Easy Swaps to Fill Nutritional Gaps, from Laird Hamilton & Gabby Reece
What's the secret to living a healthy, fit life, with a clear-eyed, calm approach to every day? Starting out with a healthy ritual such as breathing, and then swapping old unhealthy habits for new, healthier ones that bring vital nutrients and minerals to the body to "fill in the gaps." We caught up with what could arguably be called the world's fittest couple: Gabrielle Reece, world-renowned athlete, model, and mother of three, and Laird Hamilton, champion big wave surfer, and entrepreneur, and co-founder of Laird Superfood, who shared their secrets for simple ways to make what are essentially healthy swaps that can improve your health, boost your mood and bolster your overall wellbeing, one functional sip or bite at a time.
They are taking away the barriers to being healthy, by making it easier with products that replace the cream in your coffee, for instance with functional ingredients. One example: they believe in the power of breathing exercises to level up your fitness and burn off calories as effectively as any workout and bring you a sense of calm.
It all started when Laird shared his coffee with a friend. They decided to market it
Laird Superfood started with a simple idea: Take a morning coffee ritual and swap the creamer out for plant-based ingredients like coconut milk, that have functional properties. It started when his friend and startup entrepreneur Paul Hodge asked what he was drinking and Laird shared his special brew. Hodge tried it and he noticed that he had an unusual amount of energy surfing that day. Together they worked on recreating a powdered version and the third try became the original Laird Superfood Creamer.
They launched the company on one product, then expanded to other functional drinks including Turmeric Creamer, Functional coffees, and an instant latte (also plant-based) called Instafuel. They expanded to foods like pili nut snacks, as well as brownie mixes with a full serving of vegetables in each, but at every turn, the company has been built on one basic philosophy: Give people healthier-for-them swaps. Keep it plant-based and unprocessed and make their daily habits pay them back, nutritionally speaking.
"This is just something you already do, so just replace it with this healthier version," Laird explained. He and Gabby, a former pro volleyball player, have three children together and move between their homes in LA and Hawaii, building their business and expanding the brand from a simple idea to a publically traded company that is growing fast. Next, they are looking for new opportunities that will help consumers segue from their usual unhealthy habits to new healthier ones with very little effort. "We walk through the supermarket and see opportunities in every aisle. Now people know they can trust us, that we are unique, and the rules we have (no artificial ingredients, nothing processed, no added sugar) are true."
Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton Share their Simple Secret to a Healthy Life
Gabrielle Reece and Laird Hamilton are sitting on a blue couch in their Southern California home and they are sounding particularly calm, grounded, and zen right now. This is an exception for the worlds' top athletes in their sports: She played pro volleyball and modeled for Nike, among others, while he rode thundering walls of water the size of buildings to become the most recognized big wave surfer in the world. Now they have their company, Laird Superfood, which has grown from a small batch functional coffee creamer made with mushrooms, then a new idea, to a publically traded company that has several lines of functional foods that help consumers trade up, swapping unhealthy habits for drinks and foods that pay them back, nutritionally speaking.
The two talk about the importance of learning how to breathe properly (tongue on the roof of the mouth, through your nose, in for 5 and a half seconds, hold, then out for 6 seconds, then hold, then repeat in what is called Box Breathing). And they share their mantra: Pay Attention. To what you eat, to where you're driving, to each other when we are in the same room (devices down). But mostly to your own body and how to feed it and nourish it with plant-based foods that will help you feel your best and be healthier.
The parents of three girls, one grown and the youngest one still at home, so they have opinions about how to get your kids to eat healthily. "I tell them there's fun and there's food," says Gabby. "A bagel may be fun, but it's not food." Their youngest is eating "crazy" things, trying out her freedom by exercising her independence from a wholesome household where every ingredient has its purpose and comes from a part of the land that likely is local soil. "That which you resist does persist," Laird comments. His approach: Let her do it. She'll come around.
The most athletic couple in America is also the most philosophical about health
"The truth is, I had been working on another idea with Paul who is a start-up expert, and he can do everything a company needs," says Laird. "One morning, he tried one of my recipes. It was a coffee recipe that I had been working on over the years, to make my coffee healthy.
"I don't think Gabby or I were thinking about starting a food company but we wanted to start something that was authentic to us. We had endorsed other people's companies and at this point in our career, we wanted to do our own company that was authentic to our values."
How they think about food, healthy swaps, and the importance of breathing
What typical plant-based food do you eat in a day?
Gabby: We are different and our needs are different. Neither one of us really eat breakfast. We do hit the road. We both start the morning with water and hydration more than anything else. We add minerals. And so that's an opportunity to put minerals into your body. That's a chance to break the fast. We do our coffee differently. Laird thinks I have hot chocolate with a couple of shots of espresso. Laird loves his turmeric.
For lunch and dinner, we eat as many colors of the rainbow as we can. In the old days, you'd plan your meals around protein or meat, but we plan it around our vegetables and healthy whole foods. Laird loves the idea of: How many colors of the rainbow you can eat in a day? And then we add tinctures and other ways to get minerals.
We try to eat when we are hungry. You need to have an awareness of who you are and where you're at with your needs. Laird just got back from Peru and I see his hunger go up but that's not the case for everyone or every day, so Instead of just a scheduled Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, the question is to eat as you need fuel. Think: do I need to eat lunch? Maybe this is the day you open up the window.
Laird: I think about how can I get the minerals I need.. These are all gaps. it's hard to find the nutrients we used to get from our soil. We eat what's local–our neighbors' fruit or vegetables.
We try to get the best ingredients we can. There is definitely a lot of nutrition gaps that have to be filled, wanting to have a stronger immune system.
That is the opportunity with the food company and get those gaps. We start with us first. So we know that if we are dedicating to eating healthy and we have gaps, then if we have gaps then imagine how many gaps other people have.
Gabby: That's why we add functional alternatives like Shilajit....which is in the Laird Superfoods Greens product.
Laird It's is a pre-biotic not pro-biotic not a probiotic. We know we are mineral deficient. We need to find ways to get those through sea algae etc.
Gabby: And not add stress around it. I know we are different but we are to not add stress around it. The grocery store can be maddening ... why are all these foods so unhealthy?
And not try to add stress around it.
Laird: You can have a little bit of garbage and know that your body can handle it. We should not make it all that complicated
Gabby: We share our fruit and our neighbors do too. If our avocado is going off we try to give it away. That's very Hawaiin.
The Beet: You love natural remedies. What is Shilajet? How do you spell it?
We say "that's the shit." It's basically a thousand-year-old compost. If you kept compost for 1,000 years, it turns into tar and becomes a resin or tar. What it has are minerals in an ionic form, which is the smallest particle form minerals can come in which makes them the most bioavailable. So in this ionic form, more minerals are available. So shilajit contains the largest spectrum of minerals in their most bio-available form.
Laird: I've known about it for a long time and used it. I take it for my body's reaction. It takes some getting used to but it's worth it. We add it to our Activate Prebiotic Greens.
Gabby: It's very high in fulvic acid [an antioxidant]. So it's calming for the nervous system but somehow energizing for the body. It's not caffeinated. It's very very powerful.
What's next for Laird Superfood. I see you've added sweets like a Brownie mix?
Gabby: The brownie mix and cookie mix both have a serving of vegetables in them. Laird's philosophy is: Could we take an existing habit or something you are already doing, and make it better?
If you asked Laird, 'Do you think people should eat brownies?' He would say no!
Laird: But we know people are going to eat brownies so lets take this pre-existing activity and give them something that is good.
There are a lot of opportunities. It's endless, walking the different aisles of the supermarket, you see: There are so many chances for doing different things. The biggest opportunity is getting people to make it easier to eat or drink good things, that are healthier for them.
Gabby: There just cant be chemistry in it. There are guardrails in how we do things.
Laird: There are a lot of nutrients that we are not eating but should be, so we are looking for alternative ways to get higher quality ingredients into the American consumers' diet.
I'm interested in breadfruit which is a type of plant that can help sustain us, and fight world hunger. They are non-GMO trees and in Hawaii, it's called Ulu (pronounced OOLOO). I'm interested in the field of agroforestry. Every month we are looking for new products.
The Beet: So is that the plan. For Laird Superfood to be a huge company?
Gabby: When I first met Laird, he said 'I want to do something a lot of people can do or use.' We thought it would be a standup paddle.
Laird: It's been the fastest-growing sport!
Gabby: Then we realized, of course, it wasn't a plan, because you can't plan certain things.
Laird: But it was an idea, and growth is built on the potential of the idea: to replace what they're doing that's not healthy with something that is healthy. The more people we can touch and the more we can help people. People need good nutrition. That's a fact.
Gabby: Once the company was set to go public, we realized we wanted to be a food platform. You can't start big. You have to create a platform. What is natural in business is that now we can do this, and now we can do that.
Laird: If the idea is pure enough and good enough, the idea has the capacity to be endless.
Lucy: It's brilliant. You are doing something sp smart: Just add this!
Laird: it's even a stage simpler is saying ... This thing you already do, just replace it. You already drink this kind of coffee, now replace it with this kind of coffee. 'Replace' is the easiest thing. You can 'Add' [healthy choices in] later. But 'Stop' is the hardest one. So we just help them replace.... We can have an effect on the population that way.
Laird: If I give you a hard workout, then 3 people–maybe–are going to do it and never come back. We say, just take what you are already doing and instead, just do this. If you're already eating this, just eat this. That kind of thinking is something people can apply easily, especially in this hectic time you are in. Having coffee? Replace it. The thinking is done for them.
Laird: We're building this relationship so people can trust us. So when I see that it's Laird Superfood, I can just grab that and I don't need to do all that homework. It takes time. But imagine you have the trust in our company.
Gabby: Sometimes people bend the rules of organic but we think: How diligent can we be?
Laird: If you're using other products as references and they are terrible, it doesn't take much to be better than they are. It's true in sport, too. Don't use the competitor's training: Set your own bar and then live by that. It's a better place to start. That separates you from everyone else.
The Beet: What's your mantra?
Laird: Pay attention. No one pays attention anymore. They are on their phones, they don't look at each other in the market, or on the street, or in their cars.
Gabby: Right! Pay attention to what you're doing and eating and speaking ... one person says 'I practice mindfulness,' but they don't actually pay attention. And if I walk into the room, just look up and say 'Hi!' I tell this to our daughter. 'Did you say good morning?' There are humans here.
Also, pay attention to yourself. Why are you grabbing that weird snack? Where is your stress coming from? If you think about it you probably would tell yourself something like: 'I'm eating this because I am bored, or I want to kill someone...' Pay attention to: Why? If we have that kind of self-awareness: I'm eating this because it's fun for me. Pay attention and connect to it.
The Beet: What advice or workout would you recommend or don't skip?
Laird: For me personally, water, Getting in the pool. Swim, or do some sort of water movement. But not everyone has that, so some sort of cardio, some sort of increased breath.
Gabby: I like this idea of breathing. Breathing works for anyone because it's free and you can do it anywhere. Breathing is actually hard if you do it right. Try breathing exercises. You can even forget the workout and try breathing.
We've been at such extreme ends of things for so long, that it allows you to see what is important. If you can breathe correctly throughout the day, that would be a boost to your overall wellbeing and health. People think: I'm going to take this weight and put it over my head, do squats and check my variable heart rate. But we now see what is really important. If you can breathe properly throughout the day then you can be fitter and healthier.
Paying attention to your breath is the most important thing we can do every day. James Nestor [the author of Breath] talks about the ideal breathing pattern. it's called box breathing: You inhale for 5.5 seconds, then hold for the same amount of time, then you exhale for 5.5. seconds, and then hold again for 5.5 seconds, and do it round and round.
We have a friend who had sleeping issues and by doing box breath–in, hold, out, hold–and doing that over and over, puts her to sleep. Connecting back to our breath and back to mindfulness. If you can sleep with your mouth closed it's so much healthier for you. And when you're sitting at your desk, try to work with your mouth closed. This is the stuff that accumulates over time. This is the kind of thing that kicks your health's ass over time. And generally breathing is a great way to support yourself.
It regulates your stress, because it taps into the sympathetic nervous system. Along with Breath by James Nestor, I like The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown. There's a ton of science to it.
The Beet: You're talking about breath when I thought you'd be all about exertion.
Laird: If you know how to play with breath you can exert yourself with breath. You can get breath to exert yourself. When you see these athletes, whether they are screaming when hitting a tennis ball or hyperventialting after oming out of the pool , it's all breath.
Gabby: I would rather do a high-intensity workout than a 45-minute radial breathing routine. The breathing routine is harder.
Laird: What happens when you run or bike? You break carbon bonds. Through breathing you break carbon bonds. You lose weight through breathing. Bikers, runners, they all break carbon bonds. It is all with breathing. It's not the pedaling, but the breathing that forces that to happen. You lose weight in your breath.
You have to get back to basics. We have a breathing app on XPT. You can go online and get all sorts of breathing exercises.
Gabby: Lay on the floor and do not fight gravity, at least at first. Attach to the breath and see what fully expanding looks like and girls, don't hold in your tummy in. Let it go soft.
Laid: The breathing ritual is important now and so helpful to tell people about this. This whole thing we are going through [related to COVID] is connected to breathing.
And if you don't think breathing is important, just try holding your breath and see how quickly it becomes important.
Bottom Line: Tips from Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reece:
If you think that it's hard to be fit, healthy, and focus, then try simple swaps that make it easier.
Some tips include: Eat when you're hungry, not when dictated by set meals. Choose the best ingredients. Swap unhealthy choices for healthier ones like Laird Superfood Creamer. Add minerals like Shilajit and get more greens. And more of all: Breathe! If you breathe correctly you can get fitter and healthier without even adding in that high-intensity workout.