Vitamin D-packed Mushroom Powder and other Shocking Discoveries (Plus Giveaway!)

A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the "2011 Dole Healthy Lifestyle Summit" at the Four Seasons Westlake Village, sponsored by the Dole Nutrition Institute and the California Health and Longevity Institute. I had such a great time and came back with so much amazing information that  I immediately cranked out 7 Facebook status updates, 5 blog posts, and 183 tweets I totally freaked out and avoided writing anything at all.  But since I'm sincerely hoping to get invited to blogger events in the future, I thought it might be time to cough up something in the way of a Dole recap.

Now when I first got invited to the event, I swear it was called the "Dole Health and Happiness Summit." But then somehow the name changed! I wonder if the organizers saw me cutting a ginormous swath through the buffet table, swilling up all their pinot noir, cavorting sans swimsuit in the hot tub, making burdensome special requests of hotel staff, giggling inappropriately with the other attendees, and swiping extra free samples of everything in sight? I'm guessing a frantic inter-office email went out: "Change the summit name, ASAP! Crabby McSlacker is obviously WAY too into 'Happiness' and has totally forgotten about 'Health!' Who the heck invited her, anyway?"

Anyway, despite all the fun, I did actually learn a lot of interesting stuff about nutrition and exercise while I was there. Plus, seeing as we're just kicking off Crabby's Crass Cavalcade of Commercialism the wholesome holiday entertaining and shopping season, I thought a healthy food-related giveaway might be in order.

So wanna find out what the deal is with the amazing mushroom powder, enter the giveaway, and learn about some other things I picked up at the conference? (None of which were communicable, btw, so you can put away the antibiotics.)

Here's what we got:

Mushroom Powder: A Natural, Vegan, Kick-Ass Source of Vitamin D.

So what's the deal with the Vitamin D Mushroom Powder?

Well, there's been a lot of press over the years about how important Vitamin D is for health, yet deficiencies are widespread--even among folks who think they're getting plenty. (And say, have you been tested yet?)  Unfortunate health ramifications can include osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, MS, and diabetes.

Many folks who don't want to risk skin cancer with lots of sun exposure try hard to get enough Vitamin D through either their diets or by taking supplements. But if you're vegan or vegetarian, that gets tricky. Most natural and supplemental sources of D come from animals.  The Dole folks also try to scare even non-vegetarians away from conventional supplements with the "ick" factor: they're generally derived from "wool grease, yeast or fish livers."

Strangely enough, mushrooms, like people, are able to synthesize Vitamin D from light. The Dole folks tinkered around for a while, and came up with a way of flashing light on the shroooms, packing 'em full of boatloads of natural Vitamin D, and grinding them into a powder. Voila! A natural, non-animal source of Vitamin D.

 Mushrooms Seeing the Light

But how does the powder taste? Just fine, thanks! We had lots of food during the conference with the powder in it, and it was undetectable. However, if you add a whole bunch to something to make it detectable on purpose, it can either add a little savory mushroom flavor to dishes that could use it, or it has a chocolate-like flavor when combined with sweet ingredients.  Since the conference, I've put tons of the stuff in smoothies, soup, scrambled eggs, and coffee and it hasn't grossed me out once!

There are also a whole ton of other health benefits from mushrooms, but I got the sense that from a  marketing perspective, consumers prefer a simpler message. So Vitamin D it is.  Sadly though, while the plucky Dole Nutrition Institute research folks are enthusiastic about the product, it doesn't seem to have the usual behemoth Dole Brand backing.  This means outreach is charmingly grass roots.  They're talking to bloggers and having recipe contests! If you don't win a bottle in our giveaway, you can go to the Dole Depot to order, because the stuff isn't in stores.  Poor mushroom powder! It's so good for you, and could be a staple in vegan or vegetarian households, yet apparently it's not sexy enough for grocery stores.  I have to confess, I'm rooting for it.

What else did I learn at the summit?

Other Health and Fitness Bloggers are Way Better At Everything Than Crabby, But That's OK!


The conference was a bit humbling, but the awesome bloggers who attended were so warm and approachable that I mostly managed to forget how much they all seemed to outclass me in terms of blogging, tweeting, networking, taking photos, demonstrating cooking skills, building marketing empires, and running marathons.  (Seriously, two attendees ran marathons right after the conference was over.) 

For much better coverage of the conference and great pictures, check out several great posts by Meghann at Meals and Miles, starting with The Test Kitchen, Monica's awesome posts at Run Eat Repeat including the Dole Healthy Lifestyle Summit, and two excellent reports by Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats.

Kristin (Iowa Girl) and Crabby,
Eating For the Thousandth Time That Day

Tina also has several great posts about the summit at Carrots and Cake, and just as I was about to post, I found Jenn and Tish showed up at Fit Bottom Girls with another fab recap!

 Knowing Jen & Tish would be there I even went to yoga...!

Perhaps the most fascinating (to me at least) coverage of the summit was by Lorrie from The Token Fat Girl, summing up what it's like to feel insecure and out of place at these sorts of things. I could relate! But she seemed so charming and friendly I had no idea she felt that way at the time.

Not All Big Food Companies Are Out to Poison Consumers, Ravage the Environment and Create a Nation of Junk Food Addicts!

So after a spending a couple of days in luxurious accommodations, enjoying personal wellness consultations, spa services, delicious cuisine, fine wine, and the company of a surprising number of PR and Dole folks, all of whom seemed to be incredibly helpful, brainy, inquisitive, funny, warm, and just generally awesome...the question arises: can one really be objective about the company hosting such an enjoyable event?

Probably not! And yet there seemed to be genuine evidence all around, both in terms of Dole products and company values, that made me question how easily I tend to mindlessly stereotype any large, well-known food purveyor. I tend to think if it's Big and Successful, it's must be doing something nasty to get that way.

Yet from the subsidized company cafeteria which serves incredibly healthy food, to the fitness centers employees use, to the decision to use BPA-free plastics in their packaging, to the reduction of added sugars whenever possible... it really does seem like the Dole folks are trying to be positive force for health.

They specialize in fruits and vegetables, two things I am heartily in favor of.  Some of it, true, is packaged and processed. Would I personally buy their yogurt-covered Real Fruit Bites myself? Eh, probably not; they didn't rock my socks off, and I'm a health blogger who lives a couple blocks from Whole Foods with plenty of healthy snack and dessert options. But I also tried their Apple/Pear Fruit Crisp with a bit of nonfat vanilla yogurt on top, and wow, an excellent alternative to pie with a fraction of the calories, fat, and sugar.  I'd buy that with my own money!

I'm guessing that Dole's packaged products would particularly handy for busy families.  If you're a harried parent of 4 kids with a full time job living in an under-served community looking for a candy substitute with a long shelf life that will actually get eaten and not thrown in the trash? They've got what you're looking for. Their prepared salad kits win health awards; they were highlighting a gizmo that turn bananas into an ice-cream like dessert without adding fat or sugar...  they've got innovative packaging ideas that mean frozen blueberries that thaw into the consistency of fresh, bananas you buy by the bunch but that will ripen over time.  Not everyone has the time or funds to go to fancy specialty food stores and prepare time consuming complicated healthy meals from scratch.

Or maybe that's the 50 minute Swedish massage talking.  Who knows!

Farro, Ripe Bananas, Muscle Zappers, Smoothies in a Bowl, and other Miscellaneous Things I Happen to Remember

Besides the official presentations, there were also lots of opportunities to compare notes with other nutball health fanatics healthy living enthusiasts. There were some great tips from bloggers as well as the brainy folks at the Dole Nutrition Institute (who have a very informative nutrition website, btw). Had I taken better notes, I would have a lot more, but hell, this post is getting long anyway.

  • Farro was a whole grain I'd been meaning to check out because it's really good for you; they served it at one of our meals and it was delicious!
  • Ripe bananas actually contain as much resistant starch as greenish ones. (If you've been following the whole resistant starch thing that the Prevention Magazine folks have been pushing then hooray! If not, then never mind.)
  • If you pour your big ol' green smoothie in a bowl and eat it with a spoon, it takes longer and you feel more like you've had a "real" meal.
  • There's a contraption you can wear that zaps your muscles and makes them contract involuntarily; I got to try it and it was trippy! If I ever test one out for real, I'll be sure to let you know.
  • Future generations may not be as hopelessly screwed-over as one would expect by the proliferation of junk food! There is a program called Teaching Gardens bringing gardening, cooking classes, and an appreciation of whole foods to schools nationwide.

Oh, and if I Ever Become a Powerful CEO of a Multinational Corporation I'm Going Straight to CHLI for an Executive Physical and Then I'm Going to Have a Massage and Perhaps Become Immortal

We got a tour of the California Health and Longevity Institute, and wow, who came up wit the incredible idea to combine medical services, nutrition, fitness and wellness services, cooking classes, weight loss packages, and then put it all in a freakin' Four Seasons Spa??? You can get physicals, serious medical treatment, cosmetic and dental work, and tweak your lifestyle with all kinds of consultants and coaches. Never before have I toured a medical suite and found myself not wanting to leave! Well, not unless heavy sedation with euphoria-inducing controlled substances was involved.  And hey, for reality tv show buffs, apparently Extreme MakeOver Weightloss Edition is filmed there. I got a consultation with exercise specialist Laurie Streff, who was awesome. (And yes, Laurie, I'm still doing my intervals, I swear!)

And Now, Finally, To The Giveaway!

Five count 'em, five, people can win a container of Portobello Mushroom Powder by leaving a comment indicating that you'd like some by Thursday November 17th. The Random Number Generator will pick the winners among those interested.  Kind enough to leave a comment, but don't really want a bottle? Well, in order to keep from hurting the mushroom powder's feelings, there's no reason to go out of your way to say so.  I'll just draw from comments that mention wanting to try it. (And hey, maybe a stocking stuffer for the vegetarian in your life?)

Sadly, due to food shipping issues, this one is U.S. only. (But remember, we still have Jillian's  BodyMedia Fit Armband giveaway going, also until Thursday night the 17th, and anyone can enter that one). Both drawings will happen Friday the 18th, so be sure to check back to claim your prize.

Wow, the post lasted almost longer than the conference!  Want some mushroom powder, or have any thoughts about corporate-sponsored get always, packaged food, fruits and vegetables, or anything else?

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