Interview with Founder & CEO of Brad's Raw Foods: Brad Gruno

"Brad Gruno is the Founder & CEO of the popular raw food company, Brad's Raw Foods. Back in 2006, Brad was the typical American guy--overweight, high cholesterol, low energy, didn’t sleep well. Sound familiar? Then something remarkable happened. He was introduced to the documentary film “Eating,” which highlights the benefits of a plant-based diet. He immediately adopted a raw diet, lost 40 pounds and completely overhauled his health, discovering a youthful energy he hadn’t experienced since his 20s. Though he was completely invested in his new way of eating, he did miss traditional American snack food, so he began experimenting with raw chips made from fresh vegetables, sprouted flax seeds, fruit nuts, buckwheat groats and an array of spices.

This quest for that “familiar crunch” eventually led to the creation of Brad’s Raw Foods, and his product lines now include Brad's Raw Chips, Brad's Raw Crunchy Kale, Brad's Raw Onion Rings and Brad's Raw 4 Paws. All of his products are dehydrated below 115 degrees, retaining healthy enzymes and nutrients, which aids digestion. They are all also certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free and kosher. Though Brad's job is to continue to oversee the success of Brad’s Raw Foods, he loves traveling around and connecting with people in order to “spread the kale.” Raw food completely changed Brad's health and life, and his products and company’s mission inspire others to do the same

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about yourself? What does your job entail?
Brad Gruno: I'm Brad Gruno -- Founder & CEO of Brad's Raw Foods. Though my main job is to continue to oversee the success of my company, I also enjoy traveling and connecting with people all around the world in order to “spread the kale.” I take great pleasure in sharing my story and inspiring others to adopt healthier habits and lifestyles. 

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about Brad's Raw Chips and how it got started?
Brad Gruno: After adopting a 100% raw diet, I was completely happy and invested in my new way of eating, but did miss the familiar crunch of traditional American snack food. I started experimenting with raw chips made from fresh vegetables, sprouted flax seeds, fruit nuts, buckwheat groats and an array of spices. I dehydrated the chips below 115 degrees so that I wouldn’t break my commitment to a raw diet. My snacks were met with a lot of enthusiasm from my family and friends, and because of my entrepreneurial spirit and tendencies, I quickly realized the commercial appeal they could have. I ran demos at local farmers markets, and further enthusiasm validated the notion that my product had real potential. After a lot of work and persistence, local health food stores and regional Whole Foods Markets began carrying Brad’s Raw Chips. Since then, my company has been in a constant state of upward growth and expansion, and my varying product lines are sold in specialty retailers and established grocers all throughout the country.

Sarah Velasco: When did you start going raw? Why did you change your eating habits?
Brad Gruno: I adopted a raw food diet years ago, after my career in the telecommunications industry came to a sudden halt with the dot com crash. When I moved back to my home area of Bucks County, PA, I was at least 40 pounds heavier, depressed because of my recent business failure, and prescribed the drug Lipitor to normalize high cholesterol levels. I then realized that even though I had lost everything I had worked so hard for, I could take back control of my health; how I treated my body was the one thing I actually did have control over. After watching the documentary film Eating, I was inspired to adopt a 100% raw diet for a year, and I literally jumped in head first – which is something that I actually would not recommend! My new book, "Brad's Raw Made Easy", will help readers ease into a 100% raw food cleanse and then transition them to a diet that consists of 80% raw food and 20% cooked, healthy options (the lifestyle that I’m currently living right now).

Sarah Velasco: Did you notice changes with your body? How soon did you notice them?
Brad Gruno: I started to notice a positive change in my body and mood after only a few weeks, but after a few months, I was like a completely different person. I had lost over 40 pounds, lowered my cholesterol levels, and had the kind of energy and enthusiasm that I hadn’t experienced since my mid-20s. I remember my aunt saying to me one day, “Brad, your skin is glowing!” Once I knew my body was capable of feeling that good, there was no way I was going back to my old eating habits and lifestyle.

Sarah Velasco: What are common misconceptions about going raw?
Brad Gruno: I think the most common misconception about a raw food diet is that it has to be incredibly restrictive or complicated, but it doesn't have to be like that at all. There are so many amazing recipes you can make from raw food, and having the goal of living an 80/20 lifestyle for the longterm gives you the perfect amount of flexibility. Depending on your previous eating habits and lifestyle, this diet might be more or less challenging at first – but after a few weeks, the way it positively affects and changes your body is all the motivation you need to keep going. My book breaks it down and walks the reader through it step-by-step to make it as easy and encouraging as possible.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about your book? What was that process like for you? What inspired you to write one?
Brad Gruno: "Brad's Raw Made Easy" is a complete guide to living an 80/20 lifestyle. It takes the reader through a 60 day cleanse -- 30 of those days being 100% raw. After completing the 60 days, the reader is completely ready and prepared to live a healthy lifestyle consisting of 80% raw foods and 20% cooked, healthy options. I wrote it with the hopes of showing mainstream America how easy being healthy can be, and the book includes 150 easy-to-make recipes, a food journal and my own personal journey of turning around my life and health. Putting the book together was such a fun process! I rounded up a some of my amazing friends in the raw food community, so there's also a handful of great contributed recipes in the book. 
I was inspired to write a book when I saw how the majority of people responded to my story. From traveling around the world and connecting with people to spread the word and mission about Brad's Raw Foods, I had so many people approach/write/email/etc. asking how I was able to turn around my health and what my secret was. I was just a regular guy – not someone who had been overly exposed to the health and fitness industry my whole life – and that really seemed to resonate with people. I think it’s encouraging and motivating for people to know that you really can change your life and lifestyle at any age. I wrote this book for all of the regular people like me who think that it’s too hard to make drastic changes to his or her eating habits. I truly believe that if I can do it, anyone can do it, and “Brad's Raw Made Easy” will show him or her the way. I also understand that sometimes books about changing your lifestyle can be difficult and intimidating. I wanted to make this book for mainstream America. I made the recipes so simple anyone with a home blender can make them. 

Sarah Velasco: What advice would you give to one wanting to switch over to a raw diet? 
Brad Gruno: Try adopting the mentality to incorporate MORE into your diet, as opposed to thinking of it as LESS. Eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc. on a daily basis and the more good stuff you add, the less you’ll even want the bad stuff. I think when you start thinking about it more in terms of addition and not subtraction you’re already setting yourself up for success. There’s none of the guilt or beating yourself up when you do indulge or eat something that you maybe shouldn’t have – just focus on continuing to eat more “good” things.

Sarah Velasco: What does your average day diet look like?
Brad Gruno: I love starting my day with a green smoothie. It is seriously the easiest thing you can make. Throw some leafy greens (kale is a favorite of course), fruit, nuts, and maybe some other veggies into a blender with water, and you’re good to go. I usually make a full pitcher in the morning and that will last me all morning until lunchtime. Another thing I do is keep fruits and veggies washed and stored in ready-to-eat containers so that they’re easy to grab on the go. I’m a big fan of big salads loaded with veggies for lunch and/or dinner with my signature cashew dressing, called “Brad’s House Dressing” in the book. I also always like to keep some small bags of raw nuts and seeds with me – the fatty proteins are great for holding me over until my next meal. Of course I always have a stock of Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale and Brad's Raw Chips on me for some healthy snacking too.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about your kale chips? How are they made?
Brad Gruno: Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale starts out with the most nutritionally dense leafy green vegetable available…fresh, leafy kale! We then batter it up with flavorful, natural ingredients including raw cashews, sunflower seeds, & spices to give the kale that extra punch of flavor. The product is then dehydrated below 115 degrees (retaining active enzymes) to transform it into a light, crunchy and delectable snack food that rivals any popular unhealthy snack. Business Insider actually just released a video of me giving away my recipe for our popular "Vampire Killer" kale chips. Click here to take a look and learn how to make them yourself.

Sarah Velasco: Do you have any healthy ' sweets' you can recommend to our readers?
Brad Gruno:
 Here's a great article from Metro New York where I list lots of healthy (and tasty) substitutions for popular sweets and snacks. It's definitely worth a read!