of the people I know who follow Paleo’s lifestyle also follow it during the weekends, however when out with friends or family eat what is served in front of them. I personally feel better when I follow the Paleo lifestyle, but to me it is not a religion.”
From the Stone Age to Today’s Tables
“I believe in moderation”, Peter says, “though people died younger in the Stone Age, their bodies were certainly healthier. Their lifestyle was completely different from ours: they had to fight off nature, and lived in caves, nowadays we have medicine and live in houses etc. But there are definitely some things we can learn from. Then again, the cavemen didn’t brush their teeth. The lifestyle is a question of interpretation.”
“Cavemen actually had less plaque in their teeth than we do today but this is due to them not having access to the amount of sugary foods and drinks that we do today. Cavemen probably ate anything that was put in front of them; however the concentrated carbohydrates that plague our daily supermarkets and grocers weren’t a part of their menu! And they are what lack any form of vitality!”
The Paleo ideology is based on the idea of a complete, healthy life. To Emil, Paleo is not a fad. “I don’t think it’s a diet. People who eat Paleo as a diet are not going to get the results they want. It’s a way of life. It’s about making conscious decisions about what’s healthy and what’s not, and how to feel better overall long-term.”
The Paleo diet consists of foods that were available for our ancestors in the Paleolithic era. The strict followers of the Paleo lifestyle say no thanks to processed foods and sugars, grains, dairy products, starches, legumes and other everyday ingredients that the cavemen couldn’t get their hands on. The reasons for following the caveman diet can be various, but most usual include the view that in the good old days people were healthier and did not suffer from common diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Fast Food Cavemen-style
According to Peter, the paleo lifestyle can be customized to fit our modern society of office workers. “Recipes provide huge possibilities. To make lasagna, you can start playing around with different vegetables that you wouldn’t normally use. We have our own substitutes for common dishes, such as pasta made from vegetables with our special bolognaise sauce.”
“We want to make people aware that you can live without bread and starchy food. We create good meals from natural ingredients. Our bodies are not genetically modified to accept processed foods. We can eat and live healthy without eating the products we were grown up eating. It’s not a necessity to eat oats, bread and such.”
Photos: Bob Hongsa
What comes to the menu of Palæo, Peter states: “Palæo is a take-away restaurant. We change the menu based on what works, but we want people to be able to recognize our signature meals. We also want to keep people interested and have variety in the dishes. New recipes are developed by Googling, researching and looking through different ideas. Our chef then tests our ideas and tells us what works and what doesn’t.”
The ingredients of Palæo restaurant are as local as possible. “Obviously we can’t get woolly mammoth. We eat what’s around, so we have duck in our menu. Egg, chicken and beef are available. If we were in South Africa, we might have antelope on the menu.”
Making it happen
Pal¬æo take-away started from a need for a healthy fast lunch. Together with his partners Mads Fisher & Christian Bowall, Emil started thinking about a better version of a salad bar, followed by an idea of a café with only healthy food. After getting the Danish “Caveman”, Thomas Rhode Andersen interested in their vision, things started snowballing.
“Everything went incredibly fast from October to December, when we had a lot of meetings and planning”, Peter tells, “the opening of the first restaurant was in March.” After that, things certainly haven’t slowed down: The second location of Palæo opened in October 2012.
The dream of Palæo is to expand, first in Denmark, later globally.
“We want to open a chain. Hopefully we will be able to open more restaurants. We have been offered a franchise deal, but we want to make sure we get everything right. We dream of being big” From the beginning, the restaurant has got a lot of attention globally, both in the contemporary media as well as online, especially in blogs. According to Peter, the potential of the paleo ideology is huge growing exponentially. “Paleo and Cross fit really go hand in hand, the community within the cross fit and Paleo world seem to have grown together, and Cross fit is a big part of where our Paleo take-away was born.”
Photo: Bob Hongsa
Palæo has a strong community on Facebook, where the discussion is vivid and people post questions about the Paleo lifestyle and food. The restaurant also offers deals and promotions via their Facebook page. From online to the real life, Peter is looking forward to having people come to the restaurant and give the paleo lifestyle a chance.
“You can follow the lifestyle for 4 weeks, and many feel a new energy. Try to see if it works for you. A lot of people would be surprised to see the difference! The majority of people have got a lot of positive effects after eating 4 weeks of Paleo food. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to your old lifestyle.”
So far, there is not much competition for Palæo.
“There’s a restaurant in Berlin, but that is the only other established restaurant selling Paleo food that I know of. And we are a takeaway, fast food place. In Denmark, eating Paleo has never been as popular as it is now. There are loads of books, blogs etc., everywhere, and the movement is growing every day. The green wave is getting bigger and bigger, and people are becoming more aware that this is making them healthier. In Denmark we have the best restaurant in the world, Noma, and now the best Paleo take-away restaurant, Palæo – Primal Gastronomi.“
Mikael Mäkinen is the Sales Director of Four Sigma Foods, and is currently based in Finland even though he travels a lot around Europe with occasional visits to Asia and the United States. I had a chance to interview my ex-flatmate while spending Christmas together in the Philippines. In this FSF Profile I hope to put more color on who is this former ice hockey guy who holds nicknames like “Terminator” and “The Machine” among his closest friends.
Truly a global citizen
Mikael has properly lived in eight (Finland, Nepal, the USA, Malaysia, the Philippines, Oman, Brazil, and Ireland) and traveled to more than 50 countries. Just this year alone he has been in five of the TOP 10 sights of 2012 according to Lonely Planet. Which country stroke you the most?
“I think one of my life-changing experiences was my 10-month stay in Nepal. I was 12 years old and went to a local school. People were so happy despite of them having pretty much nothing in Western terms. The experience taught me to value my life differently, and as a first-time foreign stay was important for my growth towards ‘international citizenship’ ”
You must get this question a lot but could you tell our readers how come you look more like a Latino than a typical blond-haired and blue-eyed Finn?
“Hahhaa. Touché. I’m born and raised in Finland to a Finnish mother but my father comes from Tunisia in Africa, and I seem to have heritage more of my father’s appearance. People mistake me a lot for a non-Finn even in my small home town. For example one lady in my university canteen said ‘thank you’ in English for years despite of me speaking Finnish to her every time.”
Sports in the blood
Your friends know you as a sport enthusiastic, and you’ve done numerous marathons, triathlons and sports races. You also seem to know every player at UEFA Champions League and you hold our FSF Team’s current “Season’s Best” result for 12-minute Cooper test. What is your relationship with sports?
“I’ve played all kinds of sports since I learned to walk. I’ve always been into ice hockey and football but most professional training I’ve received in tennis while in high school in the States. Nowadays, I do a variety of sports ranging from yoga to rugby. For instance this autumn I spent most of my sporting hours on a road bike.”
Your sports experience is not limited only to your own activities. At least people in Finland have read your newspaper blog from Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
“Hahhah. That seems like a long time already. I just love football due to its importance to people and passionate followers around the world. You can talk about football with the president of Finland as well as with a street kid in Tanzania. I’ve attended the past football final games in South Africa and Ukraine even though my national team has never (as of now) made it to the cup itself. In domestic level my biggest love is my Finnish ice hockey team Ilves that hasn’t done so well lately either…”
A change towards healthier lifestyle
How did you become interested in healthy eating?
“That is a really good question. My family background comes from entrepreneurial family as my grandparents and later my uncle used to own a local grocery store in Finland for 40 years where I also worked in my childhood. My mother has always cooked fresh food from organic ingredients so healthy habits are deeply rooted in my diet. However, while in university my life got too hectic which meant that I worked and partied too much, ate unhealthy and had a constant sleep deprivation. This all led to being sick several times a year and to few minor surgeries.”
I remember talking to you a lot about holistic health and wholefoods when we shared a flat in 2009 but you were rather ‘stubborn’.
“Slightly. You and Mikko talked to me about different superfood products for almost 4 years before I was convinced. To be honest I don’t even remember which products you first hyped to me as I wasn’t interested. After moving to Ireland to work for Google in 2011 I heard that you were planning to start a company with a few common friends of ours in the areas of health, lifestyle and nutrition. I was instantly interested. As a business advisor of the company I wasn’t first too involved in the product development but when I got a bag of cordyceps mushroom to try out I had a real WOW-experience. After few days I already felt a big difference in my recovery and energy levels at work. That day I wanted to get more involved, and I started to study. It led to finding new products and changing my lifestyle a bit by bit.”
I remember you having many sinus problems previously. Have those changed during the years?
“Yes, I’ve noticed a great change. I had sinusitis pretty much every second month which led to antibiotics and worst immune system. I haven’t had sinusitis since 2011, and my immune system has improved despite of me working more than ever, traveling every second week and doing sports around 6 times a week. Those all should affect negatively on our immune system but for me it’s been the opposite. I give a lot of credit to medicinal mushrooms that I added to my diet around the same time.”
Why did you decide to leave a rather promising career for Four Sigma Foods?
“After studying foods, and especially looking around what is mostly offered to us in our grocery stores I wanted to change it. It won’t happen fast and I know it won’t be easy but I strongly believe that by influencing our diet and living we can cut down most of the diseases in the current world. Not to mention the additional energy and good feeling that healthy choices bring to us. I don’t mean that all of us need to go on detox or be vegan. Those are good options but I want to pinpoint that it’s all about the quality. I used to eat processed chips and chocolate. I still eat snacks but I’ve upgraded them to kale chips, raw chocolate or dried berries. I love the attitude, values and fast paced business environment of our team. I’ve worked in many companies and with many people but now I honestly feel that we’re doing something special. I want to educate and help people, and FSF is the way to do it!”
Mikael began his full-time entrepreneurship in August 2012. Why the timing?
“I was working in competitive environment in Google with constantly increasing workload from Four Sigma Foods which meant long nights and work-driven weekends. I knew that I needed to choose soon and finally it wasn’t a hard one even though I liked Google and especially the people a lot. I warmly remember free coconut waters and raw chocolate bars in our microkitchens”, big eater says grinding.
Many multinationals on the belt
Your background is in sales and marketing. What are you doing in FSF?
“I’m responsible for our worldwide sales that at the moment mostly come from the Nordic countries and Western Europe. This means that I travel a lot to meet our partners and attend to trade fairs around the world in addition to daily sales job and administrative tasks. I’m also a member of the board and counting the number of e-mails flying between the continents each day. I’m pretty involved in day-to-day decision making as well.”
Mikael used to work for HSBC and Procter & Gamble in marketing and sales projects before joining Google. On which job have you learned the most?
“Actually in none of those. The answer is while working as a Finnish liaison to Asian Development Bank in the Philippines. My work was more of a lobbyist and consultant, and I feel that during those 9 months I got a hinch how the world is functioning due to meeting many different people, traveling and studying on my own. I didn’t sleep too much during the time in the Philippines”, Mikael remembers.
Many of our followers might have read your several interviews on our blog this year, and you also have a journalistic background. Can you tell more about that?
“Yes, I’ve been a freelance reporter for a few years which is kind of a hobby. It got started when I was short of money while studying in Rio de Janeiro in 2010. I sold few articles about traveling and finance, and finally kept a newspaper blog during the football World Cup in South Africa. This brings funny memories as me and my friend Perttu sold a photo of Paris Hilton blowing vuvuzela to international newspapers during the Cup. I think we’re still getting some random payments from the photo usage. One day I want to write a book but the topic is still a secret even though I’ve collected plenty of material for it”, the man of mystery reveals.
You could have landed into a different career in your teenage years, and I vaguely remember your older friends laughing to the fact that you were studying in the university.
“That’s true. There were some hard times, and even getting to a high school was a challenge due to interests in other matters like hanging around the streets, friends and sports. Finally I received a cancellation seat but ended my high school with a valedictorian speech”, Mikael recaps ‘modestly’.
Mikael is not only one of my business partners, but also one of my best friends. We’ve literally traveled all over the world with this guy and I’ve seen him in all colors. Getting him join our team full-time was a great success for our mission. So even if you are not a football or traveling enthusiastic, you can learn a lot from this guy! You can meet Mikael in pretty much every trade show where FSF will be present. Just ask for “The Machine” or look for the most non-Nordic looking guy in our booth :)
Kimmo Ohtonen is not an ordinary man. At the end of 2011 he could barely swim, weighing more than 100 kilograms. In September 2012 with water temperatures in mid-teens he swam over 130 kilometers, the length of Finland’s largest lake Saimaa, to raise funds for the endangered Saimaa ringed seals living in the same lake.
31-year old Ohtonen made a big step forward in his journalistic career when he moved to Manchester in 2003. There he worked for example for Tonight With Trevor McDonald newsshow broadcasted in ITV, which brought him to exciting chases like arresting a well-known musician in Ibiza with the special criminal investigation unit. He traveled around the world to work in places like the Bahamas and Abu Dhabi, before he wanted to return back to Finland because of an interesting job offer to work for the Finnish Broadcasting company YLE.
While in Finland he got his crazy idea. How did you even came to think of such a sporting achievement?
“As a wildlife reporter, I had been thinking what to do for the Saimaa ringed seals to raise awareness and funds.”
And as often in Finland, the idea has its roots in a sauna.
“I got the idea when I came out of my sauna to go for an evening swim. I wanted to do something for the seals, since without action they won’t be here after 15-20 years. It would also be a human journey at the same time, something I don’t know how to do and am not really good at. I was getting out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t a pragmatic idea, but an idea still”, Ohtonen laughs.
Getting in shape
Ohtonen’s starting level can be best described by the comment of his coach Krista Terämaa after seeing him swim the first time:
“When you said that you can’t swim properly, I thought that you were just a humble Finn but you really can’t swim”.
Lake Saimaa is the fourth largest freshwater lake in Europe, so we could conclude that Ohtonen learned how to swim the hard way during his 11-day journey. It included daily swims of 11-13 kilometers in a cold lake in the midst of winds blowing over 14 meters per second.
Ohtonen did his homework, and over a year he trained 10 times a week in addition to stretching half an hour daily. What was the hardest point of your journey?
“Last three days, because this year the water was exceptionally cold. A year ago the lake temperature was about 19 degrees but now it was 15 degrees. Cold was getting into me during the last days. There are a lot of open waters in Saimaa, and when you come from North to South the wind is against you. At one point I almost needed to quit because of rough waves and wind”, Ohtonen admits.
How did you take care of your nutrition during the swim?
“My coach made sure that I had enough energy gels that I took after every half an hour in water. I did two separate legs each day, and I had recovery drinks after each leg. I ate a lot of organic vegetables and fruits. I didn’t have a special diet, just healthy food.”
Raising hundreds of thousands
The sacrifice also got its award as the stunt raised over 135 000 euros for the endemic Saimaa seal population, whose numbers are around 300 at the moment. In addition to money raised during the swim project, the swim was the most successful individual fund raiser in WWF Finland history. It gathered over 500 sponsors, who each will donate at least 5 euros monthly for the next year, totaling to over 30 000 euros. Ohtonen was also invited to speak in an event for audience including the Finnish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari. The event raised 9 000 euros more for the seals.
Why protecting seals is important?
“Saimaa ringed seal is the only endemic mammal in Finland. It is descended from the ringed seals that were separated from the rest when the land rose after the last ice age. Saimaa ringed seal is one of the species that was here before us. It is one of the five freshwater seals as others are living in the sea. For instance there is a lot going on in protecting endangered species like rhinos. However, organized crime is a strong opponent and it doesn’t help that rhinoceros horns are selling more than gold per kilo. Here in Finland we can locally coordinate the actions. Man’s power on their own land.”
Ohtonen has also made other concrete actions to protect the seals. This winter he will get training to be able to count the nests on the coming spring. Annual nest count during spring time is important for the information of the exact numbers of Saimaa ringed seals, and thus one of the core functions in the protection work. Even though at the moment he is a wildlife reporter, Ohtonen doesn’t want to limit his charity efforts to animals.
“I want to raise funds for children’s hospitals and other charities as well. Even many distinguished animals are in danger, it is important to help other people too.”
Thumbs up for charity
Some people are skeptical about charity organizations’ effectivity like fundraiser’s target organization WWF. Kimmo used to question the effectivity as well.
“I used to be suspicious thinking that most of the money is used in administrative costs but actually WWF is really pragmatic and concrete on their spending. Also their website is realistic and gives plenty of information”, he recommends.
Usually people like Ohtonen have their next adventure already in mind. What is the crazy “seal swimmer” doing next?
“I will plan something big for 2014 but first I’ve decided to take part in Sulkava Rowing Race this summer to raise funds for the charity that I’ll confirm later. It will be 60 kilometers of rowing but I’ve already started to practice”, Ohtonen says with a twinkle in his eye.
Ohtonen has promised to answer questions both in Finnish and English on the official Facebook page of the “Seal Swim”.
Photo Credits: Mikko Nikkinen/Storymakers.fi
Jessica Bourke took an indirect route into the health industry. Twelve years ago, her uncle, who was working as a finance trader in the USA, attended an interesting lecture about the impact of a healthy diet and lifestyle on mental performance. He relayed what he had learnt to Jessica, who was completing the second year of her Law degree. Jessica was so fascinated by what she heard that she decided to begin studying acupuncture, while simultaneously finishing her Law degree. Upon its completion, she flew to China to undertake post-graduate advanced acupuncture training in the 6th Peoples Hospital in Shanghai. Later that year, she opened her private practice in Ireland and attained her qualification in nutrition shortly thereafter.
Jessica has always been interested in reproductive health even though as a mother of two children she never had any fertility issues herself. In her clinical practice, Jessica consults with male and female clients who are trying to conceive. She continues to treat women throughout their pregnancies working closely with other fertility professionals.
What would be a typical patient attending your clinic?
“Probably a 35 year old woman who is suffering from primary infertility, meaning she has never been pregnant despite trying for several years. Increasingly, I am also seeing women with secondary infertility, who may have had success first time around but are having serious difficulty conceiving again. This is often down to hormonal imbalance or nutritional deficiencies that were a sub-clinical issue on their first pregnancy but became clearly evident in the post-natal period. A good example of this would be Hypothyroidism, which is extremely common in Ireland”, Jessica explains.
Jessica suggests that the main issue for women with fertility issues is often hormonal imbalance.
“The Endocrine (hormonal) system is extremely complex and a slight imbalance in one Endocrine organ may have a knock-on effect elsewhere in the body. E.g. the adrenal glands, impacting sex hormone production. Naturally diet, lifestyle issues, and stress make their mark as well. When we are stressed our body uses up our nutrient reserves, and favours survival, instead of producing adequate amounts of the sex hormones. There are also plenty of people with nutritional deficiencies, for instance of vitamin D due to lack of sunlight exposure”.
Infertility is often viewed as a taboo topic. According to Jessica that is unfortunately true in spite of how common fertility issues have become.
“It is now estimated that one out of six couples can’t get pregnant and this number is expected to increase. One reason for these statistics may be due to increasing awareness about fertility issues and women are seeking out help, rather than suffering in silence. On the other hand, the average age of a woman having her first baby is now 31-32 years, where as thirty years ago, most women were conceiving in their twenties. However, I don’t believe age has to be the defining aspect of a woman’s fertility, particularly if she is in good health”, she clarifies.
The move towards natural home births
Natural home births have become more popular lately, and this has led to heated debates about its advantages and disadvantages. Some say it’s necessary to give birth in the hospital in case of complications, others say that many complications occur because of medical interventions within the hospital environment. Jessica planned to have both her children at home. With the birth of her daughter, the midwives noticed some meconium (a sign that the baby may be in distress) so she was transferred in to hospital to give birth there. Jessica was more than happy to do this as her primary concern was the health and safety of her baby. The delivery was straightforward and without any need for an epidural.
Second time around with her son, everything went smoothly and she was able to give birth to her son naturally at home.
“It is clear from the scientific literature that the more medical interventions that arise during the labour, the more complicated the process becomes, which can leave women feeling out of control of the situation. During the economic downturn, financial constraints led to an increase in the number of women availing of home birth options, particularly for second-time mothers and the reports on their experiences have been overwhelmingly positive”.
One of the advantages of a home birth is faster recovery for the mother. A mother’s health before and during her pregnancy can hugely influence her child’s health.
“For me personally, I wanted to avoid the use of medication unless absolutely necessary and to be in the comfortable environment of my own home whilst having my baby. My second labour lasted 3 hours from start to finish, so by the time my daughter came home from Montessori she found she had a little brother. My recovery was very fast, I was up and about the next day and felt myself again by day four. My midwives were somewhat baffled by this and kept asking me what I ate and how much I exercised, they even asked to take a look in my fridge”, Jessica laughs.
Breast-feeding is an important factor for children’s health and the mother-baby -relationship.
“Over 99% of the children in Norway are breastfed. In Ireland babies are often weaned off the breast within the first few months. My attending midwives, who visited the Norwegian facilities, believe the uptake of breast-feeding over there is so high because the hospitals have adjoining buildings where you can have babies in a natural environment that is designed to feel like a mother’s own home. This may be why mothers find it easier to breastfeed, as stress certainly doesn’t help”, she suggests.
Most of us are aware that diet during pregnancy is important for the developing baby. But alcohol and caffeine are not the only things that should be off the menu.
“If a mother eats high-fat, sugary food during pregnancy, there is evidence that she may be predisposing her future child to certain food cravings and a tendency to put on weight easily. Every mother has a huge responsibility for the health of their child and the time to make changes is well in advance of conception, ideally 4-6 months beforehand”.
Many people are wondering what nutrition to give their young children. What recommendations would you have?
“Nutrition is an important issue with kids. What I have noticed is that my children are almost never sick. I breastfed both children until 2 years old. Our whole family is vegetarian, and we don’t eat any processed sugars, dairy and only small amounts of wheat. It is an interesting fact that within two hours of eating processed sugar, our white blood cell activity is reduced by up to 50%, making it easier for viruses to take hold. We would generally eat a high fibre diet that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. Studies show that we should be eating 9-13 vegetables a day for optimal health, the old ‘five a day’ rule is actually a minimum, rather than an optimum daily amount”, Jessica informs us.
Environmental issues hindering sperm quality
Many men are uneasy about the idea of influencing the quality of their sperm, even though there are many things that may be done to improve it.
“It takes approximately 74 days to synthesize the sperm from start to finish. It’s important that there is a high sperm count, with plenty of progressive ‘swimmers’. The shape and DNA integrity of the sperm are also crucial. According to the literature, higher doses of certain antioxidants like selenium, vitamin C and E may help”, Jessica indicates.
Apart from nutrient intake, men can do plenty other things as well.
“There have been several studies showing that keeping mobile phones in the trouser pockets and sitting computers on their lap, may negatively influence the quality of the sperm and thus fertility. I’ve even had to tell a few cyclists to give up their hobby as the cycling is impeding the blood circulation to the perineal area, thus affecting sperm health. Men should also avoid synthetic materials like plastic while warming up food or drinking hot beverages due to the presence of damaging xeno-oestrogens”.
When it comes to the use of natural herbal remedies, some of them may be effective but their use has been prohibited.
“Natural herbs are often very useful, but unfortunately many herbs that had been used safely for decades have now been banned by the European Commission. Maca is one of the most popular herbs used to increase stamina and infertility due to its adaptogenic effects. The good news is that there are plenty good quality food products that impact fertility and I would recommend medicinal mushrooms like cordyceps, reishi and chaga that have wonderful, immune enhancing properties”, she advices.
Blue or the red pill?
Earlier this year Jessica wrote a cook book together with her brother Jordan Bourke, who is a chef and food stylist, based in London.
“Our aim in writing this book was to prove once and for all that healthy food does not have to be bland and tasteless. All of our recipes are sugar, wheat and dairy free, yet still indulgent enough to be served at a dinner party”, she explains enthusiastically.
Jessica’s opinion is that we have the health information available to us, and it’s just a matter of choice.
“It’s like in the movie, ‘The Matrix’, when Neo had to make a decision between the blue or the red pill. What’s stopping us from living our healthiest life? Why not make changes now to reduce the risk of developing cancer or heart disease in our 50s? I have noticed that people are becoming ill at a much younger age than before. For instance cancers that only used to be a problem for people in their 50-60s are now affecting 30-40 year olds. If we each assume responsibility for our health then hopefully the future will a lot brighter, for ourselves and the precious, next generation ”, Jessica concludes.
Tero Isokauppila is the Marketing Director of Four Sigma Foods and one of the writers to this blog. He has recently stopped working “for the man” and left his well paid position in the world’s largest IT company in order to dedicate more time to help people eat healthier. Now as he’s again a full-time entrepreneur and a student of the human body, I had the chance to deep dive on his interesting story while he is still in Europe. Who is this Finnish absolutist who eats clay in the morning and who as a freshman in college won an innovation award for trying to sell culinary mushrooms to Tokyo? Let’s find out.
The farm boy with a global swagger
Through his parents Tero has been involved with natural farming and the human body since he was a little boy. Since 1619 the Isokauppila’s have held a farm in the picturesque Sasi-Mahnala area about 30 minutes away from Tampere, Finland. Tero and his older brother Vesa are the 13th generation taking care of the family traditions. But how did he initially get involved in nutrition?
“My parents were separated for years when I was just a little laddie. At that time, my single-parent mother, who is a nursing teacher, used to take me to her workplace all the time. So there was little Tero playing in the corner and learning about the child delivery, digital examinations, and urinary catheterization even before he started normal schooling. Sounds strange, but I loved it! I must have seen the all the ‘Il était une fois… la vie’ (English: Once Upon a Time… Life) 26 episodes like hundred times. I was then, and I am still today, absolutely fascinated of the human potential in all aspects. And due to my dad’s world-class farming skills, my favorite niche soon became the effects of nutrition to the human physiology. And after my parents placed me into a hippie school with about 50 other tree huggers in a famous organic farming and herbalist town, I guess the health movement chose me – and not only vice versa.”
So why didn’t you get a degree in that field or become involved in it from an early age? Instead you went to an international business school, worked in four countries, and got yourself a good manager position in one of the most livable cities in the world – Geneva?
“Well, the love for nutrition was only one element of my life. I love a lot of stuff. I love sports, I love learning new things, I love adventures, and I have to admit as a kid I also loved the idea of conventional success. I knew so much about health and nutrition that my mind wanted other challenges and the business world could supply that. I took my first full-time job in a multinational at 17, started my first own business at 20, at 22 I was already a Training Manager for over 100 sales people, and at 24 I was working with complex strategy consulting cases for large public listed companies. I never stopped reading about food, testing new diets to my own body, and consulting my athlete friends, but I just never saw that as a full-time job before the whole web 2.0 era started democratizing all this amazing information.”
So when did you know it was your calling? These days you speak very passionately about it.
“When I traveled around the world for the first time. Finland, Canada, France, and Switzerland – all countries where I have worked – are bird’s nests and you can easily ignore how f*cked up this world truly is. But now after being in the favelas of Rio, the streets of Kolkata, and the bizarre Myanmar county-side, I know that there needs to be a higher purpose to life than money or success. I think helping people to live healthier and more ecologically can solve most of the issues we face today; cancer, heart disease, world hunger, energy shortfall, and the educational system.”
Always eating healthy?
Tero describes his diet as seasonal, tasty, and maybe a bit extreme. But does a man like this never eat sugary candies or enjoy a tasty Entrecôte?
“Haha. I think this is where people often misinterpret me. I don’t eat seaweeds, sprouts, and raw food 24/7/365. I guess over 20-years of following different food trends and diets, have given me some perspective. I think life is not narrow or absolute. I eat unhealthy food especially in situations where I have had strong mental anchors to them for example during Christmas. But I don’t think of these rare occasions as weaknesses, but more as part of my holistic lifestyle. Plus I always rather focus on the good stuff and my strengths instead of the weaknesses. This being said though, I’m a firm believer in occasional über diets and extreme explorations. I think you should have everything in moderation, including moderation!”
He continues about his passion towards the taste of food. Tero has often told how his friends with culinary parents tend to have the most healthy and balanced diets. This of course tends to occur in the families of the higher income brackets, but good food doesn’t have to be expensive.
“I grew up eating mostly local foods, organic foods, and a tons of wild foods because if was the cheapest option for us. I was almost never sick despite all the bacteria that grows in a farm or the tough winters we had to face, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had my lows. I have always had a sweet tooth and an occasional lazy ass in the kitchen. During the 90s economic crisis in Finland my family worked crazy hours to pay back our debt so I basically prepared my own food already before I was a teenager. And as a young kid I ate A LOT of frozen meals my mother could buy with >70% discount from a processed food wholesale. But after few years of that, my taste buds said stop! So even though I feel I’m naturally drawn to the “easy choices” (like our own Instant Drinks), I have been guided by my love for yummy food. And usually the tastiest foods in the world are actually the healthiest foods too. So that’s why I feel sad when people think all healthy foods taste bad.“
Choosing to put all-in for FSF
You have recently left your job at Hewlett-Packard to become a full-time employee of Four Sigma Foods. You are now moving to the Philippines for the winter and planning to go studying in an organic farm in Australia after that. From an outside perspective you had a promising career path in Switzerland so why this drastic change?
“I felt it was a time to take the next step, which cannot be measured by money, classic accomplishments, or prestige. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I loved my time at HP! Sitting at their small EMEA headquarters I had the chance to see how over 12 billion dollar business unit operating in 110+ countries is managed. It was a blast! And in general I am not that typical hater of large corporations. I feel that especially the IT industry has managed to bring so much value to our lives in the last two decades alone that it’s incredible. Just look how Google and Facebook have disrupted how we communicate to each other. And Bill & Dave’s (interviewers note: the founders of HP) legacy is even more admirable. I just don’t feel like the corporate world will serve me best right now.”
He continues with a story told by his favorite artist Banksy:
“Once upon a time there was a bear and a bee who lived in the woods and were the best of friends. All summer long the bee collected nectar from morning to night while the bear lay on his back basking in the long grass. When winter came the bear realised he had nothing to eat and thought to himself ‘I hope that busy little bee will share some of his honey with me.’ But the bee was nowhere to be found – he had died of a stress induced coronary disease.”
“My number one objective now and always has been to enjoy life. Nothing has changed! I just have come to realize even more vividly that less is more. So I think I will listen to my body more again, slow down, and rewild my daily life just a notch. Then my number two goal is to try to help as many people as possible to eat healthier. In order to achieve this I need to update my knowledge again and start listening to experts much wiser than me. Haha, and as a huge mango lover I think the Philippines is a good place to start!”
Tero’s plans to the followers of Four Sigma Foods
After traveling with Tero in 12 countries and 5 continents I know that the Gods of Action love this guy! I can only imagine all the situations he’s going to get himself into. So naturally I had to ask if he will be reporting to everybody how his latest adventure will unfold. I think his answer will please some of our tribe members.
“Fo shizzy my nizzy! I just got the GoPro Hero 2 HD camera so it would be a crime if I wouldn’t take that baby out for a test drive. So besides continuing to write to this blog every month, I am hoping to push out some quick & dirty video clips from where ever my dharma takes me. Plus I would love to get to know more superfood lovers around the world and I think Twitter just might be the right first channel to reach out to people. Make no mistake, I will move and shake…for better or for worse! Haha!”
Mika Rantanen was the 3rd person to join the planning process of Four Sigma Foods (formerly known as LUONTOlife). As a co-founder Mika was instrumental in the design process of our company, and these days he’s in charge of our Partner Relations. In his role, Mika tries to find new ways to collaborate with other cool organizations. Right now this sport enthusiastic is opening up our charity functions and preparing to swim 3.8km, bike 180km, and run 42.2km. I’ve known Mika for 8-years now and that’s why I was so excited to interview him for this FSF Profile. So without further ado, let’s hear more from this fine young man.
The active childhood of a semi-chubby boy
Everybody knows Mika as a super sporty guy, who excels in almost any sport. So how did this guy get into such a physical daily rhythm?
Since I was only 4 years old, my sisters and mom apparently hated to go to public places with me. From what I’ve heard, the main reason was that I was constantly running from one place to another. Somehow walking just was never really an option. Starting those days I’ve been really into any kind of activity that raises my heartbeat and makes me sweat. Since elementary school my spare time has always been full of various sports. Depending on the season I practised orienteering, xc-skiing, athletics, tennis, and football. My schedule after school was filled with 7-14 trainings per week. I was out playing in the fields 24/7 and even spent the last few years of our comprehensive school in a special school for athletes. The superb feeling, what the outdoor air gave me, was something out of ordinary.
I’ve heard that your mom was a great cook, was she?
Well, yeah. She was! At that time I ate like a horse. I mean really, I ate like a horse! The only thing that kept me in a reasonable body size was my active lifestyle. Although, when looking back, there was one major flaw in my diet. All grains, sugars, and salts we used were bleached. My mom also loved baking. And gosh how tasteful buns and pies she made! We used to have our freezer packed up half way by her sweets. Combining my eating habits and the desire to go fast, for any outsiders watching a semi-chubby little boy sprinting around the neighbourhood must have been quite a sight. You could say that in those days I loved eating, and didn’t have a slightest clue what was healthy and what was not.
From leading troops in the military to leading 30 sales reps
All Finnish men have to go through a mandatory service period in the Finnish Defense Forces (note: not in the attack forces). So every year about 27,000 young men (including few females) are being trained. Only a handful of these are accepted to the elite programs, from which the Utti Jaeger Regiment is maybe the most prestigious one. Just like a few other FSF team members (Jaakko, Pauli, Matti), Mika also served in this Special Forces unit as a 2nd Lieutenant. So did this experience change Mika?
Sure. Before military I had a terrible fear of height. I felt that the best way to conquer that fear was to start skydiving and therefore I applied to paratroopers. The two-day test, including tough mental and physical exams, was followed shortly by a letter of a confirmation stating that I was approved for the Special Forces. But the tough tests were a cakewalk compared to the actual training. This 12-month school taught me a lot about leadership, endurance, and tolerance for unpleasant conditions. Schedules were really tight, especially on our training camps. Camps were usually anything from 1-2 weeks long where we daily advanced several dozen kilometers with a heavy 30kg gear on, without any proper sleep or food. These camps revealed the true colors of my colleagues and myself. I some sick way loved it. I was also lucky enough to be chosen for the Officer training to lead my peers.
What kind of career plans did you have in mind?
After my military service, I firmly belonged to the large group of people who didn’t have a clue on what to do with their lives. The picture was everything but clear. I had a degree in the field of automation technology, but after the school I knew it wasn’t for me. I liked business because of the broad perspective and working face-to-face with customers had always been a blast. I started my first entrepreneurial venture when I was around 20 years old, by selling e.g. mobile phone subscriptions and sport supplements. At the same time I found the personal development movement, and that discovery might just been the single most important thing that guided me forward. I read tons and tons of literature about developing my skills for example in positive thinking, problem solving, and determination. I was constantly blown away by my emerging mindset change.
Looking at your CV, I see you’ve been involved a lot with sales – why’s that?
Sales provided me a possibility to encounter great people and to learn about different business models. During one decade I a saw a large variety of most common sales channels. Some products or services were targeted to businesses, some to consumers. Some were big, some small. Some needed face-to-face meetings, other were covered with online methods. Although the partners I worked with were usually public listed companies, I enjoyed working in smaller organizations. It gave me space to try my own ideas as well as change positions in a faster pace. I sure leveraged that to the hilt. At 23 I was already running a 30 person sales team.
Finding 3BL – People, planet, profit
I got to know Mika as a motivated athlete and high performance sales person. Always wanting to “one up” the old records. But in 2008 everything changed and Mika started to explore himself in a much deeper way. This path has taken him across Europe and there he found the need to focus on something much more meaningful.
Why did you decide to move to Italy without a job?
After working for the same company for 4 years I felt that I was plateauing big time. I decided to move forward, not knowing what I should do next. I moved to Northern Italy, bought a race bike and enjoyed the mediterranean views daily. That long, six month holiday got me thinking how I see my life in the upcoming years. I bumped into Steve Jobs commencement speech back in 2005 at Stanford University. That short clip made an indelible impression on me. The vivid mindset of the former Apple CEO was something that stopped me.
I’ve always been very competitive, mostly towards myself. Pushing the personal boundaries had always given me more than it required. After acknowledging this, I started seeking for next test to take it to the next level. At that time the idea of biking over 4000km across Europe under six weeks got me excited. Shortly there were three other Sunday bikers interested on making this trip come true. It was all about accomplishing dreams. We called the project Road Dream and this is also the way I got to know Markus. To me it was something I thought I wasn’t capable of. We wanted this journey to be one of those stories you could tell to your grandchildren someday when sitting in a rocking chair. Despite our amateur team’s lack of expertise in biking we had a clear image on how it would feel finishing the last few hundred meters. In spite of the recession at the time, we managed to get sponsors to fully fund the trip. It surely wasn’t a flower dance, especially when we had over 10.000€ still missing from our budget only two weeks before the start.
During our pilgrimage from our birthplaces to antique Olympic stadion in Greece we carried out a charity fund raising for children in disadvantaged position. During the journey we got over 10 million viewers and listeners from the 11 countries we visited. Strangers coming to talk to you saying that they saw us on TV a week ago just felt odd in a good way.
After reaching Greece I calculated the outcomes of my previous years. I noticed how I had felt the best when I did something of my own. It didn’t matter was it a start-up or a non-profit. I think I’d found a piece of who I was…
Jumping into the world of Four Sigma Foods
So how and why did you get excited about the idea democratizing superfoods?
Having a flu a minimum of two times a year was almost obligatory and it just felt natural, since everyone else was facing it too. For the past 4 years I really started questioning my own eating habits. Most of the time I really liked to eat healthy foods, but the core problem usually was that it required too much willpower due to my old habits. It just wasn’t all that easy enough for me. When I received a call from Mikko explaining the business idea behind FSF, I got instantly excited. Combining a healthier lifestyle with work and helping others at the same time had all the ingredients what I wanted from my next adventure. After a few conversations I was convinced that this path was perfect for me and I joined Mikko and Tero to bring our ideas to reality
The ride in the past year has been truly awesome. I feel really privileged to be a part of this great punch. Fighting together to democratize superfoods really pushes us all to give our best. There’s whole lot of job to do in the field of health and wellness!
What are your next challenges?
I have an Ironman distance triathlon coming in September. That has kept me busy within the last six months. Especially the 3.8 km swim has caused a lot of headaches. Hopefully the wetsuit will keep me on the surface! Someday I believe I would like to go around the globe human powered. Maybe after 10 years, who knows… If you have any good suggestions, I would be happy to hear them!
I’m also busy working on our first FSF Charity! But I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so you need to wait one week longer before we announce the whole thing. I just want to say that I haven’t had so many butterflies in my stomach for a LONG time than in the last 2-months.