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Marie Forleo: Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. And you know, one of the things I learned asking you, our beloved viewers, about what you’d like to see more of is that you want to see more MarieTV viewers, people who are out there in the world shaking things up and making it happen, doing what they love. So when I heard about this particular Marie TV viewer, this woman who is making a big waves out there, taking on the big major food corporations, I knew I had to have her on.
Marie Forleo: Vani Hari started foodbabe.com to spread information about what’s really in the American food supply. Her activism brought national attention at the Democratic convention when she protested in front of the US Secretary Of Agriculture on the issue of GMO labeling. Vani has taken on and gotten response from huge food corporations like Kraft, Chipotle, Whole Foods, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Red Mango. She’s been profiled in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Times, and appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, Inside Edition, Good Morning America, CNN, and others.
Marie Forleo: Vani, so great to have you here on MarieTV.
Vani Hari: Thank you so much, Marie. You’ve been a huge inspiration to me. I’m so excited to be here.
Marie Forleo: Awesome. So before we dive into it about the five surprising health foods you shouldn’t be eating, I would love to know about your story. How less than a year ago you were at this cushy job and why you left to go to foodbabe.com and do it full time.
Vani Hari: I never thought I would be blogging and taking on some of the biggest food corporations for my daily job. I never thought that would actually be my job one day when I started foodbabe.com, which was two years ago in response to a bunch of friends and family that begged me to share my lifestyle with them, my recipes, how I was able to heal myself naturally.
Vani Hari: About 10 years ago, I suffered appendicitis. I could have died from this because the initial doctor that saw me told me that there was nothing wrong and asked me to go home. And at that moment, recovering in the hospital room over the holidays in December, I made a commitment to myself. I said to make myself my number one priority. I was living the typical American lifestyle before that. I had just gotten out of school. I got a really awesome job at a top management consulting firm, which I thought was my dream job. And I wanted to fit in. I wanted to eat what everybody else was eating. I wanted to live the lifestyle, I wanted to work the crazy hours so that I could impress my boss and get promoted. And I didn’t realize what a toll that was going to be on my health.
Vani Hari: So I started to slowly teach myself the habits on how to live a really clean, organic lifestyle and in this over-processed world and in this corporate environment. And so slowly but surely, I started developing all these habits and my coworkers and my friends and family and everyone around me started wondering like, “Why is she drinking that green stuff? What’s going on with this lemon water thing she does every morning? How did she go from being chubby and kind of just not really in shape to being in shape for now over 10 years,” maintaining my weight. I mean, to this day one, of my aunts thinks I got work done.
Marie Forleo: Really? That’s amazing.
Vani Hari: Yeah. And so I started food babe.com in response to their wanting to know everything that was going on, especially some people at work that were watching my daily habits. They sat next to me in my cubicle, and were trying to mimic what I was doing. I was teaching them a lot and they just loved it. And they were like, “You know so much about food. You really need to tell everyone and you need to tell me so I can tell my mom and share it.” And I said, “Okay, sure.” And so I started the blog and I remember I had like, I don’t know, 20, 25 readers for the first month or so.
Marie Forleo: Probably like your friends and your coworkers. Yeah.
Vani Hari: Yeah. I think like my mom and my best friend read it and that was about it. And prior to starting my blog, I was never on social media. So actually had an intervention from some friends that said, “Listen, you don’t know about anything that’s going on in our lives because you are not on Facebook, Vani. And so you need to go on Facebook right now because how are you going to spread your blog?” And I’m like, “Oh, that’s such a good point. So yeah, I’ll get on Facebook.” And I started Twitter. And I had no social media experience before that because I was in the corporate world. It was scary to be on Facebook with all your party pictures. You don’t want your boss finding those.
Marie Forleo: Totally.
Vani Hari: So I got on and slowly but surely, I remember the first person who commented that wasn’t someone I knew and I was like, “Whoa, who’s this?” And little did I know at the time, but I developed this power. I didn’t really understand this power at the time until companies started reacting to my writing. And a lot of things get me energized and really I’m an activist at heart. I want to fight for the people. And I was at this yogurt place that’s an organic yogurt place or “organic” yogurt place in Charlotte. They had all this marketing on saying it was organic. And then when I found out what was really in the ingredients, which it started with organic yogurt, but they added trans fat, which a little bit of amount to eat that stuff can cause heart disease, artificial colors made from petroleum products, artificial flavors, and then other crazy ingredients. And I was just like, “What is going on here? This is not truth in advertising. I need to write about it.” So I wrote about it and immediately the president of the company reached out to me and took down all the marketing.
Marie Forleo: Wow.
Vani Hari: And it’s because of not me writing about it, but all the people sharing it with their friends and telling their friends about it and being like, “Watch out.” And it just went viral. And of course the president heard about it through their customer service hotline and they listened. That was pretty amazing at that point cause I realized, okay, I have this voice. My name, Vani, means voice. So I always knew that I had something to voice growing up. And I was even a nationally ranked debater in high school and I was just always into research. I spent every summer researching at Dartmouth College and I would bury myself. I mean, I quit the cheerleading team to join the debate team. And so it was at that point in time in my life in high school was one of the most exciting times. And I was able to bring that back cause I was able to research and get in and fight for the people. In debate, you weren’t really fighting for the people, but you’re fighting for your side. And I’ve always had that kind of tenacity about me. So it was coming out.
Marie Forleo: I love this. I love your story. Not to interrupt you too much, but I can see the fire in you. I think it’s so interesting also for our viewers because so many of us are multi-passionate and there’s things that we have a strong skill set for maybe early on in life and then they kind of fall away. But it sounds like you’ve really rediscovered that ability to use all the skills you built up as a debater and bring that into your now incredibly fast growing career as Food Babe. So curious, tell me, take me to the point where, I know it wasn’t that long ago, where you were still blogging, but you also had your job and then you made the decision that you were ready to leave your full time job and do your new business full time. What was that like?
Vani Hari: Well, my friends about a year ago said to me, “Vani, you need to make a decision. You need to do this full time. This is your calling.” And I said, “Oh, that’s so nice of them to say that. It’s so great.” And it wasn’t until I really allowed myself to appreciate my own voice and allow myself to understand this is why I was put on this planet. And it wasn’t until in all actuality I found you, Marie. And in December, I was in Machu Picchu in Peru. I was reading a book, and you’ve had her on here, Danielle LaPorte, Firestarter Sessions.
Marie Forleo: Dear friend. Love her.
Vani Hari: And I watched one of your interviews with her and I was reading the book at the same time. And I had just found you through a mutual friend and I couldn’t believe that I was like, “Well, number one, where’s Marie Forleo been my whole life? Why hasn’t she been coaching me this whole time to do my passion?” And number two, I was on top of Machu Picchu on December 21st, the day the world was supposed to end. I didn’t really think it was going to end. But there’s some shift cosmic. I believe in higher power. And I made the decision right there on top of Machu Picchu and I said to myself, my contract was ending and I could’ve gotten another contract because I’m a management consultant.
Vani Hari: But I said to myself, “I’m going to make this happen.” I turned over to my husband and I said, “Are you willing to do this? ]I’m giving up my salary and we’re going to do this and I’m going to tell everyone what’s in their food and I want to change the way Americans are eating and the way they think about food. I’m going to make it my life’s mission. Are you on board?” And he looked at me. He’s like, “What have you been waiting for?”
Marie Forleo: That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
Vani Hari: And so it was like everybody else was giving me permission, but not myself. Yeah. And it wasn’t until I really realized that that’s what I needed to do. And it was scary. I tell you, I landed back the first week of January and I didn’t go into an office. I had no boss. I was like, “What is going on? This is so weird.” And, “Oh my goodness, I got to figure out a way to make some money because I got to pay the mortgage.” So I started slowly just figuring out a way that met my values, partnering with the right companies, the companies I already use and buy and have loved my whole life and that provide benefit to the world and finding and reaching out for those relationships so that I could start working with them and everyone can really live the life that they want to live.
Vani Hari: And what’s so amazing is I didn’t realize this at the time, but if people have something that they’re really passionate about and they love and they’re really good at it, I mean, you have to cherish that. And you have to find out what it is that you can do to share that passion and no matter what the money will follow. And I never really believed that. I was like, I had to work hard. I had to keep my job. I was a management consultant for 13 years of my life. And to give all that up … I was successful too. To give it all up and say bye was a tough transition mentally. And then the thought of going back and being a management consultant totally freaks me out. And I wake up every single day right now and I put my feet on the ground and I still live in the same condo, surrounded by the same people that I used to work with. And I walk down the street and I just smile and I’m like, “Ha ha, I’m not that cubicle anymore.” There’s nothing wrong with being in a cubicle because there’s great companies that have cubicles, but …
Marie Forleo: But for you it wasn’t the right match. For you it was a different path.
Vani Hari: Yeah. I needed to be using my voice in a way to change the world. And I really think I was put on this planet to change the world. And I really want to do that.
Marie Forleo: Vani, that was actually the perfect segue to what we’re going to talk about next, which is the five surprising health foods that we shouldn’t be eating. But before we start, I just want to make this point. This is about awareness so you can learn how to help yourself and your family make better choices. This is not about being perfect. We all have our vices, but we want to make better choices more often. So let’s get rolling.
Vani Hari: Well, the first one is, and this one is a really tricky topic because a lot of people, when they go out to eat and when they order a sandwich, when they go for lunch or whatever, they order the whole wheat bread. And the whole wheat bread at different major fast food chains … For example, Subway, the nine grain bread. Everyone thinks that the nine grain bread is like the hallelujah sandwich. And you get it and you get your veggies on it and it’s under 300 calories and you’re good to go.
Marie Forleo: Totally.
Vani Hari: But that sandwich has probably close to over 50 ingredients in it. And the sandwich actually has an ingredient in there, along with a slew of other ingredients, that is a dough conditioner that is banned in Europe. If you get caught using it in Singapore, you get fined $450,000.
Marie Forleo: Jesus.
Vani Hari: It’s banned in Australia. But we still use it here in the United States. And let me me just try to say this word because it’s a long word. Azodicarbonamide. I can’t even say it.
Marie Forleo: We could put it at the bottom of the screen because I know. Which actually, it’s funny and it’s not funny because to think that that’s what we’re putting in our bodies. We can’t even pronounce it, but it’s going in our food system. So we’ll just lay it down there, but keep going.
Vani Hari: No, no. Yeah. I still can’t say it right. I try to memorize it before I came here today, and I still cannot say this word right. It’s just a long chemical name. And it actually, the reason why it’s so controversial is it gives people asthmatic symptoms and allergies. And it’s really sad. It’s a really sad ingredient. But what you can do instead, that’s the important thing.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Vani Hari: So if you are at Subway, don’t recommend it, but if you are at subway, get the salad, get a whole avocado on top. And avocado has protein added to it. And that’s a way to really enjoy a meal without any major toxins and you’re getting some really healthy fat with the avocado.
Marie Forleo: Awesome. So we’re going to stay away from the whole grain, whole wheat bread generally speaking, and we’re going to go just for a salad. That’s what we’re going to opt for instead.
Vani Hari: Yeah. That’s right. And if you do go for bread and you love bread, I really love this Ezekiel bread.
Marie Forleo: Yes. I got to say, I’m going to lift up the Ezekiel. I have so many loaves of this in my house. I can’t even tell you. We go through this like wildfire. It’s awesome. Love Ezekiel.
Vani Hari: Yeah. It’s so amazing because there’s no flour in it. It’s actually a whole grain. So that’s the way our body was intended to actually digest. Yeah. Digest grains. And it actually gives us more energy that way. Because flour, what it does is just spikes your insulin level and promotes fat gain. So that’s not good.
Marie Forleo: Not so good. All right. What’s number two?
Vani Hari: All right, number two is agave nectar.
Marie Forleo: Oh God, I’m guilty of this one. Tell me about it.
Vani Hari: Well, agave got really popular because the raw vegans found a sweetener that they could have that was raw and vegan and was as close to nature as they thought to put in a lot of different desserts and other sweetened items.
Marie Forleo: Yeah. Like your morning drinks, anything.
Vani Hari: Right. It’s a liquid base. So it replaced honey for people who are concerned about the bees and things like that. And what they found is actually agave nectar has a higher concentration of fructose and almost 80% more higher concentration than high fructose corn syrup.
Marie Forleo: Whoa.
Vani Hari: And what that means is that the first thing your liver processes is fructose. It’s either alcohol or fructose. And it fructose is going straight to your liver, your liver is not in its fat burning mode. And so what that does is it promotes visceral fat, all the fat around your midsection.
Marie Forleo: Damn. Belly fat. Agave, belly fat, agave, belly fat is pretty much what we’re saying.
Vani Hari: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So what I love to recommend for people is coconut palm sugar. Coconut palm sugar comes straight from the coconut tree. It’s dried sap off the tree, has all the minerals and vitamins. It’s a one to one substitution for sugar. It’s low-glycemic. So it’s great for people who are on the diabetic spectrum or are concerned about their glycemic level, or if you’re really concerned, you can go with Stevia. And SweetLeaf here, they have a Stevia that doesn’t have all the fillers and the crazy stuff going on. There are Stevia products that are dreadful. Examples of those are like Truvia and PureVita that are owned by Coca Cola and Pepsi Co respectively. And they have this crazy 40 step patented process to completely process the Stevia to hell and just take a really natural, beautiful plant that adds a lot of sweetness and just destroy it. So I wouldn’t recommend those.
Marie Forleo: Okay, great. So if we’re going to do Stevia, we’re going to do SweetLeaf.
Vani Hari: Yes.
Marie Forleo: Awesome. Where are we going next?
Vani Hari: All right, so the third one here. Let’s talk about Gatorade.
Marie Forleo: Gatorade. Right. So we’re going to talk about Gatorade even though we don’t have a Gatorade to hold. We didn’t even want to bring it into the studio, it’s so toxic. Tell us why, Vani.
Vani Hari: Well, Gatorade is one of those things that my parents, and I’m sure your parents gave to you when you were sick and when you were under the weather and you’re out on the soccer field or cheerleading or whatever you’re doing when you were little and your parents would bring you Gatorade because they didn’t want you to get dehydrated. And it is one of the worst things ever because what Gatorade really is is a bunch of sugar and chemicals with salt.
Marie Forleo: Jesus.
Vani Hari: And until recently it had this really controversial ingredient called brominated vegetable oil, BVO, which is actually still in Powerade today. And it’s something that’s banned in other countries and is a flame retardant.
Marie Forleo: Jesus.
Vani Hari: Yes.
Marie Forleo: That’s insane.
Vani Hari: Yeah, it’s crazy. So what I like to tell people is look to nature for electrolytes. Like coconut water is so amazing for electrolytes. You want to make sure you get a really good coconut water though because there’s a bunch of coconut waters. I did not know this until I started researching it, but are made from coconuts from all over the world and they use the concentrate. So all the electrolytes are kind of diminished. But what you want to do is go for a raw coconut water and Harmless Harvest, who’s based here in New York, is amazing.
Marie Forleo: Awesome. And you know what we’ll do? We are going to put links to all of Vani’s recommendations below. So if you’re listening, you’re like, “I can’t write all this down,” we’re going to have it below the video.
Vani Hari: And another really great electrolyte booster is celery.
Marie Forleo: Really?
Vani Hari: Yes. You can either eat the celery or you can juice it and combine it with a little lemon and a little Apple. That’s just a great way to keep electrolytes. The third option to keep electrolytes, just to mention it, is chia seeds. Chia seeds, when they’re soaked in water, they soak up 10 times the amount of water. And when you eat that it keeps your body hydrated. And so Aztecs back in the day would eat these seeds and that would be the only thing they would have all day and it would keep them hydrated, which is crazy to think about.
Marie Forleo: It’s such a power food. I know Josh has been pushing chia seeds on me for a while and it’s only after I meet you and my dear friend Chris Carr that he’s like, “Oh, of course all the ladies tell you what’s good for you now you eat them.” I’m like, “That’s how it goes.” But that’s awesome to know about chia seeds. Very cool. So do we have one more?
Vani Hari: We do. Actually, we have two.
Marie Forleo: Two more.
Vani Hari: We have two more.
Marie Forleo: Awesome.
Vani Hari: So almond milk.
Marie Forleo: Almond milk? Oh no. What’s up with almond milk? Tell us, Vani.
Vani Hari: Well, almond milk inherently is absolutely wonderful. Usually it’s just almonds and water in a blender, like four cups of water, one cup of almonds that are soaked overnight in a blender, strained. Makes beautiful almond milk. Perfect. Your body can assimilate it, it’s great. But the almond milk that you buy at the store nine times out of 10 has an ingredient called carrageenan. And carrageenan is derived from a seaweed plant. So it seems very natural. But what happens is when they derive it and they process it, it can be contaminated with degraded carrageenan. And what that does is when you eat it, it can disrupt the whole GI tract.
Vani Hari: So all the people that have irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal issues, bloating and other things, could be caused by carrageenan. And carrageenan is not only in almond milk but it’s in all sorts of dairy products like cottage cheese and sour cream and cream cheese and ice creams and other things like that.
Marie Forleo: So is it important for us … Because I’ve always, I’ve purchased almond milk from the store, so I just need to really look at my labels now and if it has that in it, it’s not getting in my little shopping cart.
Vani Hari: Yeah, forget it. I know that the Whole Foods brand 365 doesn’t use carrageenan, which is great.
Marie Forleo: Awesome.
Vani Hari: So that’s a great option. Or make it at home. And that’s what I do and I love it because it’s two ingredients. It’s super easy. It’s always fresh. Lasts a few days in the fridge. It’s awesome.
Marie Forleo: Perfect. Okay. What’s our final food?
Vani Hari: Frozen yogurt.
Marie Forleo: Oh my goodness. Frozen yogurt? What’s gone wrong? Tell us.
Vani Hari: Well, frozen yogurt is an invented thing. It’s not something that we’ve had a really long time in America. I mean, it was invented in the late 1960s. And what they found was they wanted to make a healthy version of ice cream. So they started freezing yogurt and everyone started complaining about the taste. They said it’s tart and it’s not that sweet. I still want my ice cream. Well, the food manufacturers listened to that, and they said, “Oh, well we’re going to add more sugar. We’re going to make it more processed. We’re going to add a bunch of artificial colors and we’re going to add a bunch of other crazy ingredients that does your body no good.”
Vani Hari: And so what happened was is that frozen yogurt ended up being something totally crazy. And when you go into a frozen yogurt place and you ask to look at their product before they put it in the machine, it looks like Koolaid.
Marie Forleo: Oh my God. Really?
Vani Hari: Yeah, it looks like Koolaid. It’s so processed that the probiotic content, the whole reason why you want to have yogurt in the first place, all those beneficial bacteria in your gut, they’re pretty much diminished in that powder product.
Marie Forleo: That’s disgusting. So what should we do? No frozen yogurt at all? Or is there any good brands or should we just look someplace else for a little sweet?
Vani Hari: Well, Red Mango actually has, they’ve been paying attention to how much probiotics that are in their frozen yogurt and they figured out the freezing process in order to keep some of the beneficial bacteria. And they’re one of the cleanest ones that I researched recently, which was really great. And I would recommend going for the plain variety so you don’t get the artificial colors, you’re not getting any of the other crazy flavorings that could be in there. And so if you are there, you can get the plain yogurt, you can get some fruit on top and some nuts or something. But if you’re going to go for something sweet and amazing, why not go for the real thing? Go for real ice cream, do a little bit of it.
Vani Hari: Or make your own. And I love making my own with coconut milk right here. And this is an organic coconut milk that’s available by Native Force. It doesn’t have BPA in the can, which is so awesome. Another toxin we want to avoid that’s in typical canned products. All you do, it’s so amazing. You really put this in a blender with whatever flavorings you want. A little vanilla, maybe a frozen banana or maybe some other type of fruit and whatever, chocolate, whatever flavor you want, and then throw in an ice cream machine. It is amazing.
Marie Forleo: That’s great. I need to get myself an ice cream machine because that’s one little piece of equipment that I don’t have. I love it.
Vani Hari: Yeah. For a lot of people who are trying to avoid dairy because of environmental reasons or because they’re vegan or whatever, I think coconut milk is the way to go. Plus, coconut is a powerhouse ingredient. It speeds up the metabolism. It’s got that medium chain fatty acid in there that really helps you build the right amino acids. And I just love it.
Marie Forleo: Awesome. Vani, thank you so much. And once again, all the list of what we talked about is right below this video so you can have it for yourself.
Marie Forleo: Vani, I just want to acknowledge you for your courage and your commitment not only to just being such a beacon of light, but to bringing such transparency to our food system and being an advocate for all of us. Thank you so much for the work you do and thank you for being here.
Vani Hari: Thank you so much, Marie. It is a true honor.
Marie Forleo: If you want to learn more about Vani and her incredible work, please go visit her and sign up for updates at foodbabe.com. Now Vani and I would love to hear from you. What’s the single biggest insight that you are taking away from this interview today? As always, the best conversations happen after the episode over at marieforleo.com. So go there and leave a comment now.
Marie Forleo: Did you like this video? I certainly did. If you did, like it, subscribe and share it with your friends. And if you want even more great resources to create a business in life that you love, plus some personal insights from me that I only talk about in email, get your buns over to Marie forleo.com and sign up for email updates. Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams because the world needs that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching and we’ll see you next time on MarieTV.
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Vani Hari: Azodicarbonamide. Azodicarbonamide. Azodicarbon …
Marie Forleo: We should not be eating this. If we can’t even say it-
Vani Hari: Don’t put it on my ingredient list.
Marie Forleo: Don’t put it on my ingredient list.