Danielle Copperman started her journey into health and wellbeing when she moved to London to model full-time. She was frustrated at the amount of confusing and conflicting information in supermarkets and in the media so decided to overhaul her diet to one that was focused on natural, fresh and unprocessed foods. She is a massive granola lover and was shocked at the amount of sugar in traditional cereals so decided to start making her own - thus Qnola was born! We caught up with her to talk in more detail about her experiences of moving towards a healthier lifestyle.
You started your journey into health and wellbeing when you moved to London to model full time so did you feel pressure from the industry to eat a certain way?
Modelling actually inspired me to change my diet and lifestyle habits. Before then, I ate a lot of junk food and was naturally skinny. As I got older and when I left home and had to take care of myself, I felt more aware of the connection between what I eat and how my body and mind look and feel. To stay energetic, slim and strong for modelling, I reviewed my dietary habits and have been studying, learning, discovering new power changes ever since.
Why were you frustrated by what you were seeing in the supermarkets and in the media in regards to what was healthy/unhealthy?
When I moved away from home, I had to do more of my own food shopping which led to a lot of confusion when it came to ingredients and labels. I knew most people looked into fat content and calories but I was more confused by the list of ingredients - most of which I didn't recognise or know as 'food' at all. I was most frustrated that almost everything in supermarkets contains some sugar, and also the way most of the food is pretty 'dead'. Nothing but the fresh fruit and veg section is really alive, and so many items have been packaged and produced for the longest shelf life. I began to realise that supermarket food is more concerned about business and profit than it is for the health of humanity. So many foods are falsely advertised as healthy, particularly cereals and breakfast bars, and I wanted to start an educated revolution whereby people would be more conscious and aware of what was in their food, and how to avoid it.
What made you decide to focus on natural, fresh and unprocessed foods in the end?
I try to avoid processed foods and things that have been cooked or refined so much that any of their original nutritional content has been destroyed. I don't follow a strict diet because I personally don't enjoy doing so, but I do love eating fresh, natural ingredients provided by the earth, as I truly believe they are intended for us and crucial for our survival. I don't eat gluten, grains, dairy or refined sugar but I occasionally make exceptions, as long as whatever I am eating is as fresh as possible. For example, if I do eat cheese it will be local and made from ethically raised animals. If I do eat gluten it will be fresh, handmade bread, rather than pre-packaged white sliced bread.
Did you feel any different when you started to cook these types of foods?
Yes, almost instantly. I experienced headaches when I cut out sugar to begin with, but after just 3-4 days my grey looking skin was more vibrant and I had way more energy. I felt less bloated and felt lighter, but more than anything, I felt constantly energised and full of life. I worked and performed much better, my digestion was more functional and I began to notice more defined results during and after working out.
At what point did you realise that cereals were one of the biggest culprits for added sugar?
Traditional cereals, particularly children's cereals, are devastatingly high in sugar. In most cases, these sugars will be highly processed sugars, sweetners and a combination of additives and even E-numbers. NOT what you need first thing in the morning! But even adult breakfast products that claim to be healthy, such as muesli and granolas, can also contain far too much sugar for them to be good for you. Muesli generally contains no sugar, but granolas contain a combination of things like honey, golden syrup, maple syrup, brown sugar, demerara sugar, molasses, treacle - the list goes on. Although some of these are more natural than your basic sugars, the amount used in traditional granolas is high enough for the product to be classed more as a sweet treat or dessert, than a breakfast! Even if they are natural (like honey, agave, date syrup, coconut sugar, xylitol etc.), the amount needs to be monitored. Generally, if it tastes sweet, it IS sweet! In Qnola, we only use a really small amount of natural coconut palm sugar - to ensure our products aren't too sweet.
Other cereals also contain artificial flavours and preservatives (giving them a suspiciously long shelf life) and some have chunks of chocolate in or crystallised dried fruits which again is added sugar and most probably includes other chemicals or preservatives too.
What are the repercussions of too much sugar in your diet?
I assume it's different for everyone, but for me, I had headaches, many sugar highs followed by severe lows, dull looking skin, constant tiredness, mood swings and majorly low energy at times. It affects my skin to some extent but mostly my energy, concentration and performance.
What are the benefits of eating quinoa and why did you decide to use that as your base for your granolas?
Quinoa is a fibrous seed high in protein and full of amino acids, omega 3 and antioxidants. I started eating quinoa when I first began to work out a lot, as it provides you with plenty of long lasting energy, without making you feel too full up and also provides amino acids or the building blocks vital for muscle repair, rebuilding and growth. Quinoa makes the products high in protein, fiber, healthy fats and amino acids, and is easier to digest for many people than oats and other cereals. It is ideal in the morning because the protein content gives you sustainable energy to see you through until at least lunch time, reducing cravings or premature hunger.
Please tell us a little bit about Qnola and how it all came about.
Qnola is a range of quinoa based breakfast goods, free from gluten, grains, dairy and refined sugar. The brand developed from something I was making for myself at home in response to the lack of genuinely healthy breakfast options on the market, into a popular 'free from' breakfast option, now stocked in stores all over the world! Our products are naturally and gently sweetened with coconut palm sugar and we use raw nuts and seeds as well as deeply nourishing superfood powders to ensure each product has more to offer than most other cereal products on the market.
Why did you want to make a product that was vegan, paleo and gluten free? Do you follow any of these diets or suffer from intolerances?
I found that in researching diets focussed around only natural ingredients, these buzzwords surfaced a lot. I went paleo and gluten free and didn't eat any animal by-products (due to modern production and methods) as the easiest way to ensure I was eating only natural ingredients. Paleo was right for me at the time I set up my Qnola business because I was working out daily and needed a lot of protein for energy and repair. Gluten-free was good for me because it reduced my bloating and eased digestion - I think the processed bread and pasta I was eating was too dysfunctional and did more harm than good - although now I tend to eat handmade or fresh pasta and fermented breads, occasionally. The avoidance of animal products was due to research findings regarding the way animals are raised and how things like milk and cheese are produced these days. I eat meat only if it is from a reliable source and if meat that has been raised free and ethically. Nowadays, I dip in and out of these diets but the main 'rule' stays the same: everything I eat is as natural, unprocessed and fresh from the source as can be.
What is next for you?
There are a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline, both personally and from a business point of view. I can't discuss some of them as they’ve not officially been announced BUT I can reveal that we'll be adding some exciting new products to our breakfast range this Summer. Following this we’ll be launching a range of functional brewing powders including coconut matcha latte and medicinal mushroom teas.
Alongside expanding our Qnola products, we’re also focusing on the lifestyle side of the brand too, launching more natural beauty products, clothing, accessories and other products to promote our ethos as an all encompassing 360 approach to living well, rather than just a healthy breakfast range. We also have a printed publication coming out at the end of the summer which is such a special project - stay tuned at www.qnola.co.uk and @qnolauk.
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