A Raw-Foods Guru Turns Depression Into a Kale Chips Empire

To call Brad Gruno inspiring is a vast understatement. Not too long ago, he was unemployed and out of money, overweight, and feeling depressed. Today, he’s a raw-foods guru leading the snack foods industry toward healthier alternatives with Brad’s Raw Foods, his line of raw, organic snacks.

It’s a remarkable story — one that he shares in his new book, Brad’s Raw Made Easy, which also includes 150 raw recipes and a 60-day cleanse (that includes both raw and cooked foods) designed to set people back on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

I sat down to chat with Brad shortly before he heads to Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim this weekend, where he’ll showcase his Brad’s Raw Foods snacks and announce his newest creation, which sounds amazing. He gave me the low-down on his big Expo West reveal, his road to the raw lifestyle, and how his book and its “80/20” mantra can change your life.

His mindset before going raw:

“I was in between work, I’d lost a bunch of money, I was depressed, lost my business, I needed to lose weight, and I mainly just wanted to feel better. I thought, well, at least I do have the ability to change my diet… So I knew, if I want to feel better, if I can at least eat right and go to the gym and exercise, and I think if I got my body right, I’d start thinking differently. And honest to God, that’s exactly what happened.” brad gunro

How quickly the change happened:

“I started the 100 percent raw food diet, and I didn’t quit, I went to the gym every day. I’d been through the headaches, breaking out, tired all the time. After that second week, I started to feel a little better, and a little better. By that first month, I was like a whole new person. The weight was starting to come off, and within 3 months, I lost 40 pounds. So that was enough to sell me!”

Explaining the “80/20 lifestyle” with raw/cooked foods:

“I used to love steak. A steak every now and then isn’t bad. But I don’t crave it like I used to. I don’t say I can’t have it. I will have it, but instead of having it three times a week, maybe I’ll have it once a month. And then be conscious of my choices of where the meat comes from now that I buy at farmers’ markets.”

The secret he can’t wait to spill at Expo West:

“I’ve been watching popcorn explode in the market. I met this guy at Expo East last year and he makes all this different popcorn [Pop!] — great popcorn, non-GMO. [I thought], we have to come up with kale popcorn. ‘I have a byproduct of crumbs. I’m going to give you my crumbs and you come up with a way to cover the popcorn with it.'” kale popcorn

“When I got home from that last show, I sent him a big box of kale crumbs, and he figured it out… He even had Costco in his office and Costco’s already said, ‘We want that.’ It’s going to be huge.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa… kale popcorn?! Mind. Blown. tim and eric mind blown gif

His biggest seller right now:

“Kale chips are 75 percent of my business today.”

His best-selling kale chips flavor:

Naked brad

Favorite raw restaurant when he’s in LA:

Café Gratitude cafe gratitude venice

How he recipe-tested for his new book:

“I rented this house in the Hamptons, and it was like a 12-bedroom place. I invited all of these people who were in the raw food community and I said, ‘Spend a week with me…’ It was an awesome time. We had a swimming pool, we played, we partied… we made all those recipes within one week, so you can imagine. We had to set up a whole other room with dehydrators.”

The gateway recipe into raw foods:

“As I introduce raw to people, sometimes they don’t get it all right away, but one thing that always sticks with them is making green smoothies, ‘cause it’s easy and it tastes good and they can make it in the mornings.” green smoothies

His go-to green smoothie recipe:

“I just put water in a blender and fill it with kale that I grind down. I put in an apple, a pear, two frozen bananas, and a date to sweeten it up a little more. I’d make that in the morning and be good until lunch time.”

On his book:

“It’s a day-by-day planner… The book gives people the basics and outlines a diet menu for them. Once they go through the 60 days and they learn a lot of new recipes and understand the raw food community, that will drive them to go to these local raw food restaurants and do what I did: go there and talk to people. That’s the only real way to learn. It’s a good starter book.”