Chuice (chewable juice) is all about real food in convenient bottles. It includes nuts, seeds, fruit, and everything you need in smoothie form. Sujit Sharma intends to repopularize good, nutritious food and change the way people think about nutrition. Chuice allows him educate people and provide an easy, healthy option!
Sujit, you’re a doctor. What sort of nutrition education was part of that training?
Not much. But it’s more complicated than that. Traditional medical education focuses on how the body works–our organs, cells, and the chemical reactions inside of cells that keep us alive. When I did my training, it seemed that was enough. But the way most Americans eat now has changed drastically in the past several decades. Traditional medical education hasn’t caught up with the drastic change in culture. Additionally, the constraints of practicing medicine today doesn’t allow the time needed to truly sit with patients and educate them on the importance of nutrition and how to best achieve positive change. That being said, I think nutrition has become overly complicated, even for us in the medical field. The basics still apply for how the body works. We just need to apply those basics in a better way.
Was there a specific moment when you realized the importance of nutrition in terms of caring for your patients?
There were actually two moments. First, I remember reading a 2005 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine that predicted the next generation of Americans would not live as long as the prior generation. Our average lifespan is going down due mainly to our problems with nutrition/obesity. In the last 13 years of my practice as an emergency room pediatrician, the health problems related to nutrition are obvious and palpable. When I see patients in more rural areas, where resources are even more scarce, the problem is even worse.
When Ladell HIll first introduced me to Chuice, I was a skeptic. Like most doctors, I felt I knew a lot more about nutrition than I really did. But I didn’t. It took time for me to appreciate the power of fresh plant-based foods. That was sort of the second moment for me. The genius of Chuice lies in its simplicity. Take over 45 healthy fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds, and make them delicious and convenient.
This is a new category of food, containing a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, essential fatty acids and fiber. While Chuice may look like a drink, it is actually Real Food. After months of initially challenging Ladell about the functional properties and benefits of plant-based foods, I slowly became a believer.
We all know we need to eat less processed foods and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Less king sized meals and more salads. But the allure of packaged and other “fast” foods is often hard to resist. We love convenience, first and foremost. As we all know, eating healthier, more locally produced ingredients, has become unnecessarily difficult for the average consumer. Chuice is real food that happens to be delicious and really good for you. If we continue to generate interest in this new food concept, we hope to create more fixed demand for fresh locally grown produce.
What’s your goal for Chuice?
Combining the worlds of modern and holistic medicine, we have big dreams: to make healthier living easy and part of a more sustainable future. We need support from our community–farmers, markets and consumers. While much of consumer product innovation is coming from the west coast, we have an opportunity to launch and grow a unique healthy product right here in Georgia. It would give us a tremendous sense of pride to have this ‘georgia-grown’ concept take a national stage.
You did a pilot study on Chuice at Emory’s school of public health last summer. What were some of the outcomes?
This was exciting to us. We looked at multiple outcomes, including heart disease markers. In 21 test subjects who consumed Chuice as a lunch meal replacement 14 days in a row, we noted a statistically significant improvement in Pulse Wave Velocity. This “biomarker” is a well established tool known to correlate with risk for strokes and heart attacks. With only 21 test subjects in the study, this can by no means be interpreted as groundbreaking, but does support the need for more advanced investigation.
According to the CDC, heart disease (strokes and heart attacks) is the leading cause of death in America. In the Southeast, more people die from strokes than in any other part of the country. An increasing amount of research now demonstrates that eating larger amounts of fresh plant-based foods can not only lower risk for heart disease, it can also help to reverse it. We have to find innovative ways to get children and adults to consume more fruits and vegetables; to take the bounty of the farm and bring it to schools and the workplace where it is so sorely needed. Chuice may be one such innovation.
How has focusing on nutrition—specifically, encouraging more fruit and vegetable consumption—affected your view of organic farms and farmers?
I’ve come to see this as an opportunity. As a doctor, I now know that we have to get more people interested eating more fruits and vegetables, above all. The average American doesn’t get nearly the minimum daily requirements of the fresh plant-based foods they need, even though its quite clear that these ingredients help prevent a host of chronic diseases. This is a problem of demand.
If we can make fresh fruits and vegetables more appealing to people, through packaged products like Chuice, we can substantially increase the number of people interested in how their food is grown, where it comes from, and how their choices can have the least impact on the environment. Change requires a movement. And movements are strengthened by more people.
True success for an innovative product like Chuice would see us sourcing more and more from local farmers in the near future. Many of the ingredients in Chuice could be sourced from organic farms here in Georgia and we are looking for such opportunities. Our success could be a benefit to the community at large: we can bring together the interests of health, sustainability, education, research and jobs. By making Real Food popular again, everybody wins!