Take the powder, or go against the diet-fad grain?

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Take the powder, or go against the diet-fad grain?

I decide to start eating better, inspired by the designer Donna Karan, who looks amazingly slender and sexy these days after adopting a diet of "living and raw" foods. I don't need to slim down, but who doesn't want to be healthier?

In North America, people are swearing by diets built around vegetables that have been cooked at low temperatures, so the food is fresh and "living." Here in Korea, though, dieting is all about powders. My boss has been drinking saengsik, or "living food drink," for five months, and he has lost 10 kilograms (22 pounds). He looks healthy and younger looking.

I decide to try it and go to a store specializing in saengsik, a powder made of selected grains, such as sorghum, millet, brown rice, corn and black soybeans, fruits and vegetables. The premiere saengsik, made by Pulmuone, costs 240,000 won ($200) for 60 pouches, the regular 85,000 won for 30 pouches. "For young people, regular saengsik does fine," says a sales clerk. "It's an ideal breakfast for busy professionals like you." Busy, she's right; ideal, I'm not so sure.

I ask how it tastes. "To tell you the truth, only 1 in 100 people actually like the taste," she says. "But if it tastes good it's not good for you, you know?"

For starters, she recommends that I mix the powder with milk or soy milk and try it with water later. She warns that hot liquid destroys the living enzymes in the powder. And she suggests I chew the lumpy drink, "to satisfy the body's need to masticate." She gives me two packages to sample.

Day 1 I mix the powder with cold soy milk. It turns into a grassy green smoothie. I chew the lumps.

I can't believe it -- it tastes good! It has the mild flavor of toasted beans. Do I detect cucumber or green tea?

But I'm still hungry. This doesn't fill my stomach. Yet, half an hour later, my stomach feels strangely full, although my mouth craves real food.

Day 2 I try it with regular milk. It tastes like a weird mixture of vegetables with a hint of dried roots. The gooey liquid seems to bubble in my stomach. The drink leaves me hungry again. I miss breakfast. So I drink a mug of coffee, which makes me jittery. I wonder: If you mix bad stuff with good, do they cancel out?

Day 3 I buy a two-month supply. I try it with cold water. It has the same wholesome flavor, but is cleaner and lighter. The brochure says after drinking, refill the cup with water and drink again. Gross.

Day 5 I go back to regular milk for the richer taste. And, because I like warm food and strong coffee in the morning, I drink the saengsik in the late afternoon. After all, I'm not trying to lose weight ?just supplement my diet. Benefits: I drink less coffee, avoid snacking and eat less at dinner.

Day 11 My complexion appears to be clearer. I'm starting to believe in this stuff. But what's with the sudden intestinal discomfort at night?

Day 17 Perhaps the adaptation period is over. No more discomfort; I feel healthier.

I think about Ms. Karan. She employs a chef who cooks foods below 105 degrees centigrade (221 degrees Farenheit) to preserve their "living energy," which promotes the reproduction of new cells. I'm curious and decide to do more research, checking out www.living-foods.com.

Day 21 Instead of getting the healthy quick fix of saengsik, I'm looking at the big picture. Rather than eat the greasy, salt-laden food that's served in my company cafeteria, I buy a salad that's wholesome, light and filling. I feel reborn.

Day 23 I see the live food light. Saengsik is the right idea, but it's clothed in commercial hype.

People who eat living and raw foods believe they can retrieve the living cells from organic foods. They steer clear of mixtures and powders and eat an array of specially prepared foods that even includes cookies, bread, spaghetti, sushi rolls, soup and sandwiches. I envision my future eating nutritious, restorative foods.

Day 27 Guilty. I've eaten "dead" foods ever since my resolution to stop doing so; my sins include Thai noodles, croissants, caviar and meat loaf with gravy sauce. But I know that I'll go back to living and raw foods. All it takes is a little time and effort.

by Ines Cho
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