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Garden of Life Founder Jordan Rubin Continues Mission of Whole Food Nutrition

Garden of Life has gained a loyal following of customers thanks to their commitment to creating supplements that use nutrients from food, not chemicals. We spoke with founder Jordan Rubin about the story behind Garden of Life and where the brand is headed now.

Garden of Life was founded in 2000 by Jordan Rubin, inspired by his own recovery from chronic illness. Since the beginning, the Garden of Life mission has been to lead the way in offering supplements produced from actual food, not chemicals, to give people results they can actually feel.

At the age of 19, Rubin was diagnosed with an incredibly severe case of Crohn’s disease while an undergraduate student at Florida State University. His condition led to a shocking weight loss of more than 80 pounds that left him wheelchair bound and on the brink of death. Rubin and his family tried out all kinds of treatments around the world – 70 in total -- but to no avail. Finally, he found the solution by studying what foods were eaten during biblical times to maintain health. By his twenty-first birthday, Rubin’s health was nearly restored and his mission clear: Spread the word for hope and health. After 19 books and with several tours around the country, his journey has inspired countless others to reboot their health.
Since those early days, Rubin has enjoyed seeing the lifestyle he grew up on -- the lifestyle that saved his life – become more mainstream. As the appeal of raw and organic living grows and the technology improves, Rubin’s focus remains exactly where it started – making supplements of exceptional quality that he would feel comfortable giving to his own family.
“This is all I do,” Rubin said.
Rubin is currently touring the country, speaking with retailers about the company's products and continued mission to create sustainable, wholesome supplements that promote a healthy person and healthy planet now and for future generations. We were fortunate to sit down with him for a while before his seminar in Metro Detroit.
eVitamins: What products kicked off the Garden of Life mission?
Jordan Rubin: The first compound that really led to the creation of Garden of Life is something we call HSOs or homeostatic soil organisms. Ultimately, they're in the larger probiotic category but they're very different. HSOs are comprised of the missing elements in soil, not necessarily dairy or even human strain probiotics. We used that to form our first product, Primal Defense, a combination of single-celled plants, fermented green foods and HSOs.
eVits: Based on your own research, what problems have you identified with the Western diet?
JR: The issue with ill health today is two things: Toxic environment, so too many toxins in the body, and a lack of cellular nutrition. If you look at our diets today, we’re greatly deficient in fat-soluble vitamins, everything that’s found in good fats and minerals. Water-soluble vitamins -- vitamin C and the B vitamins -- we're not getting a lot of those but it's not as grossly deficient as the fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. 
eVits: How was this incorporated into your book and lifestyle plan, The Maker’s Diet?
JR: If you look at The Maker's Diet, a lot of what I've recommended are foods rich in fats so you can get all the fats -- saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which would be omega-3s and omega-6s. I also believe our digestive tract is unbalanced and so there's a great lack of probiotics and enzymes. Those are not nutrients, but they’re found in live, fresh and fermented foods. If you looked at fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, probiotics and enzymes, those are real cornerstones. They work well together and much of what we've done at Garden of Life has been an attempt to reestablish the gut but also provide those nutrients to the body.
eVits: Can you walk us through some of the major evolutions of Garden of Life, from fucoTHIN to The Vitamin Code to the RAW line?
JR: We’ve always been open to finding research-based, whole food products. I had a mentor who helped with formulation years ago, Dr. Zakir Ramazanov, and fucoTHIN came when he sent me some research on laboratory animals using the seaweed extract to reduce what would equate to human visceral fat or abdominal fat. Over the years, he perfected that extraction, combined it with a unique ingredient from pomegranate seed oil and we introduced it as a whole food antioxidant with a side effect, or side benefit, of weight loss. 
The Vitamin Code was our search for a whole food vitamin and mineral unlike any that had been available – single nutrients fed to a growing culture -- something that was really revolutionary. What if we could tweak the process to make the top temperature below 115 degrees? What if we could produce the first raw vitamins? 
I knew the raw food movement was growing. It's always been there, but not like it had been. I said this would be huge. Not only do we have a sequence to drive these nutrients into the cells, what we call The Vitamin Code, but now we have raw vitamins and minerals and that really struck a cord with all of the natural health community. More people tell me they use The Vitamin Code out of the 1,500 vitamin and mineral brands than any other product line we've developed and from there all of our RAW formulas sprung forth. 
I felt like organic is great but raw is really the ultimate expression of health and so we started developing products such as our RAW Protein, which isn't only the No. 1-selling protein but it's the No. 1-selling product out of 29,000 supplements in health food stores. RAW Meal came from that, RAW Cleanse, all of our RAW targeted nutrients -- RAW Resveratrol, RAW CoQ10, RAW D3, RAW K-Complex, RAW Perfect Food, etc. We've put a stake in the sand saying nutrients are best in their raw form. We really pioneered this category and it's been great for us.
eVits: How do you keep track of the ingredients found in Garden of Life products and where do they come from?
JR: We keep track of our ingredients through a sophisticated software system that's suited for large pharmaceutical companies, but it’s helped us in a world of increasing regulatory compliance and adverse event reporting -- it keeps track of all of our hundreds and hundreds of nutrients. Now that we are a more vertically integrated company and have our own manufacturing, we're able to source pretty much anything we want and need. 
A lot of our products come from small farms in areas of the U.S. such as southern Utah. We get a lot of ingredients from Europe now so it's hard to say where we get the majority of our ingredients. But our standards are raw and we try to source organically. For example, our RAW Protein is not only raw and plant based, but it's certified organic with the USDA seal and so is our RAW Meal and our RAW Perfect Food. These are among the only supplements in these categories that are organic. If it doesn't have the USDA seal it's not an organic supplement. We try to partner with small farms when we can, and then we find great extraction technology for these products. There's a wide variety of whole food ingredients, but we do try to source U.S., raw and organic whenever we can.
eVits: What's next for Garden of Life?
JR: Here's how we formulate: We find an area where there's either no products represented or no products I would consume myself. I formulate something for me and my family and then I'm blessed to share it with the world. 
When it comes to new categories, there are areas where we’re underrepresented like the herbal category. We don't have a presence in homeopathy, skincare and cosmetics. The sky's the limit, as long as we have products that I can objectively say have no equal. That's what we try to do and we've been successful at doing it.
Sports nutrition has also always been an interest of mine. When we do a sports nutrition line it won’t be like anything else. It’s going to be clean but almost beyond that. It’s going to be whole food. I do think there’s a way to have a more safe and effective, even raw, sports nutrition line.
We’ve expanded far beyond what I ever thought we would, so if we find an ideal solution for those categories that don’t exist, they would be logical. There are some other exciting things launching in the very near future, either at the end of this year or the beginning of spring.
eVits: Could you explain your day-to-day at Garden of Life?
JR: I am really more the visionary. Mostly, it's conceptualizing products. Today, I was in a health food store scouring, looking for what new ingredients are out there. Formulating, speaking, writing -- that’s my day to day. It started with answering phones and authorizing credit cards but things have evolved and now really it’s forward thinking about what Garden of Life will be. Hitting that No.1 spot has been great, but it really inspires us to go further. We think there’s more to be done, more people need great solutions for health and were going to continue to develop them.
eVits: What Garden of Life supplements do you take on a regular basis?
JR: I’ll share what I’m using right now. I take RAW Probiotics for Men every day and I take a lot of those RAW Enzymes for Men. Those are my two favorite formulations that I’ve ever been a part of. It doesn't mean Primal Defense didn't change my life, it doesn't mean that Perfect Food isn't great, but those are amazing. I use our Minami Nutrition omega-3 supplements. I take a lot of supplements, so the list is kind of long. 
I'm a huge fan of fat-soluble vitamins, so I take Vitamin Code Perfect Weight – I don't necessarily look to lose weight, but the stress reduction part is huge. Our Vitamin Code RAW D3 is one of my favorites – it's not just D3 but it's D complex – vitamin D basically can do no wrong. We now have Vitamin Code RAW K-Complex in an oil base and I take that. I take RAW CoQ10 for gum health, because I'm very diligent about my oral health care. I take our RAW Vitamin E and I take RAW Vitamin C. Those are my staples.
I never dreamed when Garden of Life started in my parent's friend's garage with my dad's credit card and my story that we would now be the No. 1-selling brand in health food stores and it's truly amazing, but we're not even close to finished.
Today, Rubin lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida with his wife, Nicki, and their three children. They’re raising their children to understand the importance of eating raw and organic as much as possible. Rubin even used to fly home on weekends while touring the country to make his own baby formula, a healthful blend of more than a dozen ingredients he combined in his own kitchen. Today, he has entered into farming, growing much of the food he and his family consumes on a daily basis, without the use of chemicals like pesticides and herbicides and completely free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 
“People say to practice what you preach and I’ve always said, preach only what you practice and are currently doing,” he said. “It’s important for people to understand that I live this life, I’m hardcore, because it saved my life and there’s no other way for me.”
At the seminar later that evening, Rubin reminded Garden of Life retailers there’s plenty of room to grow within the industry, keeping the focus on providing guidance to customers for a healthy life. The five key areas of focus for Garden of Life continue to be vitamins/minerals, protein, green foods, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. When combined in the daily diet, these components lead to optimal health and Rubin and his team are continuously working to improve upon the formulations they have now while adding new ones. It all goes back to his mission of helping people get back to a more pure way of living.
“I believe either we as consumers and companies are contributing to the problem or we’re helping solve it,” he said.
In keeping with Garden of Life’s commitment to growing the whole food supplement industry from within, look for exciting updates to your favorite Raw Meal and Raw Protein products in the near future as well as new targeted probiotic formulas. Countless fans of the brand won't be disappointed.
Rubin emphasized there’s no “ceiling” to stand in the way of new developments, but Garden of Life will always stick to what it does best – using nutrients from real food to promote health and wellness, as has been done for thousands of years.
“Don't reinvent the wheel,” Rubin said. “Put it back on the car and make sure it works.”
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