When Less is More - A natural food company founder says excess is plaguing the juice industry.

When Less is More – A natural food company founder says excess is plaguing the juice industry.

When Less is More –  A natural food company founder says excess is plaguing the juice industry.
By Camilla Anderson

Juices and nutritional shakes are a multi-billion dollar industry, but the rapid growth is coming at the expense of consumers. Many companies create products that are not necessarily healthy or natural, says Angela Zeng, co-founder of food company Karuna. Zeng says there are two main problems: an excess of ingredients and the widespread use of protein and other food extracts, which ironically goes against the true meaning of natural food.

Companies catering to the juicing trend entice consumers by using as many plants as possible. Some of these lack nutrients but are convenient and cheap fillers, while others lose many of their nutrients when juiced. This approach also is an environmental concern, because if the ingredient has low water content, much of it goes to waste (this is true, for example, of almond milk). These products often contain high levels of added sugar in order to generate acceptable tastes. Karuna’s products, on the other hand, only include a few key ingredients, both because doing so is more sustainable and because each ingredient should serve a purpose.

The second problem is that companies rely heavily on protein and other food extracts instead of maximizing nature’s resources. This tends to make products off balance in term of their nutritional compositions. For example, many nutritional drinks over-emphasize the protein content, and yet, their protein extracts such as almond or coconut milk do not offer a complete amino acid profile and lack many other critical nutrients. In essence, nutrients assembled in a lab don’t offer the same health benefits as those occurring naturally in food (in excess, some might even be harmful).

In contrast, Eastern and Western medicine agree that certain fruits, vegetables and berries are nutritional powerhouses. Karuna’s product lines Heal, Fuel and Hydrate use these as the core ingredients. Zeng turned to East Asian folk medicine to identify plants that people have used in health tonics for thousands of years. Modern science now backs up these health claims, says Karuna co-founder Dr. Shawn Hu, a medical oncologist. Karuna’s signature Heal product, the Bean Sprout and Aronia Berry drink, is one example. Mung bean sprouts are often used in traditional East Asian detox remedies. Herbalists say they can relieve everything from stomach upset to infection. Aronia berries, common in Native American folk remedies, are one of nature’s best sources of antioxidants. Science shows they can help lower the risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, reduce toxicity in the body, and even prevent cancer.

Another example is Karuna’s Fuel nutrition shakes, Divine Chestnut and Divine Three. Chinese medicine uses chestnuts to prevent and treat conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The Divine Three refers to black soybean, quinoa and flax seeds, which are packed with high quality plant-based protein including all essential amino acids as well as healthy fatty acids that help lower cholesterol. Karuna shakes offer a well-balanced nutrition and are low in sugar and calories. All the ingredients are gluten-free and non-GMO.

Karuna’s Hydrate drinks, Sunny Date and Fruity Longan, also are inspired by ancient remedies backed up by modern science. Many believe that Longan fruit and dates can promote blood production, improve the digestive system, and boost energy and endurance.

Since these powerful ingredients exist in nature, why do companies pick them apart and use only bits and pieces of them? Zeng says it is so because many companies do not have a solid understanding of nutritional science, but want to have products that are easy to formulate, quick to produce, and attract consumers who think more is better.

In contrast, Karuna emphasizes two things missing in today’s society: simplicity and balance.

For more information: www.mykaruna.com