Superfoods and adaptogens are all words you’ve probably heard before and you know they’re good for you because Instagram told you but do you know that they are powerful stress relievers as well as digestive aids and natural energy boosters (warriors in Peru would take it before going to war). Thanks to some enlightenment courtesy of Level Life, we now have good reason to kick coffee to the curb.
If you’ve ever tried to make celery juice in the morning, you probably didn’t have as good of a start to your day as proponents of the magic potion claimed you would. This is probably because juicing vegetables take a lot of time to juice, two bunches of celery barely yields 16 ounces of juice, it’s expensive, and there are better things to do with your time than clean a juicer. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, don’t you sometimes wish you could just take a pill? Well, you can. Kinda…
Level Life are instead proponents of superfoods, which they describe as foods that are very dense in nutrients. In this case, they’re talking about plant-based powders like moringa, maca, baobab, ashwagandha and more, which they prefer to serve up in a smoothie and roll an energy ball around in to supplement the nutrient intake.
When the founders Rohit Nanwani and Avinash Aswani told us that, on a gram to gram basis, moringa leaf powder has 25 times more iron than spinach, 15 times more potassium than bananas, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, and four times more calcium than milk, mouths agape we were already checking out from the online store before finishing the interview. Look out for the fun fact about the baobab tree, we promise you’ve all seen one before.
GITNB: What is your role at LVL?
Roh: I asked my cousin Avi, who is also my co-founder to join us for this interview. It’s just the two of us in the start-up and while we wear many hats, Avi handles Product Development and I handle Business Development.
And what led you to startup LVL Life. What were you doing before that?
We’ve both always been interested in fitness and along the way started to realize the importance of nutrition. We started discussing this a lot and would exchange notes on what we were eating and how we could use our diets to optimize our fitness better. We became somewhat obsessed with it and started researching this in-depth and tried different diets like keto and intermittent fasting. As we dove deeper into this we began to understand the importance of nutrition not just for fitness but for overall well being. Then we watched a documentary called Forks over Knives, which was life-changing, and we were hooked on the idea of the Power of Plants.
We thought to ourselves, if we could just add more nutrition to people’s diets every day, then we can help them live better, healthier and for longer- and that’s how we started Level Life. Avi and I were both working in our family business. Avi pursued the idea first by selling Moringa powder in Singapore. I joined him a few months later and we brought on a range of Superfoods.
Avi: What Roh said is correct. There was this realization that we can a lot of nutrition from plants. After doing extensive research we realized that superfood powders are a fantastic way to get more nutrition into your diet because of the versatility and the density of the nutrients within these superfood powders. We figured superfood powders are a really easy way to start integrating more plants into our diet because they are easy to add to your smoothie, juices, very easy to sprinkle on top of your foods. That’s why we started a line of superfood powders; to help people level up the same way we did.
But, why not just eat your greens?
Avi: Many people struggle to get their daily intake of greens. It takes time to find them, prepare, cook and consume. And let’s be real, greens are not of the top of many people’s favourite foods. Our superfood powders are a great way to supplement your diet and get your recommended daily intake in terms of vitamins and minerals. The other thing is variety, each plant, as you might know, is unique and provides many different benefits. Superfood powders basically allow you to consume a variety of different plants and capture their benefits in a single smoothie. Try throwing 10 different vegetables into a Nutribullet and see how that turns out, right?
Roh: The answer about eating your greens is you can and you should eat your greens but the problem is that most people don’t. There was a research conducted that showed that 9 out of 10 Singaporeans don’t get their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, and this, in turn, leads to chronic diseases. So our thinking is that we’re not going to come in and try to change your diet, but we’re giving you these powders so you can continue your diet and just add these super powders.
What exactly are superfoods anyway?
Avi: Superfoods are defined as foods that are very dense in nutrients. They provide a massive amount of nutrition in tiny quantities. So, if you take a moringa leaf powder on a gram to gram basis, it has 25 times more iron than spinach, 15 times more potassium than bananas, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, and four times more calcium than milk. So, in very little small quantities you’re able to get lots and lots of nutrients.
Roh: And I think what’s important here as well is that a lot of people, when they think of a diet, they get focused on macronutrients and they think about their carb intake or their fat intake, but they don’t really consider micronutrients, which is equally as important if not more important in your wellbeing and in any healthy lifestyle. There is a big range of superfoods out there, some people consider meat and seafood as a superfood, but we focus on plant-based only.
And what about adaptogens, since one of your products is ashwagandha and it’s also quite a buzzword right now. So, I guess the first question is what’s the difference between a superfood and an adaptogen if any?
Roh: Adaptogens were a form of ancient medicines used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that basically used to combat stress. So, any stresses in your body, whether it’s physical or mental or anything, adaptogens help you combat it.
Avi: Adaptogens are plants that help the body cope and react to different stresses. Today the environment is rapidly changing and we are always exposing our bodies to new stimuli. The foods that we eat are changing, the activities we do are changing, our daily routines are changing and while all of this is happening, we expect our bodies to perform just as it always does and thrive. But the fact is that all of these changing environments put our bodies under a lot of stress and so that’s where adaptogens come in. They help you, as the name suggests, adapt to these different stressors, these different stimuli, and different environments – and help your body and mind stay calm.
I see a lot of the items that you are selling, whether it be superfoods or adaptogens or anything, they are not readily available in Asia so as imports, they often come with a hefty price tag. How do you go about finding, sourcing all these products?
Roh: Actually, a lot of superfoods come from emerging places. Moringa, for example, is widely grown in Africa, India and Indonesia, and the Philippines. So the challenge is then getting them to us.
First, we do a lot of desktop research to see where the best source comes from. Whether it’s maca from Peru, baobab from South Africa, or moringa from India, we’ll do our research first and then we’ll go and contact the companies out there and get a sample of them. We also partner with a nutritionist here in Singapore who has his own lab and then we give the sample to him for QC and have it tested for things like solubility, nutrition content, taste, colour and everything of that sort. We do want to focus on things that are more exotic and more nutrition dense, and those that are not as easily available here. Maca may be now more popular but something like ashwagandha, it’s unheard of and it’s got so many great properties around it. People in India usually do yoga and they meditate to combat stress, but not so much in places like Singapore, which is a high-stress environment. So a product that can help combat that, help them with clarity and focus on those great things should be something they’re exposed to.
Are there any side effects of taking supplements like this?
Avi: I wouldn’t say there are any side effects. What I would say though is to take caution when you are consuming these and definitely start with smaller quantities so you expose your body to a little bit of it first. See how that copes and then increase your intake. You don’t want to shock your body because they are very concentrated, they’re very dense just simply because they’re in powder form. To give you an idea, our moringa leaf powder, one kilo of powder has got seven kilos of leaves so you wouldn’t want to overload your body there.
Some people are very sensitive to and fell ill after taking too many vitamins or supplements. Why is that? Can your stomach react poorly?
Roh: Easy fix, go the natural path. The first reaction is always going to be in your stomach, right? These things are going to start to react. Probably, it’s going to push the nasty stuff out, it’s going to fight all the bad cells in your body, and it’s going to do all those big things. But I don’t think anything more extreme will happen. Sometimes when you take something for the first time, like the first time I took moringa, there was a lot going on. Especially if you come from an unhealthy lifestyle and the more toxins you have in your body, the more they’re going to react it is supposed to combat the toxins.
If I wanted to take something to improve my brain function in the morning that would replace coffee, what would that be?
Roh: I actually stopped drinking coffee two years ago and I went cold turkey because I was living on it – I had four cups a day. I was absolutely relying on it. Since then I’ve just been drinking green tea and adding superfoods on top. So, I now have stuff like maca and ashwagandha. Maca is the stuff they used to give to the warriors in Peru going to war, it’s meant to give you a sense of energy. Ashwagandha is used for the mental side of things.
What about memory, if I wanted to improve my memory, because it’s terrible, what can I take for that?
Roh: You can have Raw Focus, our new functional plant-based beverage, launching soon…
Avi: I think with memory, you’ve got to take something with high omega because your brain is made of fatty acids and omega 3 has the fatty acids to support it. So, something with high omega would be chia seeds.
And what about digestive and gut health?
Roh: I take a lot of baobab because it has a high content of vitamin C, it’s high in antioxidants, and promotes gut health. Actually, some people who take a lot of baobab find that it’s high in fiber. Sorry to put this out there but if you do take a lot of baobab you are going to the toilet at some point of the day because it’s so high in fiber. So, imagine eating a lot of spinach and how you’re going to feel the next day.
What’s a good introductory product that you would recommend to someone who is looking to introduce more superfoods into their diet?
Roh: From our current product line, moringa would be the most well-rounded superfood. It’s actually called the miracle tree because it’s got the most nutrition out of plants. My personal favourite is baobab because I think it tastes great. It’s got a bit of a tangy citrus feel to it and I like that. After we launch our new line next month, we have a drink called Natural Immunity which is something you can take every day for your immunity that has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants.
Avi: Natural Immunity Plus is the product we are coming out with. It uses baobab inside as well as other superfoods like camu camu. That’s going to be a really easy drink, nice and citrusy as well as entirely made of all natural ingredients too.
What are your most popular products or your best sellers in your product range?
Roh: Well, if we look at grocery store sales, the more common ones like Cacao and Chia Seed sells better. But when we do events, like we did the Conscious Festival last year, the ones that sell the best are the moringa, baobab, and ashwagandha. The more exotic stuff sells better when we’re speaking to people and they want to understand superfoods better, have the mindset that they want to feel better, or a need they want to fulfill. So, these products do better when we are there to answer their questions for them.
Avi: Baobab is actually the fruit on the tree that you see in the Lion King. That’s the baobab tree.
Looking to the future, what products are you hoping to explore and source next?
Roh: We’re about a month away from launching our new range of products. It’s going to be functional beverages completely plant-based. We will launch three of them: Raw Focus +, Natural Immunity +, Plant Protein+. They taste incredible, so much goodness in them. We can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Avi: Yes, matcha is the main ingredient in that it helps you. Matcha has caffeine in it but it’s clean caffeine.
Roh: We call it clean caffeine because matcha has got l-theanine in it, which is actually now being prescribed to people with ADHD because what it does is it helps you focus without giving you anxiety and the jitters.
Let’s get creative. What are your favourite ways to prepare your products?
What #LittleGreenSteps do you follow in your everyday life that you can share and inspire other people to follow as well?
Roh: About a year and a half or two years ago I decided I’d make public transport my first mode of transport. Now, I’ll try to take public transport as much as I can before I even look at other options.
Avi: From a brand perspective as well, we chose to use aluminium tins for our packaging as opposed to plastic for example. We designed it in a way that would be beautiful and therefore reusable once our customers are finished with their products. Now I see people using them as pencil holders, they put their socks in them when they’re travelling for example, and some even plant some small flowers or plants in these tins. It’s really exciting to see how they’re reusing them and recycling them.
Roh: This is something we actually thought about when we started this. We looked online and we saw that everyone was doing this sack kraft packaging. People will really use a product that they can recycle or upcycle, and so we went reusable.