Could 2018 Be Your Year to Try Yoga? Organic Food? Get Your Eyes Checked?

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Cumberland County provides many paths to wellness and healthy lifestyle choices, from yoga to organic eateries.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY—The new year brings new beginnings for many, and health and wellness are big reasons to have at a new start. Whether one wants to develop better habits or seeks motivation to continue good habits, Cumberland County affords a multitude of options in services, programs and even restaurants to live well.

From cooking, exercise, eating, healing, back pain, breathing, mindfulness and vision, there are a variety of issues that we all either deal with and want to “fix,” want to change in our lives, or need to address.

(Left: Free your mind and the rest will follow? Perhaps 2018 is the year you try something new to better your health. Above, yoga class at the Peace, Love, Yoga studio in Vineland.)

We have spoken with just a small fraction of the local health and wellness experts in our area for this story. The hope is that some of these tips can help make 2018 the best it can be for you and your health. And for those wary about yoga, chiropractors or vegan cooking—maybe you’ll see how easy it is to become a better you right here in Cumberland County.

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You Are What You Eat (Food)

For chef and author Christina Martin, healthy eating is not about meals or surviving special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner and weddings, but a lifestyle where what you eat is incorporated to your everyday life decisions.

“For long-term benefits, it has to become a lifestyle,” Martin, a speaker and who also teaches healthy cooking classes. “We really need to become educated consumers.”

And while healthy eating requires more conscious decision making, it’s easier and more inexpensive than many believe, said Martin, a plant-based vegan chef, who promotes green living and minimalism.

(Left: Aaron Goberdhan, co-owner of Nature’s Cafe & Juice Bar in Vineland. He says there are plenty of “misconceptions out there” about healthy eating.)

“Most of us don’t get our five fruits and vegetables into our daily routine,” Martin said. “People think eating healthy is expensive, it isn’t.”

One of the things that’s driving down the cost of healthy eating is that supermarket chains such as ShopRite and Acme have gotten on the organic train and at least offer sections of organic products that were once nearly the exclusive products of places such as Whole Foods.

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed, including a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm meets federal production stands.

Most of us don’t get our five fruits and vegetables into our daily routine.

In 2016, organic sales in the U.S. topped $47 billion, marking the first time organic food sales have topped the $40 billion mark for two consecutive years. The 2016 numbers top the 2015 mark by $3.7 billion, noted the Organic Trade Association.

Martin said that there are foods we should consider eating every day, such as those that are high in fiber like apples. Kale, spinach, healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, and almond and nut butters can be found outside of the health food supermarkets today.

The chef said that root vegetables like carrots, turnips, radishes and beets can all be made into quick meals for those who have limited time or need a dish to bring to celebrations with other foods.

Martin said one of the things people will be hearing about in healthy cooking is not letting any part of the vegetable go to waste in preparing meals.

“In 2018, I think we’re going to see more ‘root to stem’ and using all parts of the vegetable,” Martin said. “In broccoli, for example, people tend to throw away the stems with nutrients in it. The trend is now to use all of the vegetable. No waste.”

Things to say away from? Martin said while it’s difficult to stay away from all processed foods, it’s a battle worth having. Processed foods are easy to grab and eat for the constant, fast-paced world we live in, but “they are hardly ever good for you,” Martin said.

“Processed foods are a big problem,” she said. “Marketers target us with these foods. Some of us don’t have time to soak beans overnight, or cook brown rice for 45 minutes, but it’s all about making a conscious commitment to your health and your family’s health.”

Martin doesn’t mind sharing her healthy cooking tips, teaching a class titled “Healthy Cooking for the Home Chef,” at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Mays Landing Campus last October. She also writes for SNJ Today.

Getting to the Core (Yoga)

When Natalie Vargas-Suppi first found herself in a yoga class, she was working in retail and attended at the suggestion of a person she was trying to get hired by.

After a 90-minute hot yoga class in Florida, Vargas-Suppi remembers being soaking wet , tired—and energized. She got the retail job as well.

(Left: “Some people have said they’re not flexible enough to do yoga. That’s like saying you’re too dirty to take a shower,” says Peace, Love, Yoga studio founder and instructor Natalie Vargas-Suppi.)

“I’ve been doing yoga ever since,” said Vargas-Suppi, the co-owner of Peace, Love, Yoga in Vineland’s Lincoln Plaza.

The practice of yoga has been around for roughly 2,000 years, the word coming from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means yoke or bind and often is interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline, according to

For many who have not tried yoga, it remains shrouded in mystery, even intimidating to others. Vargas-Suppi said that there is no need to be mystified or intimidated, and that yoga can help people in ways they may not have imagined.

Watch: Cumberland County Now

 “If the person is interested in gaining flexibility and mobility and increasing strength, then yoga is a good practice for you,” Vargas-Suppi said. “Yoga has the ability to increase your flexibility and strength in one practice.

“It’s the type of core strength you can’t see, but you can feel. You’ll naturally start to stand taller. The first thing people start to say is that their posture is better and that they start to sleep deeper. That’s not just my experience, but my clients,” she continued.

Vargas-Suppi and Peace, Love, Yoga are enjoying a burgeoning wellness movement in the country among the reports of obesity in the United States. According to a 2016 study by the Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance, 36.7 million Americans are participating in yoga today, almost double the 20.4 million who participated in 2012.

Some 34 percent of all Americans say that they are likely to somewhat likely to practice yoga over next 12 months.

But where to even start? And is yoga really for you?

Vargas-Suppi said many who come to her studio the first time want to de-stress.

“I do ‘Yoga 101’ workshops every month and I ask my clients why are they here,” Vargas-Suppi said. “The most common answer that I hear is: ‘I’m here to de-stress.’ Think about it? When do we ever lay down with our eyes closed unless we are going to sleep? 

“How often do we really sit still in silence doing nothing? We never do that. Six out of 10 people tell me that their doctor suggested that they do yoga.”

Vargas-Suppi said one of things that she is most proud of with Peace, Love, Yoga is that it’s beginner friendly. She said that her instructors try to take away the biggest anxiety and questions about yoga and let each client ease into it at their own pace. 

I do ‘Yoga 101’ workshops every month and I ask my clients why are they here. The most common answer that I hear is: ‘I’m here to de-stress.’

All she asks is that the clients come with an open mind.

“I can’t make you walk through those doors,” Vargas-Suppi said. “People come for a reason. If they haven’t tried it, I wish they would reconsider and come with an open mind. There’s no excuse to be intimidated. Some people have said they’re not flexible enough to do yoga. That’s like saying you’re too dirty to take a shower.”

She said that for people looking to increase flexibility, mobility and strength, yoga has classes where all of those things can be accomplished. In the same study, 86 percent of yoga practitioners self-report having a strong sense of mental clarity, 73 percent report being physically strong, and 79 percent give back to their communities—all significantly higher rates than among non-practitioners.

“The amazing thing about yoga is that you can do it from anywhere, sitting in your house, your bed, your chair at work,” Vargas-Suppi said. “We have this phrase, ‘Stop, drop, and do yoga.’ You will feel slightly more different than you did before the stretch.”

The growth of Love, Peace, Yoga has been a testament to Vargas-Suppi, her husband and the yoga movement. She started running her studio part time and was the lone certified instructor. Now she works the studio full time and has grown her client list to more than 120 in one-and-a-half years.

“From baby boomers to millennials, they understand that something is wrong here in regards to our health and our lack of movement,” Vargas-Suppi said. “There is no age limit. We do it as family. There are so many variations and you can do it at your own comfort level.”

Vargas-Suppi said anyone can find out additional information about her studio and classes at the Peace, Love, Yoga Facebook page.

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Vegan vs. Vegetarian

Aaron Goberdhan said he grew up in a family of vegans and he knew it was only a matter of time before he opened a vegan restaurant. Especially with so many vegans out there in America, he says. 

If they can just figure out what a vegan is.

“There are plenty of misconceptions out there,” said Goberdhan, the owner of Nature’s Café and Juice Bar in Vineland.

To make it clear, vegetarians avoid all animal meat but do consume some dairy and egg products at various levels. Vegans, avoid all animal and animal-derived products, according to

Once that is cleared up Goberdhan said he hears the bigger questions about vegans.

“The thing I hear the most is that you can’t get enough of —well, anything because you don’t eat meat,” Goberdhan said. “They say, ‘you need meat to survive,’ and that’s just not true. I have family members who haven’t eaten a bite of meat their entire life. You just can’t believe those things.”

Vegans are no longer on the fringes of food movements. According to a survey from Vegan Life magazine, those who are completely swearing off meat and animal-derived products have increased 350 percent in the last 10 years, fueled mostly by millennials.

 “The public perception of veganism is changing fast,” Keith Coomber, the publishing director of Vegan Life magazine said in the online version of the magazine back in 2016. “It’s no longer an extreme lifestyle, it’s easy and accessible—walk into any supermarket and you’re greeted by a huge range of dairy-free milks and other vegan-friendly products.

“As consumers become more savvy about the reality of the farming industry, and the health implications of meat and dairy products, this boom will only continue,” Coomber continued.

Goberdhan echoed the benefits of going vegan.


Eric Nyman, left, founded the Wildflower Cafe in Millville's Village on High seven years ago. 
Since then he's built up a steady client base, educated the community about healthy eating and cooking and is looking to expand in 2018. For those who have never tried vegan or what he calls "earthly organic fare," he suggests: "Give peas a chance." Read more .... 

“The body can become acidic with consumption of meat,” Goberdhan said. “It can play havoc with your digestive system. There are countless benefits, though, with a plant-based diet.”

But if not meat, what?

There are plenty of things available in a vegan diet, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans, all of which can be prepared to make staple food items from cake and baked goods, to pizzas.

Goberdhan is honest to say that Nature’s Café does offer a handful of organic chicken and fish items. Even so, the café’s veggie burgers are among its biggest sellers.

“We get a wide array of people who come in,” Goberdhan said. “We have people who are already vegan and others who are attempting to transition into becoming vegan. Then we have people who just want to try something different and wanted to give something vegan a try.

“We have a lot of students who come in and we’re next to a gym, so we get some traffic from there as well,” he added.Goberdhan said that Nature’s Café is for those who are mindful about the things that they eat, but everyone would be able to find something they like from prepared items and products the restaurant has on its shelves.

Is a Chiropractor for You?

For Dr. John Fresh, the body is an amazing healing machine, but sometimes it needs a little help and a little push to get it functioning in the right way.

In a world where there seems to be a prescription drug for every ailment, and a television marketing commercial for every one of those drugs, it is easy to see why some may not see chiropractic as the answer to a medical need.

(Left: Dr. John Fresh of Millville Chiropractic Center on High Street.)

Fresh, a chiropractor at Millville Chiropractic Center, said that chiropractic has been around for more than 100 years and it is something more people should take advantage of if they are concerned about what is going into their body.

 “Wellness is based on your body’s ability to function and how it was designed,” Fresh said. “The brain and nervous system are the master control system of all that. So the healthier your spine is, the healthier that pathway is. The more light that’s able to get from the brain to the body and the body to the brain allows that person to be the best version of themselves.”

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on the relationship between the body’s structure and its functioning. Chiropractors primarily perform manipulations to the spine or other parts of the body to correct alignment problems, alleviating pain, improving function, and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself, the Center noted.

“It’s not like it’s taking away or covering up a pain, but actually correcting the causes where the body can heal and repair, so it can start to function back to normal,” Fresh said.

He said the chiropractic’s work with the spine can address a long string of issues.

“Headaches, neck pains, ear problems, upper back, mid-back, difficulty breathing, digestive problems, lower back problems, hip problems,” said Fresh, running off  a list of problems his work treats.

“Anything that the nervous system does, which is everything, when you take pressure off the nerve, the body will return to normal function,” he added.

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, more than 18 million adults and more than two million children had received chiropractic service in the past 12 months per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Fresh said because chiropractic has used the same approach of manipulating the spine for more than a century, it’s one reason why so many people trust going to a practitioner.

“When people care about the spine as a way to improve the nervous system, that has been the same where the body heals from the inside out,” Fresh said. “Because of that philosophy, we’ve been ahead of many science changes.” 

Fresh said that chiropractic could be a key method to heal pain in the body and people would do themselves a favor to try it out.

“I think it’s a whole-body approach and I think we need to be doing everything possible to have the best life possible,” Fresh said.

The Eyes Have It

One may not immediately think of needing a healthy diet to have good, strong eyesight, but according to Dr. Alice Williams, of the Eye Associates in Vineland, what you eat most certainly can affect how well you see.

(Left: Ophthalmologist Dr. Williams recently gave a presentation in the SurgiCenter of Vineland on minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries for the South Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians. Dr. Williams is the new glaucoma specialist and surgeon at Eye Associates in Vineland. She was hired by Eye Associates President & Ophthalmologist Dr. Tyson, after studying under him at Wills Eye Hospital.)

“While keeping up with your yearly eye exams [can improve eye health], eating a healthy diet is the quickest, easiest way to improve your eye health,” Williams said. “Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid pigment which is an essential precursor for vitamin A. 

“While deficiencies in vitamin A are the leading causes of blindness in the developing world, they are very uncommon in the United States, as we are able to get our vitamin A from a variety of foods. That being said, there really is no benefit to eating dozens of carrots in comparison to other foods. Just be sure to eat a well-balanced diet full of leafy green vegetables. I personally love spinach and kale.”

While keeping up with your yearly eye exams [can improve eye health], eating a healthy diet is the quickest, easiest way to improve your eye health.

Williams, who is the Eye Associates’ new glaucoma specialist and surgeon, said that some continue to do obvious things that end up damaging their eyesight.

“Leaving contact lenses in to sleep is definitely something we advise our patients not to do, but many times people forget to take their contact lenses in and wind up back in our office with eye irritation and/or pain,” Williams said. “This is usually easily treated but keeping your contact lenses clean and out while you sleep is definitely important for your eye health.

“Looking at the sun is also something we advise against as it can cause damage to the retina and/or accelerate the development of cataracts. 

“Last but not least, not getting a yearly eye exam can definitely lead to problems down the road. Many eye conditions show little to no symptoms at first. Even if you do not wear glasses, it is important to always have your eyes examined at least once a year. That way, any possible eye conditions can be treated before it is too late.”

Williams said that glaucoma and diabetes can have a huge impact on one’s vision and overall health and that people should be as educated on those conditions as possible.

“Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual information to the brain. The disorder can affect a person’s peripheral vision and, over time, can lead to severe vision impairment. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness among Americans and is, therefore, often referred to as the ‘silent thief of sight.’

“When high blood sugar levels go unchecked in patients with diabetes, it can damage the tiny blood vessels that support the retina. These blood vessels can swell, break, and leak fluid. In some cases, dozens of new, abnormal blood vessels grow, a condition called proliferative retinopathy. The abnormal vessels are very fragile and break open easily.”

Williams said annual eye exams can help spot these and other potential problems, and help patients prepare the best course of action in tackling those issues.

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