Picture from the @fitfluential Instagram
First and foremost, don’t you worry—I did not forget about the fourth and final weekly giveaway. I’m going to post it on Friday because I actually have an INCREDIBLE package from NOW Foods to include in the prize, and first wanted to share all about my trip to see the company.
On Thursday, I got the fun opportunity to travel out to the suburbs of Chicago with a group of FitFluential bloggers to attend a two-day immersion event at NOW Foods. Up until then, I associated NOW with their bright orange vitamin and supplement bottles I’d seen at health food stores, but wasn’t too familiar with the company beyond that. And as I learned, NOW doesn’t just produce supplements. They have personal care products (including essential oils—my favorite!), sports nutrition products and a wide array of foods.
We stayed at the Hilton Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale and had enough downtime for me to get a little blogging work done…and practice headstands.
Honestly, my first reaction was skepticism. Would I really want to buy foods from the same company from which I was buying shampoo? But—not to sound like an infomercial—I was beyond impressed by NOW’s transparency throughout the trip and by an obvious commitment to quality they have as the foundation of everything they do. I left feeling genuinely excited to use their products.
I think part of my skepticism going into the trip is something a lot of people can relate to—a sort of subliminal association of supplements with drugs (steroids, diet pills, bad chemicals, etc.), and therefore a hesitation to accept them as “natural.” And what I really appreciated was NOW’s candidness in addressing this. I’m going to focus this post on the “natural” discussion (what does it even mean these days??) because I found it fascinating, but if you’re just interested in hearing about the blogging trip, scroll through and read the captions I’ve included underneath all the pictures.
We had a welcome dinner the first night at Glen Prairie where we got to chat with some of the NOW team. I had a delicious spinach salad and then this phenomenal salmon dish.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that “natural” in its perhaps purest definition (for example, an apple grown in organic soil on your family’s farm, plucked straight from the tree and eaten on the spot) isn’t always possible and realistic in today’s world. Supply can be limited, and not everyone lives close to a farm. Developments in science have provided solutions to this. And I’m in no way suggesting you eat an apple made in a laboratory (please don’t)—I am very passionate about eating organic, non-GMO products when possible. I am saying that not all food science is bad. Vitamin supplements can be a great example of this.
Friday morning we got up bright and early for a spin class at Life Time Fitness and a quick yoga session with Amy, their Group Fitness Director. After our workout, we enjoyed some delicious cinnamon chocolate protein shakes.
I got to chat with NOW Foods CEO Jim Emme, and my first question was simply where do pill-form vitamins come from? Are they extracted from foods and plants? Are they made in laboratories? And he explained that it totally depends on the nutrient. Some can be extracted from vegetable oils, soy, fish liver oils and other mineral sources. In other cases, a nature-identical nutrient can be made in the lab. These nature-identical nutrients have the exact molecular structure to the nutrient occurring in nature—your body doesn’t know the difference. When NOW can’t use from-nature “natural” ingredients, they use these nature-identical ones in their products.
The example Jim used was vitamin C. Upwards of 95% (maybe more—I forget the exact number) of vitamin C found in supplements is manufactured in labs in China. It was weird to wrap my brain around the concept. On the one hand, swallowing a pill made in a lab in China doesn’t seem very natural. But think about eating a genetically modified orange to get a dose of vitamin C. That orange’s molecular makeup might be slightly different from an orange grown organically in nature because it’s been genetically modified. The vitamin C pill from a lab, however, is identical to the molecular make up of the vitamin C found in that organic orange. Weird to think about, right?
Nature-identical ingredients are clearly great from a manufacturer’s standpoint (as well as a consumer’s since they help keep supply on par with our demand), but they come with a whole new set of quality assurance concerns. If I’m buying a banana at the grocery store, I know what I’m getting. Looks like a banana, smells like a banana, tastes like a banana—I’m good. But when I buy supplements, it’s not always as clear. I can’t look at a multivitamin capsule and know what’s inside based on my own personal knowledge—I have to trust that the company I’m buying from has listed exactly what’s in it on the label.
And it’s not necessarily that the company is trying to deceive you—they might have been deceived by their suppliers. Brand X, for example, doesn’t make every single ingredient in their protein powder. They might source one ingredient from a manufacturer in China, another from a supplier in California, etc., etc. Not only does NOW audit their suppliers, but their testing process is rigorous to say the least. And I was shocked to learn that detecting adulterants, synthetic hormones and steroids, and other unnatural ingredients was actually a fairly regular occurrence. It makes you appreciate the effort put into their quality assurance testing!
After our tour, we heading to NOW Corporate Offices to do a testing of the Ellyndale Foods oils (NOW’s high quality food label). Dr. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD then gave us a great presentation on wellness!
I thought this whole “natural” topic was super relevant given the battle between Food Babe and Science Babe that went viral recently (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read more here and the rebuttal here). I’m not siding with either—I think we absolutely do have a right to know what’s in our food and skincare products, but that we also shouldn’t live in fear of every ingredient or process we don’t fully understand (something I’m definitely guilty of at times!).
I saw visiting NOW as a huge opportunity for me to learn about supplements and the manufacturing of “natural” products—two areas I didn’t fully understand, and admittedly was wary of as a result. It was an excellent trip for me. Yes, I now found a brand I feel confident in, but more importantly, I just feel more knowledgeable about the business of “natural” products as a whole and better able to make informed purchasing decisions in the future. You can read more about NOW’s definition of “natural” HERE.
We ended the trip with a cooking session with Chef Suzy Singh in NOW’s Culinary Innovation Center. Everything was delicious, but the gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies especially blew my mind (and taste buds).
Since I spent this whole post yapping about “natural,” I’ll wrap up with some important points about NOW Foods. On Friday, I am giving away a MASSIVE package of their products along with some other prizes so get excited!
- NOW was founded in 1968 by Elwood Richard and is still family-owned today by the Richards. This has been a huge factor in allowing them to stick to their core mission of providing value in products that empower people to lead healthier lives, even as the company continues to grow.
- As part of their commitment to being “natural,” NOW does not feel GMOs belong in their products. Their foods are 100% non-GMO and so far 75% of their supplements are non-GMO Assured.
- NOW has four major categories of products: nutritional supplements, sports nutrition, foods and personal care. I know I focused on supplements for most of this post, but guys. Their coconut infusions. So good!
- You can connect with NOW on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. They’re also hosting a #NOWGetFit Twitter party on Tuesday, May 12 @9PM.
Big thanks to FitFluential & NOW Foods–I had a great time!
This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of NOW Foods.