Meet Theo Michaels

TV chef, presenter, former Masterchef contestant, award winning author, and SmarterNaturally’s in-house recipe wizard Theo Michaels shares his story and reveals why he teamed up with us in this exclusive interview.

How did your love affair with food start?

A lot of chefs say there was a moment in their life that they had an epiphany about working with food. It was never really like that for me, coming from a large Greek Cypriot family food has always been a big part of our lives. It’s part of our culture. Life seems to revolve around the dinner table; with dinnertimes being this elongated, moment in time spent eating, talking (arguing!) and just existing together. 

I’m not a formally trained chef, I learned to cook, almost by osmosis, just being around my mum, my yiayia (grandmother) and my dad cooking in the kitchen and barbecuing.

I was really lucky because I knew I wanted to do something with food. I just wasn’t sure what that would look like, but the passion was clear. I wanted to carve a career in food with my first big step going on MasterChef. I’ve not looked back since!

SmarterNaturally is a functional food. Does the idea of food as medicine resonate with you?

Food is naturally medicinal and if we all tried to eat a more balanced homecooked diet we probably would not need a lot of the other, synthetic medicines. Of course, medicine is needed but the more you look at things like obesity and diabetes you realise how much of it can be prevented just by diet.

I wrote a book a couple of years ago called Rustica and the whole philosophy of it was about Mediterranean village food – eating like a villager if you like. It’s incredible that there are so many pockets around the globe, known as Blue Zones, where people live consistently longer and the question is always ‘why’? We know things like having a purpose in life will help you live longer, as will staying active. 

However, what I think is really interesting is so many of the Blue Zones are in non-developed countries or remote areas of developed countries. What that means is their diets are much more natural and frugal. They lean into eating more vegetables, legumes and lentils as these are easily grown. Fish is a staple with meat being a more luxury item, and even then, every bit of the animal is used. It’s everything that we know we should be eating.

So, is food medicinal, yes, but it is also important to find foods you enjoy. The key is finding food that tastes amazing and is good for you!

What’s your advice for staying healthy through the food we eat?

Cooking from scratch is the best thing you can do. Food has recently in the scheme of things become this massive industrialized process. People want convenience and convenience equals processed for most people. That means we sacrifice eating natural, wholesome, healthy food: there’s this great quote by the Dalai Lama ‘“… he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then sacrifices money for his health”

The ultimate punchline is, Western countries have all this affluence and they’re suddenly saying ‘Oh, we should be eating whole foods’. But that’s what people in Mediterranean villages have been doing for thousands of years!

The UK is definitely starting to see the benefits of returning to its scratch cooking roots, which is really exciting to see. But now everything is geared up against us, you’ve actually got to really work to eat healthy and live a healthy life. We don’t need to beat ourselves up because life is hard for all of us. Life is busy.

My top tip? Having some shortcuts and some cheats to eating well is absolutely the way to go.

Is there any food you eat every day for health benefits?

I eat a lot of Greek yogurt (which is excellent for gut health!) and of course, there is one ingredient that stands out for all Greeks and that is olive oil. It is like the golden elixir of life. I also have about three cups of coffee a day. Coffee is packed with antioxidants and I love it, so it is a win-win for me. Plus it wakes me up, of course!

Most ‘healthy’ foods have thousands of different chemicals and nutrients in them, but we tend to just look at one: for example, we’ll look at mushrooms and go, ‘Oh, it’s got vitamin D in it’, and ignore all the other healthy vitamins, minerals and fibre in there. The thing that makes Mediterranean culture’s food so healthy is the variety of the foods eaten. 

So, it’s not like just the tomatoes, because they’ve got really great nutrients in them, it’s also the spinach, the radish, and a whole host of other vegetables as well. It’s the breadth and the variety that gives you all these different nutrients, vitamins and health benefits. That’s why I prefer eating well to taking lots of supplements!

So eating healthy doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our food?

How many people come back from a Greek island and say the food is terrible? No one… (I hope!)

Eating healthy delicious food is so easy, you just need great ingredients, which for clarity doesn’t need to be expensive ingredients, just avoid processed stuff.

What’s the biggest thing that people do wrong or you’d prefer was done differently?

Boiling veg. Let’s start with that. As you cook things, compositions change and you lose some of those health benefits. We should cook vegetables lightly.

So my recommendation would be try to move away from boiling vegetables and look more towards roasting, frying and steaming. 

For example, when we’re cooking broccoli we fry it in some butter and olive oil, then add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan, stick a lid on it, and let it steam. It’s just enough to tenderize it a bit, but without destroying all the healthy nutrients broccoli is known for!

Trust me, it beats soggy broccoli that’s had all the flavour and texture stripped out of it. No wonder our kids learn to hate broccoli when we’re all boiling it to death!

So you love broccoli. Is that why you love SmarterNaturally?

Partly! There are a lot of things I love about SmarterNaturally. Firstly, I love the fact that it’s medically proven with sound British science behind it. We live in a world where marketing can be so deceitful for so many products – but when I did my research, I was really impressed with the credibility of it. So for me, straight away, I trusted the product and brand.

I also love the fact that it is real and measured intervention. It isn’t like just putting some turmeric in your diet because of the health benefits – and then realising that you’ve got to eat a kilo of the stuff to derive any benefit. This weekly bowl of ‘Super Soup’ has a specific dose, and it’s been tested for its health impact.

Then, there is the delivery mechanism – it is so simple – a really convenient and tasty soup. It’s great to consume healthy things, but if it’s difficult to do, we often don’t. So I love the fact that they’ve created this really simple, delicious soup that’s mostly just raw speciality broccoli, and not overly processed or packed with other additives. It feels like a shortcut to making a super-healthy broccoli soup from scratch!

We’ve all become numb to ground breaking claims. There’s a lot of suspicion and cynicism. So I think it’s really good to shine a light on SmarterNaturally and really promote the potential power of this simple soup.

The best thing about it – it’s broccoli – it’s just a food. You’re not taking a synthetic chemical, this is a very powerful strain of broccoli that has incredible health benefits. How wonderful is that.

What about those who don’t love broccoli so much?

That’s where I come in. We wanted to support those who don’t necessarily like broccoli in its natural state so they can still derive the benefits it can bring. It has been fantastic working with SmarterNaturally to create recipes that include the soup as an ingredient, but aren’t focused around eating broccoli. 

So, it doesn’t have to be broccoli soup day anymore – it might be Laksa day, or Thai Green Curry day. The possibilities are endless!

Check out Theo's recipes

Theo’s turned our SuperSoup into everything from risotto to curries to pasta dishes – all of which retain the key health benefits. Why not check them out and elevate your weekly bowl of SuperSoup into a gourmet dinner?

-> See all Theo’s recipes

So do you and your family have a weekly soup day?

We’ve got both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in our family, so the whole concept of SmarterNaturally and the soup’s impressive impact on blood sugar levels resonated with me straight away. 

My father was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and it is quite a journey. He didn’t want to take loads of medication so he changed his diet – and now, after reading so many positive testimonials, he is also looking forward to trying the soup!

But then I scratched the surface, and I realised there are so many other benefits to this around metabolic health, healthier ageing, heart health, brain health… I thought, ‘Do you know what, I should be taking this myself too”. Plus, how easy is it to have one bowl of soup once a week? 

I’m lucky to be in good health, but it’s better to prevent getting sick than to end up unwell and have to make massive lifestyle changes, which are a lot harder. 

SmarterNaturally has managed to create a genuine, medically-proven product that only has to be taken once a week and is delivered in a super convenient format that takes seconds to make. It’s perfect, literally a no brainer. The question is, why would you not do it?

Is it all a bit too good to be true?

I think the problem is that so many products these days make so many claims that aren’t based on any real evidence. So many people have tried supplements and they’ve not worked in the way that maybe they said they would. 

So when something comes along that genuinely can have a benefit, we just discard it along with everything else. We think, “Oh, it’s just another one of those so-called miracle cures”.

But this soup isn’t a miracle cure. It’s not a silver bullet, it’s a step in the right direction – and they’re open about that, even though they’ve got good science behind it. That’s a big differentiator for me.

(other than a broccoli super-soup…) What are your three ingredients for a perfect, happy, healthy life?

1. Laughter

So my first ingredient is laughter – you need laughter in life. I don’t think we give it the credit it deserves in terms of the chemical reactions, how it makes us feel and the release of serotonin.

2. Balance

My second would be balance – you have to have balance, so definitely include some of the naughty stuff. I’m a great fan of beer and alcohol. It’s like going to the gym is really good, but, if you go too much, that’s not good for you.

3. Good food

My final ingredient is eating well – and by that, I mean eating wholesome, nourishing, home-cooked food (and avoiding the processed stuff) as much as possible. 

 

Check out Theo's reicpes

Theo shares our belief that SmarterNaturally SuperSoup is a natural medicine that could help to boost your health and wellbeing.

To help you enjoy and integrate it into your weekly routine, Theo’s made loads of exciting recipes for us. 

From chicken & broccoli mash to a broccoli-boosted Thai-style green curry, all his recipes are carefully crafted to protect the bioactive ingredients in our soup, and deliver a wide range of healthy vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.

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