[Transcript] – 5 Things You Can Learn From The Burgeoning Health, Wellness And Nutrition Scene In Israel.

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/biohacking-podcasts/israel-health-and-nutrition/

[0:00] Introduction

[1:36] ONNIT

[3:05] Eating Vegan

[4:25] Dead Sea Experience

[4:48] Oxygenating your Home With Ferns

[5:34] Cocktails

[6:59] 5×5 Workouts You Can Do While Travelling

[8:35] SCiO

[11:00] Spectroscopy

[35:55] End of Podcast

Ben:  Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield welcoming you to this very special episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast from Tel Aviv, Israel where I am on a wellness and nutrition blogger tour.  Now, let me preface this entire audio by telling you that I have created an article that I think you’re going to find fascinating and I’ll talk about it in just a second.  In the meantime, that article is over at BenGreeenfieldFitness.com/Israel.  If you don’t know how to spell Israel, you can probably just Google that.

Anyways, before I jump into today’s episode which includes an interview with a startup that allows you to molecularly analyze any material in the environment around you, it’s crazy, apples, cheese, ibuprofen, supplements, you name it.  I want to give a big shout out to today’s sponsor Onnit.  Now, you check out Onnit over on Onnit.com/BenGreenfield; when you go there you save 10%.  Here’s the deal with Onnit, I have as many of you know, a home gym and in my home gym I have some pretty crazy fitness equipment.  I’ve got battle ropes, I’ve got sandbags, I’ve got these things called primal bells which are literally kettlebells with monkey faces on them, I have an old tire in my backyard and one of the things leaning up against that old tire is a steel mace which you can use to slam against the tire.  Some of the craziest fitness equipment you’ve probably ever seen in your life.  Well, I get this stuff from a company called Onnit and Onnit not only sells this crazy fitness equipment, but they also sell some really tasty functional foods like Walnut Almond Cashew Trilogy Butter as well as Macadamia Cacao Cherry Butter and trust me this stuff tastes fantastic slapped into a kale smoothie!  They’ve got coconut oil, they’ve got Himalayan salt, they’ve got warrior bars which are basically like pemmican on steroids.  You can check all of this out over at Onnit.com/BenGreenfield.  That’s Onnit.com/BenGreenfield where you save 10% on anything that you order.

Now, let’s jump into the meat of today’s podcast episode.  Like I mentioned, I just wrote a fantastic article for you over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Israel where I talk about what you can learn from the burgeoning health, wellness, nutrition scene in Israel and it really is pretty crazy over here.  A few of the things I’ve got in that article for you are, first, some vegan food recipes.  Yes, Ben Greenfield, the man who hunts, fishes, and kills animals, and eats animals, also eats vegan.  I’ve been eating vegan almost the entire time that I’ve been here and I’ve found some stuff that’s really, really dang tasty.  I give you one of the recipes I found at this restaurant I ate at called Mezze, same restaurant Natalie Portman eats as.  So, there you go, it’s got to be good.  Mezze cooks this vegetarian food and the guy who’s the chef there is a vegetarian and a wild plant expert.  His name is Gal, he’s been a wild plant expert since he was 13.  They don’t usually publish the recipes, I twisted his arm, I got him to hook us up with his custom recipe for moussaka which is melt-in-your-mouth eggplant layered with tomatoes, layered with potatoes, there’s tahini in there, it’s brushed with olive oil, it is one of the most fantastic things you will ever eat and yes it does not have meat in it, but, you can check that out; I put a recipe for that over in the show notes.

I also did quite a bit of time over at the Dead Sea.  I did a mud wrap in the Dead Sea, I bathed in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea.  I posted a rather entertaining video of what it looks like to be floating in Dead Sea water which is crazy.  You can barely get your head underneath the water.  It is so buoyant.  You can also check that out over there.  One of the interesting things is the spa that we went to actually oxygenates the air in the spa and I discovered this method that you can use to oxygenate the air in your home and it basically uses some ferns and plants that are known to boost the oxygen in your home.  They’ve been studied by NASA.  This like the Japanese Royal Fern; there’s another one called the snake plant, the spider plant, and also one called the Chinese evergreen.  I’ll give you some links and information to some of these plants over in the show notes.  What you can do is plant these in your home and they literally purify and boost the oxygen level of the air in your home while you’re sleeping at night or while you’re sitting at home working.  I’ve got some pretty entertaining photos of me in the spa, also covered in Dead Sea mud, and date mud as well.

A few other things: cocktails.  I’ve been drinking a lot of very interesting cocktails while I’ve been over here in Israel.  One of the cocktails in particular uses coconut milk.  Now, I give you a recipe of a bunch of my favorites because I do tend to drink a little bit more when I travel and I picked the healthy stuff.  I found a bunch of cocktails with fresh herbs, teas, fresh local ingredients, muddled plants and fruits, and lots of goodies thrown in.  But, one of them was called the punducherry and I had this at a restaurant called Taizu, which is an Asian fusion restaurant here in Tel Aviv, and the ingredients of it are vodka, vermouth, coconut milk, lemon grass, and herbal berries.  Now, as far as herbal berries are concerned, I’m not quite sure which they used.  I couldn’t really figure it out or get a taste for what was in there, but you can probably even throw in blueberries or goji berries or something like that and do a cocktail like this and it would taste fantastic.  I’ll also put a link in there to the olive oil martini that I make and also a photo of all of us bloggers here enjoying our own cocktails.

I’ve been working out since I got here every day hitting the gym.  So one of the things that happens when you’re drinking alcohol and sitting in the Dead Sea and eating plenty of tasty vegan food is you’ve got to turn that into muscle.  I’ve been using my favorite 5×5 workout where I pop in to the gym and I chose five big lift.  I’m going to give you this exact routine over in the show notes over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Israel, but I do five sets of five reps of a bench press, five sets of five reps of a back squat, five sets of five reps of a power clean, five sets of five of a deadlift, and five sets of five reps of a push press.  During my approximately 90-second rest periods in between every single one of those sets, I do mobility work.  So, I snake a foam roller or I’ll even use a kettlebell or a dumbbell if a foam roller isn’t around to dig into the muscle tissue.  I’ll do yoga moves like sun salutations, a little bit of ab work and crunches, but basically I use that time wisely as I’m resting in between each of those five by fives.  It’s one of those workouts when you’re travelling or jet lagged or whatever you can get up at five AM in the morning, hit the gym, do it, get it out of the way, and it’s kind of a no brainer.  Of course you do need to warm up well because these are heavy lifts, but it’s also a great way to ensure that you’re partitioning many of the calories you’re consuming when traveling into muscle tissue rather than into fat.  I’m also going to, in the show notes over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Israel, give you my hotel room workout that I do when I don’t want to get to the gym or I don’t have time to get to the gym comprised of burpees, lunge jumps, mountain climbers, and even rows with the suspension strap that I travel with, as well as a picture of me working out on the beach here in Tel Aviv where they have little gyms sprinkled along the boardwalk; quite convenient.

Finally, the most entertaining and educational part of this episode comes now.  One of the things I’m doing while I’m over here is I’m meeting with a lot of nutritional and healthy living start-ups here in Israel and one of the start-ups I met up yesterday is one of the top Kick Starters called the SciO.  It’s a molecular analyzer that uses something called a spectrometer to analyze anything around you.  So, you can see how ripe an avocado is through the peel; you can find out the quality of your cooking oil; you know the wellbeing or even the type of our houseplants; you can analyze soil; you can authenticate supplements and you’ll hear about how exactly we do this in the interview you’re about to listen to.  You can pretty much upload and tag the spectrum of any material on planet earth to the SciO database and with this tiny little handheld device which I’m holding in the photo that I have uploaded on the website, you can analyze this stuff.  It’s amazing and I’m going to, of course, put some photos and some links to their Kick Starter project over on the show notes.

So, before we move on and you get to tune into that amazing SciO interview where I’m basically gathered around a table in a little startup facility with a bunch of the other bloggers who are here on the trip with me, know that I will be back to regular podcast programming next week and also be sure to visit the sponsor for today’s episode: Onnit, over on Onnit.com/BenGreenfield where you can save 10%.  Finally, everything I just talked about from the moussaka recipe, the plants you can use to oxygenate your home that have been proven by NASA to do so, to the coconut milk infused cocktail recipes, to every workout that I do when I’m travelling, and finally, I’ll link over to the world’s first portable molecular sensor, the SciO, I’ve got all of that over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Israel.

So, thanks for listening to this rather abbreviated episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast and now, onto today’s interview with the CEO of SciO.  His name is Dror.  Enjoy!

Dror:  Spectroscopy is the science that describes light, matter, and direction.  For example, this describes why you see different colors, that’s the way that light interacts with matter. Another interaction that light has with matter is the underlying chemistry, which is what we’re doing.  It is an infrared light, which means it’s a light we cannot see, and it’s also very sensitive technology or it requires very sensitive sensors.  So, these are used in labs all over the world.  The high end spectroscopy market today is about 10 billion dollars, of them for infrared spectroscopy it’s about 3 billion dollars.  These are large capital equipment, capital intensive machines about this big.  Costs you anywhere between… something that looks like this is 20,000 to 50,000 dollars.  Some of them that look like this can go for 100,000 for a lab to you name it if you want to do an R&D facility, ultra-high expensive, very, very accurate.  What we set out to do is to see if we can leverage the fact that every smartphone has a camera, has an internet connection, and has basically a super computer at the palm of your hand, and we wanted to see if we could leverage these things to create similar to an experience similar to what you just saw that will enable all of us to kind of google everything but you can’t google the stuff around us.  So, how can you google the stuff around us?

So, this cheese, can you actually google this specific cheese?  It can not only read the barcode but know what this is made of.  If you go to a farmer’s market in Vancouver and they tell you this is the “low fat cheese, ma’am, don’t worry, just came out of my goats, I can’t believe it tastes so good and it’s still fat free”.  You will be able to tell immediately.  So, can you do that?  Or you have a protein shake, you mix it up and it’s very sweet.  There’s no way they use artificial sweetener in this, no way it’s zero calories, only protein, that doesn’t make any sense.  Well, then you scan it and know if it’s sugar or not.  There are many specific uses in the world around us and this is only food.

Can you imagine this sensor is used in industries as diverse as food, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, cosmetics, health care one day, you can actually imagine this being used.  So there are many, many potential applications for the platform but we were very focused on getting a consumer experience, not a high-end analytical lab experience because we knew that was: a non-starter and there’s a reason these things are so high and big and expensive, and second, we really don’t need to know that much.  You look at carelessly if it’s 3.7 or 3.3 percent fat in your milk or cheese.  You could look carelessly if it’s one percent sugar or 1.5% sugar in that drink you’re about to consume.  What you wanted to know is that okay I’ve got this shake, how many calories do I get for what I’m about to drink and is it a high sugar or is it a zero sugar type of drink.  That’s really what you really want to know.  It took us a long time just to think of the application and think of the sensor and we’ve accomplished that as you are going to see in a second.

The team that accomplished this is very, very diverse.  So, we have people with backgrounds in food biochemistry, now they have Masters in Food Biochemistry Spectroscopy, this is what they did and they used to be chief technology officers of large dairy farms or of olive making presses.  We have folks who have PhDs in Molecular Chemistry, folks that have Masters in Spectroscopy and Physics.  So that’s kind of on the application end.  What happens when we shine light on materials, all the way down to cloud based.  So, it’s a cloud based extension, what you’re going to see is you’re going to see a sensor. With the sensor, I’m going to scan the cheese, it’s going to take me less than two seconds, that thing creates a fingerprint that is a spectrum that correlates to the underlying chemistry.  It is sent to our cloud which is basically the Google of materials that will slowly, slowly, slowly build and in over time expand, is analyzed then using an algorithm, the algorithm is selected using the application that you choose here, and once that is done, the answer is sent back to your smartphone.

So, we know people of light matter attraction.  We then have people that understand software from the big data algorithms to databases to APIs to the entire backend of software that we need to build, all the way to the web services, front end applications on the smartphone, and then it goes further into the electronics, the firmware real-time algorithms they’re trying on this electronics, and then even further, we have folks that have expertise in hardware, electronics, understanding the optics, building; it’s a really a humongous, big team, very multidisciplinary.  We talk a lot about this.

So, I hope I’ve bored you enough with the technology at this point, but just to tell you, a lot of cool technology that goes into it, the bottom line is, it’s supposed to create a magical user experience that every day you can go out and use it and explore the world around you, know more about things you wouldn’t know otherwise, and hopefully, as the database expands more and more and more, we’ll be able to know more and more about the stuff that’s just around us.

Ben:  In terms of the actual information that you’re gathering with this device, is it a list of the actual chemicals that make up that particular object that you’re scanning, is it the molecules, what do you see on the screen?

Dror:  That’s a good question.  Let’s do a demo.  That kind of calls for a demo.  What I have in my hand is a smartphone with two very basic apps.  There are more here but two very basic apps.  One has nutritional values of fruits and cheeses, the one that we’ve built for this demo, a very rudimentary user experience.  What we’re going to ship in a few months is going to look much better and we have a thousand developers on the platform so you can imagine people who want to take it only for the recipe side, they’ll build an entire app and embed our API to their app and every part of just the way you scan or if it’s somebody who really cares about healthcare or whatever they want to do.  This is very basic just for demo purposes.

This is the scanner, it communicates via BlueTooth to this smartphone.  This smartphone using a data connection connects to our phone and when we turn it… and who wants to try this first?

Ben:  I’ll go for it.

Dror:  Are you a righty or a lefty?

Ben:  I’m a righty.

Dror:  The way you hold this is with your thumb like this.

Ben:  So, I hold the device in my right hand.

Dror:  Put your thumb on my finger.  Now press it once just so you get a feel for it and release.

Ben:  Okay.

Dror:  And release.  You see there’s a blue light coming out.  Okay and now…

Ben:  The spectrometers that I’ve used before were the size of encyclopaedias.

Dror:  Right.  So…

Ben:  This is tiny.

Dror:  I chose the fruit and cheese app for now and what we’re going to do is we’re going to take the scanner…

Ben:  Okay.

Dror:  And put it about half an inch, so pretty snug, so something about close to the apple.  You’re going to press and release until the blue light comes off and then you can put it down.

Ben:  Am I going to find out how toxic this apple really is?  Okay, so release now?

Dror:  Yeah.  So, it got the fingerprint and sent it to the…

Ben:  Wow, that was fast.

Dror:  So, now it shows already.

Ben:  Okay, so yeah, it’s showing the results on the screen.

Woman:  Yeah, it’s showing your carbs and your calories.

Dror:  Exactly.

Ben:  So, the amount of carbs in the apple and the amount of calories in the apple.

Dror:  Correct, and this is for 100 grams.  So, not per apple, but per portion size.  So you still need to input the size.

Ben:  Oh, amazing!  What else…

Dror:  This is a pretty sweet apple.  It has 15% sugar, right.

Ben:  So, you can literally test different varieties of apples and see which one might cause a blood sugar response.

Dror:  For example, so we have this for many fruits and vegetable, and now, somebody else can do the same for cheese for example.

Woman:  Okay, so is it taking the whole like this entire apple specifically is 70 calories.

Dror:  No, so what it does… Very good question.  As you saw, the scanning piece is about an inch square.

Woman:  Yeah.

Dror:  This is the line illumination marks.  So, it takes whatever it underneath this illumination, scans it, and what do you mean scans it, illuminates it, sees the molecules vibrate, creates a fingerprint in this little scanner, sends the fingerprint with the app to the cloud, our cloud is already populated with many, many fingerprints with many, many fruits and vegetables, the app asks it how many carbs and how many calories per 100 gram this fingerprint correlates to, sends the result back to the app.

Ben:  Okay, so it’s matching up the fingerprint of that apple.

Dror:  Doesn’t match.  It uses big data algorithms.  So, it’s not really matching.  You can think of it in a way that we’ve never seen this specific apple.

Ben:  Correct.

Dror:  We just got it from the store.  So, as you saw.  So, it doesn’t match it up but because of enough fingerprints, it can give you an accurate enough response.

Ben:  How about if you scan something that’s never been in the database before like I’m in the forest and I scan some random leaf that’s never been in the database.

Dror:  Excellent, excellent.  So, you will get information from what we can tell you with this fingerprint, it might look very similar to other leaves we’ve scanned, or maybe the closest thing we’ve never scanned leaves looked like actually looks like a boke because a boke is cellulose and this looks very similar to cellulose, and hey it might actually look like a boke.  You’ll get a similarity score to other things in our database and it will also probably tell you look, doesn’t seem like we have anything good enough to tell you about this thing yet, do you mind sharing with community so we can crowd source the database.

Ben:  Will it tell me that it has cellulose?  Will it say, for example, on the app or on the website this contains, let’s say, cellulose structures?

Dror:  So, the fundamental thing that happens here, there’s no analytical chemistry that is involved kind of what chemistry lab.  What happens is very similar to a big data algorithm.  So, we look at all the huge database that we have and we try to give you an answer that is as close as we can from the database that we have, very similar to if you’ve ever used Google Translate to translate foreign websites.  That is not that good but it’s good enough for you to understand what’s going on in the website and the way Google Translate uses it or is done, is they’ve scanned tons of books in many, many different languages and assuming they know the same sentences, the same…

Ben:  So, when I scan that leaf that’s never been scanned before in the forest and I get that data, I can then go in and ask [0:22:06] ______ and say that this is the leaf I found.

Dror:  Take a photo, exactly, blah blah blah, and maybe somebody else will look at your photo and say that… Your name is?

Ben:  Ben.

Dror:  Ben said that it’s ivy.  It’s not ivy, it’s this plant and suddenly the metadata might change so the next time somebody might scan a leaf it will actually be much better.

Ben:  So it’s like Wikipedia in that sense.

Dror:  In a sense.

Ben:  There’s some quality control that crowd based.

Dror:  Yes.  Some of the database will have a data integrity team that will obviously make sure we don’t contaminate the big database but for some of the things, we’re going to do pills in a second, pills are very, very… They’re manufactured in a very unique way.  So, you can actually know…

Ben:  It’s crazy if you’re a supplement….

Dror:  For example.

Ben:  Could you tell if it has steroids in it?

Dror:  So, potentially.  I don’t know how… This thing has limitations.  You were asking a question one second ago?

Woman:  Oh, I was.  Product control and stuff like that, back in the day China had shipped a bunch of toys over to the USA, so could people use that product management in quality?

Dror:  Potentially.  But, going back to the supplement question, there are limitations to this technology.  For example, some things do not reflect at all.  They absorb very blackish material that are black not only to our eyes but to just in general they just don’t reflect anything.  So, we don’t get anything.  Some things are very transparent.  So, we can’t see them, we can’t get them.  Metals for examples are highly reflective, they don’t interact with light at all.  They can’t sense metal.  There are some things… salts for example, there are different materials that we can’t do much about but sometimes you can actually measure the constituencies of materials by proxy.  So, even if we can’t measure salt, once it’s in water or it’s with cellulose, maybe we can measure salt.  That’s kind of one thing.  There are definitely limitations to our technology.  It doesn’t do volumes, it only does… And also the level of detection changes between applications.  So, for example, there was a huge scare about melamine and baby milk powder in China at some point about three or four years ago.  So, some of those melamine would have been able to catch, some which are very low level kind of crazy detection, algae for example in foods, we won’t be able to do because it’s such a small portion and usually…

Woman:  You’re only getting that.

Dror:  Exactly.  So, there’s definite applications and there’s definitely a lot of things you can do with it.  So, anybody want to try the cheese?

Ben:  The cheese scanner.

Woman:  I’m scared of American cheese.

Dror:  No this is…  What’s the name? Advaga.  So, press it once.

Woman:  It’s very Israeli.

Ben:  This is an Israeli cheese.

Dror:  Yeah, it’s an Israeli cheese.  So, these are the nutritional values.  I’ll read to you what it says here.  It says the number of calories per 100 grams is 300.

Ben:  Pretty close!  It says 290 on the package.

Dror:  By the way, the package is plus or minus 20%.  If it says 300, it’s anywhere between 240 and 360.

Ben:  So, the package is accurate on calories?

Dror:  What’s next?

Woman:  Carbs.

Ben:  Yeah, carbs.

Dror:  Carbs says 0.2.

Ben:  It says 1.0 grams.

Dror:  Okay, so it’s kind of low on that.  Proteins?

Ben:  26.9.

Dror:  25.

Woman:  Okay.

Ben:  It’s close in protein.  Fats, 20.8.

Dror:   22.  It says 22.

Ben:  It’s pretty close.

Dror:  So, this is within the range that you would actually buy this from the super market.

Woman 1:  I have a question.

Dror:  Yes?

Woman 2:  Will you guys have sort of a conversion chart?  So if someone was to say okay I’m only going to eat, I’m only going to have one slice of cheese and that’s 48 grams.

Dror:  So, over here, you just…

Ben:  It has a little built in calculator.

Woman 2:  Oh, okay!  Perfect.

Dror:  So we have a built in calculator.  Let’s say it’s 40 grams, you say “done”, okay, and then it automatically calculates how many grams you have.

Ben:  So, for example, I’m going to put this audio or recording of our conversation and this is going to come in to a lot of Americans for example, is there going to be a [0:26:26] ______ version of this?

Dror:  You’ll be able to change it.

Ben:  You can change values on [0:26:31] ______.

Dror:  Exactly.

Ben:  Fascinating.

Woman 1:  Which information is more correct about that cheese?

Dror:  So, I can tell you from measuring some stuff, I usually trust this more than this label because this is printed once and these are actually made in batches.

Woman 1:  Right.

Dror:  And this is a pretty processed cheese what I have in my hand.  So, I’m not really sure, but if you buy a slice of Parmigiano I can tell you for a fact that whatever it says on the label, it doesn’t really matter because Parmigiano is this huge and if it came from the center or if it came from the end, there are very big differences.

Woman 1:  Really?

Dror:  I’ll scan it and it changes from 25% fat to 35% fat.

Ben:  Wow.

Dror:  You know, and it doesn’t really matter.

Ben:  Cheese is cheese.  I want to know about medications.

Woman 2:  Like will this kill me?

Ben:  It can kind of mess you up if it’s not what it says it is.

Dror:  What I have here in my hand is what I call the light concentrator and we’re going to [0:27:28] ______ and it’s no accessory but you can actually drop pills in there.  The reason why I have this light concentrator is, if you can appreciate it, it illuminates a pretty sizeable portion of the food and here I have some pain medications and if I take a pill…

Woman:  Advil is the worst.

Dror:  Yeah, so if I take a pill, and I illuminate it.

Ben:  Is that Advil?

Dror:  Yeah, this is Advil.  It will illuminate my fingers as well.  So, that doesn’t help.

Ben:  So, the pill is too small.  You can’t just hold it.  So, it’s got this special container that you put that in?  Did you say SCiO or SCiO?

Dror:  SCiO.  It comes from science, that’s the roots of science, which Scio in latin is “to know.”

Woman:  Okay.

Dror:  So, that’s where it came from.  So, what we’re going to do now is we’re going to drop the pill in there.

Ben:  Oh that’s cool.

Dror:  Just put it in there and we can actually activate the screen from here.

Woman:  Okay.

Dror:  You just press the screen and it doesn’t do image recognition.  It actually sense the underlying chemistry of this specific pill.  So, for example, this couldn’t identify it, I don’t know why.

Ben:  Now, if it couldn’t identify it, that means it wasn’t that in database ready.  It just didn’t pick it up  at the time.

Dror:  Sometimes what we need to do is to calibrate the… because this is a very high end application.  So, this is an ibuprofen, right.  So, this is the ibuprofen and this is the Advil that is probably a little more generic.

Ben:  So, really, if we find a pill lying on your carpet, for example, in your house, you could just put it there and…

Dror:  So this is the Advil liquid gel.

Ben:  That’s pretty cool.

Dror:  So I just dropped an Advil liquid gel in there.

Ben:  So you can tell the difference between a liquid gel and a regular pill?

Dror:  Right.

Woman:  So, does it tell you anything about them?

Dror:  Not yet, but as you can just imagine just a matter of what we’ve send in the database and as you can tell, it’s sensitive enough to know the difference between different formulations because even though it’s the same active pharmaceutical ingredient, the different non-active ingredients, the formulation, is very different.  So, we can actually tell the difference from the generic and a non-generic.  Definitely for food additives as soon as you know what you’re supposed to get and it’s supposed to come all these, this is supposed to be this…

Ben:  For capsules and pills that look a lot alike, for example, I’ll travel and I’ll take a probiotic and a digestive enzyme and sometimes I don’t know which is which.

Dror:  This is the thing for you then.  I mean, that’s the good case because you know what you got, but imagine you got a headache and you travel to a foreign country, maybe in a third world country, and this is your summer trip and you need to get an Advil and your pharmacy is like “please take this.”

Woman:  Yeah I don’t know what that is!

Ben:  Right, is this Viagra or vallium?

Dror:  So, food additives etcetera.

Ben:  When all you want to do is fall asleep. [laughs]

Woman: But now I’m wide awake! [laughs]

Dror:  Now I’ll have to sleep on my back!  [laughs] You guys took me there.

Woman:  Yeah, we did.

Dror:  So, I dropped another pill in there.  Let’s see what it says.

Woman:  I really like your graphics by the way!

Dror:  So, this is Aspirin for example.  It’s a totally different pain reliever.  It’s in our database so we can actually detect it.  So, this is kind of the show and tell demo that I have for you.

We will also launch an app for analyzing plants.  So, hopefully… So, the way we thought of the first apps was which materials do all of us have a visceral connection with.  So, food is one, you guys know this.  You blog about this, so you’re into this, but definitely pharmaceuticals is another because I just want to pop the pill but I want to know what’s in there.  Another one as it happens is gardening.  So, as we were talking to folks, we realized that a) gardening was the number one hobby in the United States and b) people that care about plants really care about the plants.  There’s a segment of the population.

We’re a startup; we’re only starting.  So, you can imagine people [0:31:21] ______.  So, the first thing is analyzing the health of plants, and when you need to water it so you won’t kill them, and we think that potentially in one point in time, we’ll actually be able to analyze the actual materials inside of the plants if they have any active ingredients in it.  So, it’s another one of those things we’re working on.

Woman 2:  Question.

Dror:  Yes.

Woman 2:  What if you use that tool to just scan a homemade recipe like a recipe that isn’t in your database, is it going to be able to decipher what’s in it?

Dror:  So, this is the way the big data algorithms come into place.  Let’s say you made a cheese dressing, now if it comes close to what it looks like cheese in terms of the percent carbohydrates, percent proteins, percent fats that are in our database and it’s close enough, even if we’ve never scanned something like this before, we’ll try to estimate as close as we can because we’ve scanned something that looks similar to it.  So, we’ll at least give you something similar.  Usually again, the question people have is how many calories per 100 grams, it doesn’t need to be super accurate, it just needs to be there.  Is this super fat or not fat?  This is what people usually care about and we hope that for even for these cooked foods we’ll be able to have.

Woman 2:  Okay.  Do you plan to incorporate any sort of scale?

Dror:  So we talked to some of the smart scale manufacturers out there.

Woman 2:  That would be pretty cool.

Ben:  Could you potentially be scanning a person?

Woman:  If they’re sick?

Dror:  Potentially these are what we call health care applications.  So, this is not a medical device, this is kind of what you say, but definitely we’ve had a lot of interest from medical centers from around the world in terms of taking this and the entire digital health movement is something that is happening big time, I’m sure you guys know [0:33:15] ______ itself first.  We would love to use this.  Just a matter of regulatory issues that you need to face and we’re not there yet.  But, I think that over time, we’re, it’s a startup, we need to make sure we start with the basic apps, make it work, make it scalable, this is  a hardware company and a hardware company, as they say, is hard, so you need to scale the manufacturing and make sure we can ship them, all the good stuff.  But, there’s definitely a bright future for what would happen if you one day can turn this…  By the way, this is the scanner that you just saw, this is the size of the scanner, and it’s something like half an inch by half an inch, and this is, for comparison, an iPhone 4 camera, so you can imagine this being…

Ben:  It’s about the same size.

Dror:  And this is the end product that we can eventually get this to.  So, this is pretty tiny and we think that this can be going inside smartphones, wearable devices whether looking out or inside your body, internet-enabled devices like smart scales, smart whatever in your kitchen, smart whatever, if it’s cosmetics, in your bathroom, there’s many, many things you can use smart applications like a coffeemaker that will tell you and pop up a red light if the milk is sour because you forgot it outside in the fridge.  You won’t notice it, only when you’re drinking it.  So, 6:30 AM and you’re kind of like…

Woman 2:  Potentially in the future, what can you scan someone’s body for to find out?

Dror:  That’s a good question and I have somewhat of an answer to it.  Body composition is definitely something you can do.  There are more things you can probably do, just not talking about this yet.

Ben:  Fascinating.

Woman 1:  Top secret?

Dror:  Not top secret, just that I don’t want to give answers that I don’t know the answer to.

Ben:  Thanks for showing us!

Dror:  Alright, so, we’re in the early beginnings of this company.



Welcome to the official report from Israel, where my wife Jessa and I are touring with Vibe Israel, who have brought international on- and offline opinion leaders in health and nutrition on a weeklong personalized experience of the burgeoning wellness scene Israel, including us, Lee from FitFoodieFinds.com, Emily from ThisRawesomVeganLife.com and Kate from CookieAndKate.com.

If you haven’t yet discovered Israel as a country to add to your “must-visit” bucket list, you need to do it. Just check out Part 1: The Israman Triathlon and Ben Greenfield’s Fifteen Fun Facts About IsraelPart 2: Ben Greenfield Engages In Potent Anti-Aging Mediterranean Cuisine Face-Stuffing, and Part 3: Top 10 Tips For Racing Israman Triathlon for my reports from last year, during which I toured the fitness and exercise scene in Israel.

As you read, you’ll definitely want to click here tune in to the audio podcast episode that accompanies this episode, which has includes an audio version of the article you’re about to read, along with a bonus interview from the folks at Scio, the pocket molecular sensor I write about later in this article.

The audio is brought to you by Onnit, which is where I buy crazy equipment for my home gym like Zombie kettlebells, battle ropes and sandbags, along with tasty functional foods like Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and Organic Raw Walnut Butter. Click here to check out Onnit and save 10%

OK, let’s jump into the top 5 things you can learn from the burgeoning health, wellness and nutrition scene in Israel (and by the way, the photo above is me covered in mud at the Dead Sea).


1. Vegan Food Can Be Damn Tasty

On our very first evening in Tel Aviv, we stumbled upon “Mezze“, a unique vegan restaurant located in the heart of Tel Aviv. From roasted mushroom pate to organic rye and spelt bread to a “sabha” of hot black-eyed peas sautéed with tomatoes, garlic and cilantro on organic tahini (a rich and thick eggplant paste), we dined in style after a long day on the airplane.

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But the highlight of the meal – by far – was the Mezze spin on “moussaka”- a traditional Greek dish made with layers of eggplant and potatoes with lentil and vegetable stuffing. This stuff literally melts in your mouth.

So I twisted the arm of chef Gal Barzilai, a vegetarian and wild plan expert since the age of 13, to hook us up with his custom recipe for moussaka. Here it is. Bon appetit, baby (or as they say here, “be’te-avon”).

Mezze Mussaka (as translated from Hebrew to English by Adi Kaplan). Click here to convert from metric to common.


-700g chopped onion
-2 garlic cloves, crushed
-600g orange lentils (soaked/sprouted) – weight after straining and soaking
-1 kg mushrooms torn hand into small pieces
-100g walnuts + 50g cashew nuts soaked for 30 min in boiled water
-1/2 kg sweet potato peeled and thinly sliced
-30g sweet paprika
-1/4t hot paprika
-60g beets
olive oil

Vegetables (for layering):
-1kg large potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise
-1 eggplant peeled “zebra” style, sliced thickly (1.5 cm)
-handful small tomatoes sliced pretty thick (1 cm)

Tahini (put all ingredients in a blender/hand blender; can also mix by hand):
-125g raw tahini
-150ml cold water
-1 garlic clove, crushed
-1T wine vinegar
-40ml lemon juice
-1/2t salt

1. Saute 600g onions in white oil (canola, grape seed) when starts to brown, add mushrooms and continue to sauté until nicely browned. Grind in a grinder (thickly, leaving small clump – if needed, add vegetable stock or water), then put aside to chill.
2. Put lentils, cashew and walnuts with the soaking water, final 100g raw onions, beets, 150ml water and both types of paprika in a food processor.
3. Brush potato and eggplant slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and put in the oven on very high heat

Putting it all together:
1. Brush a pan with a lot of olive oil
2. Layer very densely: eggplant slices, the mushroom/lentil mixture, potatoes, mushroom/lentil mixture, very little tahini, eggplant, thin layer of tahini and top it off with a very dense layer of tomatoes. Brush with olive oil

Bake in oven on 190 degrees Celsius for an hour. It is suggested to let the mussaka “rest” for an hour before serving.

2. Dates Aren’t Just For Eating

The morning after our dinner at Mezze, we headed to the Dead Sea – an area well known for it’s extremely mineral-rich water – so mineral-rich, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to get your head under the water. You just…float. Here’s a video to show you what I mean:

Anyways, while at the Dead Sea, we visited The Synergy Spa at the Ein-Gedi Hotel. The spa is built on a hillside overlooking a the Dead Sea, and the spa facilities not only contain air saturated with oxygen, but also a bromine treated pool (which I’m floating in on the video above) filled with Dead Sea water.

My chosen treatment at Synergy was a “Date Wrap”, done with Ein Gedi date mud cream. Apparently, the same polyphenols and flavonoids that make dates such a dark and flavorful fruit also have anti-aging and nourishing properties for the skin. As I lay wrapped up and smelling like a giant human date, I was treated to a head and neck massage.

Time will tell if I actually look younger, but apparently this is one of the only places in the world where one can get rubbed down with dates. Eat your heart out, Robert Lustig.

Anyways, even though I couldn’t seem to find date mud cream for you anywhere, this spa did get me thinking about how you can saturate the air in your own house with oxygen, even if you can’t smear fruit on your own body. Here’s what I found:

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has looked into specific houseplants that can improve indoor air quality by absorbing environmental toxins and increasing oxygen levels.

Ferns, particularly the Japanese royal fern, not only release oxygen into the air but also absorb formaldehyde. The Boston fern adds both oxygen and humidity to indoor air. Gerbera daisy purifies and boosts the oxygen level of the air of your home while you sleep at night, making this a good choice for bedrooms. Other indoor plants considered highly efficient in oxygen production and air purification include heartleaf philodendron, snake plant, spider plant, Chinese evergreen and golden pothos.

So there you have it. NASA studies indicate that 15 to 18 plants in 6- to 8-inch-diameter pots will adequately increase the oxygen in the air in an 1,800-square-foot residential home. This translates to approximately one large potted plant or two smaller potted plants about every 100 square feet.

Now your home can be just like this fancy Dead Sea spa (and here’s a photo of me inside this gorgeous spa)

3. You Can Put Coconut Milk In Your Cocktails

Yes, you simply must drink some alcohol while in Israel.

I of course, have been, every night.

Here’s an idea of the crazy cocktail concoctions I was served just last night at the famous Taizu Asian Fusion restaurant (this is an advantage of being a blogger – they just brought me a sample platter of cocktails).

-Hendrix Masala: Gin Hendrix, Campari, Sake, Red Vermouth, Masala Tea

-Lady Gin: Gin, Chartreuse, Cucumber, Fresh Lime, Ginger

-Red Old Sage: Sage, Stolichnoya, Pomegranate, Ginger

-Green Tai: Stoli, Sake, Litchi, Cream, Green Tea

-Sharp Satori: Pineapple, Stolichnoya ginger, Remy Martin, Wasabi, Lemongrass

And my favorite…

-Punducherry: Strawberry Vodka, Vermouth, Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, Herbal Berries

With a mix of herbs, fresh muddled fruits and a few goodies thrown in like coconut milk and green tea, I actually wasn’t too guilty after indulging in this alcohol-infused sampling. Go ahead and try one of these recipes for yourself this holiday season (just be sure to detox afterwards).

This may come as no surprise to you if you listened to Podcast #267, in which we had the following conversation about the olive oil club I’m a member of and the olive oil martinis I make (read full transcript here):

Ben: …now, I actually I’m part of this club called the Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club. They send 3 bottles of olive oil to my house every quarter from like a different area in the world like Australia or Chile or this last one is from Italy.

Brock: You really know how to party, don’t you?

Ben: Well, that’s what I’m getting at. You can do olive oil tasting, it’s actually kinda interesting. It’s somewhere a wine and that you start to recognize the flavors and the aromas and whether an olive oil is herbaceous or sweet or smoky, etc. but you can also make drinks out of olive oil and what I’ll do is take a shot of olive oil and put that like in a martini shaker and then I’ll take a really nice vodka and put 1-2 shots of that in there, squeeze a lemon, do a little bit of olive juice, so it’s kind of like a dirty martini with a splash of olive oil and then I’ll just strain that into a martini glass, sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on there, garnish with an olive and it’s olive oil vodka martini and it taste fantastic like the olive oil adds this splash of flavor that you don’t get in a regular martini and the mouth feel, like you’d think it be like oily but it’s actually got this really cool kinda mouth feel, it’s a very enjoyable drink. Anyone who hasn’t tried an olive oil martini before should try one.

So there you have it. Now you can add coconut milk into your cocktails too. L’chaim! (photo below is me with the other bloggers and my wife, washing down our cocktails with a tasty glass of Jordanian merlot)

4. You Can Exercise Anywhere

When I’m traveling, I have standby workouts, and this trip to Israel is no exception.

For example, if I find a gym, I’ll often do my twist on a 5×5 workout – which is basically 5 sets of 5 repetitions of 5 different heavy lifting exercises. But I throw mobility and movement exercises in the 90 second to 2 minute recovery periods between each 5 rep lift, like this:

-5×5 Bench – Walking lunges while reaching for the sky (10 per leg) for recovery

-5×5 Barbell Back Squat – Bird Dog Opposite Arm-Opposite Leg Extensions (10/side) for recovery

-5×5 Power Clean – Ab Hollowing With Back On Ground With Deep Breathing (10 breaths) for recovery

-5×5 Deadlift – “Quiet” Box Jumps With Silent Landing (10 reps) for recovery

-5×5 Push Press – Bicycle Crunches (10/side) for recovery

If I’m limited to a hotel room workout, I’ll often strap on a Training Mask (use 20% discount code GREEN1) and do a body weight workout for 4-6 rounds like this:

-20x burpees

-10x lunge jumps for each leg

-20x MostFit suspension strap rows

-20x mountain climbers per leg

-60 second handstand hold against wall during recovery

And of course, just like Venice Beach and Miami, they have gyms along the beach here in Tel Aviv, so you can throw down a weight workout with the locals while you’re cycling or jogging on the boardwalk along the Mediterranean Sea. Incidentally, whether I’m traveling or I’m at home, I log every workout I do, 365 days a year, for all members of my Inner Circle (if you’re already an Inner Circle member, just visit the forum and click “Life Of Ben”).

5. You Can Measure Anything. Really.

As you listen to the audio version of this article, you’re going to hear a special interview with a start-up located right here in the heart of Tel Aviv: SCiO.

SCiO is the world’s first portable molecular sensor that literally fits in the palm of your hand. It contains a tiny spectrometer and allows you to get instant information about the chemical make-up of just about anything around you, sent directly to your phone.

SCiO is based on near-IR spectroscopy analysis method. The physical basis for this method is that each type of molecule vibrates in its own unique way, and these vibrations interact with light to create its own unique optical signature.

The device includes a light source that illuminates the sample and an optical sensor (the spectrometer) that collects the light reflected from the sample. The spectrometer breaks down the light to its spectrum, which includes all the information required to detect the result of this interaction between the illuminated light and the molecules in the sample.

Normal spectrometers are big (about the size of a laptop) and expensive (tens of thousands of dollars). SCiO is unique as it is based on a tiny spectrometer, designed from the ground up to be mass-produced with low cost optics – with minimal compromise on the analysis capabilities.

So based on this technology, SCiO can actually read the chemical make-up of any materials around you, including food, plants, medication, oil and fuels, plastics and wood. For example, you can:

-Get nutritional facts about different kinds of food: salad dressings, sauces, fruits, cheeses, and much more.

-See how ripe an avocado is, through the peel.

-Find out the quality of your cooking oil.

-Know the well being of your plants.

-Analyze soil or hydroponic solutions.

-Authenticate medications or supplements.

-Upload and tag the spectrum of any material on earth to our database (including your own body).

Every time you use SCiO you actually help to build a database of knowledge about the stuff around us. The bigger the SCiO community gets, the more data SCiO will have about different materials and this goes right back to the community of users.

Check out the SCio Kickstarter project here, and listen to my podcast interview with the inventors here.

Alright, that’s it for now…but more to come later, including information about a brand new startup that can analyze and give you instant nutritional facts on any recipe you find on any food blog or website, anywhere, and another startup that allows you to instantly check how polluted the air is where you’re at, and the “cleanest air” routes for running, hiking, or cycling. Stay tuned.

Shalom – and be sure to check out Onnit if you need killer fitness gear or functional foods that optimize performance, stay tuned for more on what you can learn from the wellness and nutrition scene in Israel, extra entertaining videos from this trip, and tips on taking your own to health and fitness vacation to Israel.


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