Corinna Bellizzi is an impact entrepreneur, a climate activist, and host of two podcasts, Nutrition without Compromise and Care More, Be Better. She’s passionate about sustainable nutrition, especially omega-3s, which are essential for everyone to survive and for runners and other athletes to thrive. Most people think of fish oil when they think of EPA and DHA supplements, but Corinna believes in going directly to the source: algae, which is not only better for people, but for the planet.
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Corinna was a shy child, which led to a certain amount of bullying and insecurity. “I would often look to the adults to give me senses of affirmation and feel like I was on the right track,” she recalls. That affirmation, however, was in short supply where athletics were concerned. “In elementary and junior high, we had to complete certain tasks to check off on their list. And some of them were things like pull-ups, which were forever challenging for me, or you had to run a mile. And for my age range, they wanted me to run a mile under nine minutes and I just couldn’t do it. I mean, I’d be sucking air at the end of that mile run, feeling like I had the taste of iron and blood in my throat. It was just torture, and I really think back and it’s like they didn’t really train us to run; they just pointed us at the track and said, ‘Do.’ You know, you’re gonna do this many laps and it’s going to be this fast and that’s it. So I basically had this really defeatist attitude about myself in this particular way, thinking, ‘Oh, I could never,’ and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really just said, ‘You know, I don’t have to believe any of this. I can do. And I’m gonna try, and I’m gonna seek out, and push through some of these uncomfortable moments and see what I’m capable of.”
She got serious about running, and, she says, “Before I knew it, I was running eight miles and then thirteen, and doing half marathons, and then becoming a training captain and inspiring other people. I felt like my purpose, and I still feel this way, was to help people understand they could do what they didn’t think was possible, if they could just envision it. It was really hard for me to become a runner, but I got there and I was able to complete distance runs, even 26.2, which to me seemed like an impossibility before I started with that first step. So I think that it’s getting out of this defeatist perspective. It’s quieting the noise of the criticism that you’ve heard throughout your life to say that, you know, that isn’t my truth. That might be how you think about me because you’re in this judgy space or you don’t feel good about yourself, but that doesn’t define who I am. And if I can envision something, then I can realize it.”
Running not only quieted the noise of criticism, it quieted her brain. “I was somebody who could never really slow my mind down or quiet myself enough when I was sitting still. And so for me, when I got past that eight-mile run moment, it suddenly became something that was meditative. People would talk about the runner’s high and all these things, but I never really felt that way about running. I just felt like I got peace; I got tranquility; I got quiet. And it was really something that helped me to work through the stresses of my life. I found myself looking forward to those runs in the forest and really letting myself go in nature. I was never somebody who ran with headphones or music. I would find it annoying. I looked at it as my way of communing with the environment and it really just helped me in a way that I didn’t anticipate.”
Corinna grew up on “a hippie commune,” so she was “born into the whole world of understanding where your food comes from and really being connected to the earth.” Becoming a scuba diver led her to a deeper understanding of life underwater. “That connection to nature and to our world, just the health of our spaces, has always been something I’ve been hyper aware of. With that being said, I wasn’t always super mindful of things like packaging and plastic waste because they were just so ubiquitous in everyday lives. And we didn’t really see the problems of what was happening in our ocean until the last ten years. So being in my middle 40s, I now have a deeper understanding of that. I’ve been diving our oceans in Monterey Bay, on Hawaii, and off the coast of the Bahamas and different spots around the world for most of my adult life now and I’ve seen firsthand the changes in our waters.”
Before going to Örlö, she worked in fish oils. “I was telling a story to people that fish oil was sustainable and that we were only taking fish from abundant waters where fish were flourishing,” she says. It was a story that she initially believed herself, but the more she learned, the more she questioned whether fishing really was sustainable. As water temperatures rise, the water becomes more acidic. The acidity has already risen to the point where certain mollusks are unable to develop their shells and are going extinct. As a result, the coral reefs die. “That water is going to get to a point where the acidity will be so great and the temperature will be so great that vast swaths of our ocean will no longer support sea life,” she explains, “and this isn’t something that’s debatable, it’s scientifically proven out.”
“It just got to the point for me where I very rarely consume fish now,” she continues. “Even though I know it’s healthy food, I just can’t.” Fish are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a vital part of the cell membranes, helping to provide structure and supporting interaction between cells. They lower triglyceride levels, which contributes to heart health and helps prevent heart disease and stroke. They may also lower the risk of developing some forms of cancer, including breast cancer; Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; and age-related macular degeneration.
Omega-3s are essential for everyone, but even more so for people who are physically active. As Corinna explains, “If you are going to build healthy energy, then this is something that you need. After something like a very long distance run, a good deal of your body is essentially in an inflammatory state. And so you need to have the building blocks present to help to quash that flame, so to speak, so it’s healthy again. You have to think about the fact that you’re using omega-3s today that you put into your body over the past few months. And so that’s something that you need to have in a continual way. They also help to deliver fat-soluble nutrients to your cells, and if you think about those, they’re things like vitamin D, CoQ10, vitamin A; all of these things are required for a healthy working system. And so getting enough of them is absolutely critical throughout any training season.”
There are three main types of omega-3s: EPA and DHA, which are found in seafood, and ALA, which is found in plants. When you get ALA from foods, a small amount of it is converted into EPA and subsequently into DHA, but not enough for your body to thrive, so dietary sources of EPA and DHA are essential. Many people are disinclined to eat as much fish as they need to in order to consume sufficient quantities of EPA and DHA, so they turn to fish oil supplements. However, in addition to the sustainability issue, the EPA and DHA in supplements is not readily bioavailable. So where to go for these essential nutrients? The same place that fish do: algae.
Örlö produces omega-3 supplements made from photosynthetically-grown algae. Through their process, Corinna explains, “We can essentially give people something much closer to food than they would be receiving by taking a standard fish oil capsule. So this creates something that is up to three times more absorbable than a fish oil product. We are cutting out that middle fish; we’re going straight to algae. We’re giving you all the nutrients you need from that omega-3, the EPA and the DHA in the highly bioavailable polar lipid form, which also means there’s no burp-back; you don’t taste the fish.”
Corinna hosts a podcast on behalf of Örlö, Nutrition without Compromise, which she sees as being “this kind of perfect marriage of my passion for sustainability and for healthy food and nutrition. So if you’re curious to learn more about nutrition and health,” she says, “I interview some really critical thought leaders, doctors, medical professionals, also nutritionists and scientists, about their research as it pertains to health and nutrition, with the entire ethos of that show being really focused on nutrition and health without compromising your morals, your ethics, and planet Earth. We’re all on this orb traveling through space together and we need to protect ourselves.”
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“Thank you” to Corinna! We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.