Body & Mind Inside Our Brands

Dr. Thomas Cowan on how (and why) to eat more vegetables

Dr. Cowan's Garden

Dr. Cowan’s Garden vegetable powders are food supplements in the truest sense: they’re actually food. These powders are the type and quality you’d see in a high-end restaurant, only in this case they’re packaged in beautiful Miron glass jars that you can sit on your kitchen counter and sprinkle liberally into eggs, soups, risotto, pasta, or roasted meats (Kale and Leek) or simply stir into your yogurt, smoothie, or oatmeal (3-Beet). And voilà, you’ve increased the number of vegetables you’re consuming with about two seconds of effort.

Dr. Cowan himself is a holistic MD and prolific author in our home city of San Francisco, so we asked him if he’d share some of his knowledge with us. He kindly obliged — read on for his perspective, and be sure to sign up for our email newsletter to find out when he’s coming to Ayla to meet you all in person.

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Ayla: What prompted you to create Dr. Cowan’s Garden?  
Dr. Cowan: I have been interested in food diversity and healthy food for decades. One of the main revelations I had about food was that, even for the most careful and adventurous consumer, the diversity of the modern diet pales in comparison to the diversity enjoyed by healthy traditional peoples. We now know that native Californians ate over 100 different plants per year, each with their own specific nutrient profile and disease fighting properties. In contrast, the typical American diet consists of 10-15 poorly grown plants at most. Having learned about vegetable powders from a local high end restaurant, I saw the possibility of turning a wide variety of vegetables into easy to use powders. What we discovered in making vegetable powders was not only that they added diversity to the diet but also that the flavors were amazing. Simply put, everything tastes better with vegetable powders.

Ayla: Tell us why vegetable diversity is so important.  
Dr. Cowan: We know from modern research that the diversity of the micro-organisms that live in our gut is one of the prime determinants of our health. The more diverse our microbiome, the healthier we tend to be. It is no surprise that the diversity of our microbiome is a direct reflection of the level of diversity in our diet. Different vegetables have different properties; these differences are reflected in the color of the vegetables, the growth habit (annual vs perennial), the part of the plant that is eaten (root, fruit or leaves), and many other things.  We eat a large number of plants to ensure we are getting as many of the nutrients and phytochemicals involved in as many of these differences as possible. That is the traditional food strategy for a long and healthy life.

Ayla: You go to great lengths to source your vegetables properly. Can you explain how you decide to work with a particular farm?  
Dr. Cowan: We always value local, fresh food that is grown on the best soil possible. For us, this means only organic farms — and if possible, small organic or biodynamic farms whose priority is the care of their soil. It should be no surprise that the quality of our food is a direct reflection of our soil. Soil grown with homemade compost has the most diverse microbes in it. This in turn creates a higher nutrient density in the plant. This is a key component of using food as medicine — a core principle of my practice and our company. 

Ayla: Many of your vegetables are grown biodynamically. Can you tell us why this is important to you?  
Dr. Cowan: I have been involved in biodynamics for about 40 years now. For me, this is simply the best way to grow food and to heal our suffering planet. Biodynamic growers must follow certain rules that go way beyond those that simple organic farmers must follow:  they must make their own compost, their farm must have animals on the farm, and the animal manure must be used in the compost making. Studies have shown that simply having animals on the farm and using their manure increases the microbial diversity in the soil by 40%. Biodynamics involve no toxic agricultural chemicals and are even strictly limited as to which non-toxic natural preparations they are allowed to use. If one has the chance to visit a real biodynamic farm, you will experience the magic and never go back to eating conventionally grown food again.  

Ayla: We love how careful you are about the processing of your powders to retain the maximum nutrient value of each vegetable. Can you tell us what this process looks like for these powders?  
Dr. Cowan: Our principle is to prepare the vegetable as you would eat it at home and then dry it at that stage. This sets us apart from all the other vegetable powder companies. For example, in my opinion, kale should never be eaten raw. When it is steamed or blanched, it loses its bitterness and gets sweeter and greener. At this optimal stage, we stop the cooking and dry it at low heat. If it is cooked too long, it loses its nutrients; not enough, and it’s not “ready” to eat. Generally, we process each vegetable in a way that brings out the flavor, nutrients, and color as much as possible.
- Our kale is blanched or steamed, then dried at low heat.
- Our beets are blanched or steamed, then dried at low heat.
- Our leeks are raw and dried at low heat.

Ayla: What are your favorite quick ways to use these three powders?  
Dr. Cowan: I use the powders every day. Green powders like Kale sprinkled on eggs or in soup, Leek the same way, and Three-Beet mixed with a dollop of yogurt or oatmeal.

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Want to learn more about this cool brand? Shop the line here, and watch a video about them here

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