Most of us know soda as a sweet, bubbly beverage, usually high in sugar content. What if you heard that there was a soda that not only tastes good but also is good for you? Darren Portelli has done the trick.
It took specific changes to his diet over five years ago to lead him on a path of discovery that would change his life forever.
“About five years ago I had fallen into a sort of depression,” explains Portelli. “I had been on amphetamine-based medicine for a couple of years and had gone through a period of working way too many hours and eating like garbage. The holidays came and everything was compounded by a big load of sugar. I felt worse and worse.”
After a suggestion by a friend to try out a paleo diet (a nutritional approach that focuses on eating only foods that are high in nutrients, unprocessed, and based on the foods presumably eaten by humans in Paleolithic times), he began to feel better.
“It forced me to learn a lot about nutrition because you’re scaling back to whole foods,” he remembers. “It really forced me to read labels and remove added sugar. It’s not an easy diet, but after a few months I started losing weight, and began craving other foods, such as ginger.”
Reducing sugar intake seemed to work for Portelli.
“It was on a Friday night movie night that I was sipping on a ginger soda from a health store which only had 15 grams of organic cane sugar in it,” Portelli explains. “I was halfway through when I got the same migraine I used to get as a kid. I’ve had mental health issues my whole life, along with something called visual snow, also known as permanent migraine aura.”
Portelli quickly connected his intake of excess sugar with his migraines, a reaction he originally assumed was caused by other factors.
“I realized that the migraines I used to get as a kid weren’t from allergies, they were from chugging juice or Kool-Aid in the summertime,” he recalls.
He began to take a deeper look at his nutritional habits and avidly researched the negative impact sugar can have on one’s health.
“There are very few of us who know what our daily limit (to sugar) is. It’s kind of disturbing,” says Portelli. “You have no idea the harm it’s causing until you completely remove added sugars for an extended period of time and then try to re-introduce them.”
In recent years, scientists have begun to research the connection between sugar and mental health.
According to Dr. David Sack, a psychiatry and addiction medicine specialist: “Research has tied heavy sugar consumption to an increased risk of depression. Sugar suppresses activity of a hormone called BDNF that is low in individuals with depression and schizophrenia. Sugar is also at the root of chronic inflammation, which impacts the immune system, the brain and other systems in the body.”
After discovering more about the connections between the mind and body, Portelli’s decided to create his own fresh and fizzy beverage which contained no sugar. This developed into a three-year journey of research and experiments.
“The idea was to create a soda and remove sugar, which causes inflammation, and add ginger, which is anti-inflammatory,” he explains. “It wasn’t an easy task. The hope was to improve my vision and help me get off my meds.”
Three years later, and Portelli has successfully created his first prebiotic soda, “Crazy D’s”. Instead of using sugar, Crazy D’s sodas are sweetened with yacón root, a prebiotic root vegetable originating from Peru. Yacón root contains fructo-oligosaccharides which provide the sweetness for the beverage without raising blood-sugar levels.
Crazy D’s sodas come in diverse flavours, such as “Rockin’ Rolla Cherry Cola”, “Ginga’ Kick”, and “Twisted Citrus”. These guiltless pleasures can be found in local health food stores, such as Goodness Me and Farm Boy locations. In Hamilton, a service called Bikeables will deliver Crazy D’s to your door.
Discover more about Crazy’s D’s Soda Labs at crazydlabs.com.