If there is one place that always makes me feel great it is the Superfoods on Main cafe in Mount Airy, Maryland. And I do not mean the kind of “great” that lasts for about thirty minutes, I am talking about feeling great for days! Superfoods on Main is a cafe with a homey cozy atmosphere that reminds me of some cafes in Copenhagen. Meanwhile, their drinks and foods are mainly raw, organic and vegan which means you get both hygge and healthy energy there. Maybe even better is that my two young children love going there for a colorful smoothie and time in the play corner.
So on this cold and snowy morning I decide to venture out to meet raw foods chef, Darlene Union, and nutritionist, Elina Jelena-Kopic Myers, co-owners of Superfoods on Main to talk about healthy hygge foods and how to be healthy in the Winter months.
Darlene and Elina always seem happy and energetic – the living proof that a raw or vegan lifestyle really works and I am eager to learn from them! In fact everyone who works there are extremely friendly and helpful and you can just feel that this is a place where people work out of love and passion.
I order a Chocolate Elixir with an Immunity Booster in a large cozy mug and get comfortable with Darlene and Elina in the cafe room that almost feels like a living room. Eager to get started and learn from the two women I go right ahead with the first question.
I: Tell me about the new updates and initiatives here at Superfoods on Main…
Elina: First of all we got new colors in here, we painted the whole cafe to give it a new look in earthy tones. The colors of the cafe are based on fengshui principles to make people feel more relaxed, not more hungry (Elina laughs).
Several local artists have their paintings and photographs exhibited here. We are also excited that Natalie who works here soon will exhibit beautiful landscape photographs from New Hampshire. We want to reach out to the community to bind us together with people in town. Maybe we will invite more local artists to exhibit their art here.
Darlene: And we have a good cooperation with Common Market (a co-op grocery store in Frederick, MD), organic co-ops and local producers.
Elina: Right now our focus is on raw food workshops with Darlene. I will also have a workshop on gluten free diet. And some time in the future when I am ready for it I will make a workshop on vitamins based on my MUIH (Maryland University of Integrative Health) nutrition degree which I am taking right now.
We also focus on selecting the best vitamins and supplements to sell in our store so the costumers know that what we have is some of the best and most effective on the market. Our selection is based on research so that costumers can also get advice on how to combine vitamins to work most effectively.
Darlene: We have Open Mic where everyone is invited to perform. Our intimate stage is a good venue where people can try out their talents. One girl, who used to only sing at home, performed here for the first time and got a big applause which gave her the confidence to go on with it!
Elina: And then there is The Book Exchange where people can grab a free book and maybe donate one of their used books. I like the idea that there is always a book waiting for people while they enjoy their coffee or smoothie here.
I: How did you get involved with Superfoods on Main and healthy food?
Darlene: I used to be a vegetarian, then I became a raw vegan in my forties. I have always been a strong believer that the body can heal itself if we give it the right food.
I used to be in sales but felt burned out. So in 2014 I took a Raw Chef degree at Graff Academy in Roswell, Georgia and now I have a raw chef certificate. I can create certified raw food recipes for Superfoods and the employees contribute with new ideas as well. One of our employees, Abie, makes the best hummus which no one has been able to replicate! Another employee, Natalie, has created “The Aztec Smoothie” with cashew that gives it an amazing creaminess.
Elina: At first I was a linguist for the Navy, then I became a radiographer. But as a radiographer I only worked with symptoms, not causes. Then I got a health scare myself which made me read the ingredient lists in the food I was eating and realized how many preservatives and additives were in it.
In Croatia I grew up on fresh farm food and felt fine but not in America. So I started deciphering the ingredients and got into nutrition. After my nutrition classes in MUIH I used to come to Superfoods to destress and enjoy the smoothies. I was good friends with Helen (Helen Rose is the founder of Superfoods on Main and the third of the three co-owners) and one day when I was sitting on the couch, Helen told me that they were looking for a partner. Something in me made me say yes even though I was actually too busy with studies and my children. I really liked the smoothies (she laughs)…
I am vegetarian and do eat cooked meals but I like the feeling I get after eating raw vegan food.
Darlene: We don’t want to be food police. Different things work for different people. Everyone’s body is different. Some doctors and researchers believe that you can eat according to your blood type. According to their research, type O does well with eating meat but I am type O and feel the opposite. I feel so much better not consuming it at all. We want to help you on your path to feel your best and encourage you to eat healthy choices that benefit your body, health and the way you feel.
I: Can you recommend some healthy, low sugar treats?
Darlene: Dates are a great healthy treat. They are sweet and high in fiber. A fresh date with a pecan nut inside and maybe dipped in raw chocolate is delicious. Tastes like “Turtles” (the candy). At home I make a smoothie called The Incredible Hawk (frozen peeled banana, spinach and pineapple blended with nut or rice milk) for my grandson and The Superman Smoothie. I just make up fun names to make the smoothies more exciting. It is always great to put spinach in smoothies for kids. They can’t taste it.
Then there is the Chocolate Elixir with raw almond milk, agave and raw cocoa. Maybe with a health booster added to it based on Chinese herbs. Plant based milks are softer on the stomach because they are easier to digest than cow milk. So the Chocolate Elixir will make you feel better than regular hot chocolate. The lack of sugar in the Chocolate Elixir also helps prevent an energy crash afterwards.
Elina: Darlene makes the most delicious Donut Holes with pulp from almond milk!
Darlene: You can also easily make a “brownie” with dates, nuts and raw cocoa blended in a food processor. Spread the mix out in a lined baking pan and cool it in the refrigerator.
Our Smoothie Bowls are a bestseller here at the cafe.
I: Has eating vegan and raw foods made you feel better?
Darlene & Elina: Yes!
Elina: It was like the fog was lifting. We have much higher energy levels after we started to eat vegan and raw foods. My cycling team has started coming to Superfoods. They think that whatever I do they will do too because they see how much energy I have. And Darlene looks so young! (I have to agree. Darlene does not have a single wrinkle even though she must be older than me since she has grandchildren!)
Darlene: Sugar is inflammatory and makes skin look older. They say it is more addictive than cocaine!
Elina: My husband really loves meat and sugary foods but he loves the smoothies here. And one time we had a raw food dinner here at Superfoods and he didn’t even know that a dish he was eating wasn’t meat but made with nuts. The next day he told me he felt so good and had lots of energy!
I: Which foods or drinks can help me and my family prevent and alleviate colds?
Elina hurries over to their refrigerator and comes back with a mason jar with an illustration of a volcano on it. Fire Cider Kombucha it reads.
Elina: The Fire Cider Kombucha from The Kombucha Lady in Thurmont, Maryland, is a big hit and sells out before we can restock the shelves. We have had people come back and tell us that they got over the cold the next day after they took some spoons of it. You just need to take a tablespoon or two of it a day.
Darlene: And the Sambucol Black Elderberry Syrup we sell in our store is a great way to boost children’s immunity.
Elina: We also sell Camu Camu powder which is loaded with vitamin C and works very well with spinach. Camu camu is in our Super C Smoothie and we will start adding spinach to it to incorporate iron.
Elina comes back to show me a new drink from the refrigerator…
Elina: KeVita is another drink loaded with vitamin C. We actually need a lot more vitamin C than the daily recommended amount. “The Vitamin Movie” is a great movie with a lot of information about vitamin C. A lot of people also lack magnesium and vitamin D.
Darlene: So much food is just made to make us buy more – sugar is addictive so we need more and buy more! Lots of food is not made to make us feel better, just to sell! At Superfoods we can give our costumers research based nutrition advice.
I: One day my husband had a bad headache which no Tylenol could help with. Then he went to Superfoods and asked Darlene if she had an advice. She made him The Cleansing Green Juice and added turmeric and black pepper to it. The headache went away within minutes after he drank it and it didn’t come back! How did you do that?
Darlene: Turmeric is anti-inflammatory which can help alleviate a cold or other virus and the black pepper makes the turmeric taste better.
Elina: Do you know about the Mindful Eating Movement? It is about tasting your food. Many Americans are always on the go. But stressors in life also have an effect on how well nutrients work in the body. Some people have been really sick even though they ate healthy raw food because they had it on the go or were very stressed. Stressors have a big influence on health and food absorption. It is important to enjoy food, have meals together and be mindful of the taste, instead of just throwing it down quickly.
Me: This almost sounds like hygge! In Denmark most families have dinner together and take time to relax and enjoy food and drinks together. But hygge food is not always so healthy though…
Me: Any future plans for Superfoods you want to share with us?
Darlene & Elina: We always have visions and dreams but right now we will challenge ourselves with more raw food workshops to show people how easy it is. For example it isn’t hard at all to make your own nut milk once you have tried it. Maybe we will start classes in schools and daycare centers.
I finish up my Chocolate Elixir feeling refreshed and energized. If it is thanks to the drink, great company or inspiring interview is hard to say but my energy lasts for days after the visit. With me home I also bring the elderberry syrup which my son eagerly drinks and he is now over his stubborn cough. Of course I also have to try the popular Fire Cider Kombucha hoping it can get us through the Winter without too many sick days. I am also excited to make Darlene’s Date Brownies and Date Turtles and the Aztec Smoothie will be a must on my next visit there.
I cannot help but think that Mindful Eating is the healthy hygge I have been looking for… What could be better than getting healthy while having a good, relaxing time! This is exactly what a visit to Superfoods on Main offers: European style “cafe hygge” and a healthy energy boost.
You can visit Superfoods on Main in Historic Mount Airy on:
106 S. Main Street
Mount Airy, MD 21771
(There is a big parking lot right across the street, on the other side of Main Street)
Hours: Tues-Sat. 8:30 am to 5 pm and Sundays 11 am to 4 pm