“I GREW UP AROUND FOOD AND EARTH,” says Fernanda De La Puente, gracefully peeling and chopping an aloe leaf into submission in the kitchen of her her walk-up flat in Brooklyn. “My mother has an organic farm in Peru, thirty minutes from Lima. She has vegetables and cows so she also produces yogurt and kefir, butter and cheeses, all hormone-free. Her cows are beautiful. It’s really nice every time I go home.” I first met De La Puente when she was a burgeoning natural foods chef and was immediately struck by her ease and candor when it came to health. Cut to a few years later, De La Puente is now an aspiring actress while teaching at Jivamukti Yoga while running her inspo-rational blog Como Como. We sat down with the Lima native who divulged how yoga has changed the way she views food, her natural beauty secrets and her Peruvian morning elixir that she has every day.
Photos by Sasha Israel
Growing up in Peru with a mother interested in natural foods, what are some things that she taught you about nourishing yourself?
Mostly to respect food and nature. My childhood has given me a connection to food. In Peru, we see food as sacred and don’t anything for granted. It’s something that here in the city you can forget because everything is so accessible. That experience made me close to food and it made me want to work with food, to understand it, from a nutrition point of view.
And that led you to your initial career as a natural foods chef?
I went to nutrition school in California and then I moved here to study culinary food at the Natural Gourmet Institute. I worked a little bit in the kitchen but I realized that’s not what I wanted to do but I still love food and cook for myself.
How has your yoga practice affected the way you eat?
I’m much more relaxed about it. I’ve had an interesting journey with food. I started being very dogmatic and strict when I used to study nutrition and first got into the whole foods world. Then I went the opposite direction and was like, I don’t care, I’m sick of this—of food being the most important thing. I want to live, I want to focus on other things. Now I feel like I’m at this nice balance where I really enjoy cooking for myself. For me, yoga has allowed me to get into the rhythm of my own body which allows me to have a rhythm with my meals which is really important to me.
Do you feel what you eat affects how your feel?
If I’m not grounded with my food when I’m eating, I’m not grounded for the whole day. It matters. It really does affect me. Yoga gives me the consciousness and also the awareness to eat slower and to eat with awareness: to actually eat what I’m eating and not be doing something else. The translation of my blog CómoComo is how you eat. It’s not what you eat, it’s how you eat.
That said, are there certain things you emphasize or avoid because you know that it affects your body?
I eat a lot of vegetables. I love eating sprouts. It just feels good in my body. I love kefir. I choose the dairy carefully. I don’t eat just any cheese. I try to stick with sheep milk, sheep yogurt or goat. It’s easier on my tummy. I also love the almond milk that they make at my coffee shop Café Beit on Bedford and North 8th. They make a house-made almond milk that’s insane. It’s almonds and a little bit of dates. That’s my dairy in the day. I have it with my coffee.
Do you eat red meat?
No, not very much. I grew up being vegetarian, but I’m not vegetarian, I do eat fish, eggs, and the dairy I choose.
Do you eat gluten?
I want to say I avoid it but I don’t. I do love bread and butter. I eat it. The other day when I was having trouble with my skin, my mom was like, “stop eating so much bread,” and I’m like, okay.
What health tips has your mom given you?
She was tells me not to drink beer or eat bread for the skin because of the liver. Her big thing is not mixing fruit with meals and no coffee or alcohol. She’s all about the water with lime in the morning and she juices a lot. Whenever I’m home I have so many different juices all the time.
Do you crave a Peruvian dish or something she makes from home?
Ceviche and my mom’s yogurt and mozzarella–and the butter is like, real butter. It’s so good. We have such amazing seafood in Peru. Avocados and the black olives in Peru are so good. But I buy these things here. Whatever I love from home, I try to eat it here.
What will we always find in your pantry/fridge?
I love Midnight Moon gouda cheese. I use it with my zucchini noodles. I toast pine nuts in the pan and add the zucchini noodles, a little bit of coconut oil and some sort of cheese on top with herbs and it’s like really good. My new discovery is Neem honey. It’s from a tree from India that’s super healing. They use it for everything and it has this really interesting flavor. They make toothpaste, shampoo, everything from this magical tree. It’s also anti-bacterial.
Take us through a day in the life of meals.
If I have fresh aloe on hand, I’ll make this drink. If not, I drink a class of moringa. Sometimes I’ll drink apple cider vinegar with water, which is super alkalizing. Then I eat El Secreto del Inca (“The Inka’s Secret”), which is a flour made up 7 different grains and seeds: cañihua, kiwicha, tarwi, carob, maca, coca leaf, bee polen and tocosh, which are different grains from Peru. My mom brings it to me from Peru. It’s like an in-between of oatmeal and a drink, you add water so it has a little bit liquid consistency. I add hot water and honey in the morning. Then I’m usually out the door because I have yoga class at Jivamukti at 9am. If I have some more time, I will make eggs and avocado with some sort of sprouts. I love sunflower sprouts, broccoli sprouts and radish sprouts. Lunch I usually eat whatever I feel like eating. It can range from like quinoa with vegetables, preferably some sort of protein, brown rice or I’ll get sushi or even a pasta. Dinner is veggies in the oven with some coconut oil or some zucchini noodles. Maybe I’ll make some sort of fish. I also go out to dinner a lot with friends or I like cooking with my boyfriend. He used to live in Italy so he makes amazing pasta and salads.
Tell us about this aloe drink you have every morning.
I like to cube the aloe so it’s easier to swallow. ThenI put water in it. I know it’s a gooey kind of gross thing but once it has water and the lime, it’s so good. Sometimes I’ll add honey. You can add moringa powder from South America. My mom brought it for me from Peru but you can get it here. Sometimes it gives me too much energy, so I don’t put too much.
What else do you use raw aloe for?
I rub it into my skin before getting in the shower and I leave it on as a mask. When I’m at home I do it every day. You can store the rest in a container.
Why is drinking or eating fresh aloe good for you?
It’s really good for digestion. If you do it just first thing in the morning, it gets things going, it’s really efficient. The gelatinous fiber is super alkalizing, it has amino acids, no sugar at all, so it has the components of protein. It’s good for hair because of all the amino acids it has and for skin. It really hydrates from the inside. It hydrates your gut basically. You know in your gut we have these little follicles that basically what absorb nutrients in your body—aloe feeds those hairs and makes them stronger.
What are your favorite restaurants for dinner?
I love Glasserie, Marlow & Sons, or Café Colette because they’re around here. In the city, I love Dimes and ABC Cocina for Mexican.
List your current skincare must-haves.
After I cleanse my skin, I spray on rose water. I’m a fan of putting oils on my face. I have such sensitive skin. I get rashes from nothing. Organic Aura Cacia Restoring Rosehip oil with Vitamin E helps calms my skin down. I love Radical Perfection Fluid by Radical skincare, Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich, as well as Glossier Super Bounce and Super Glow serums which are basically supplements for your face. My friends from Linne Botanicals are amazing. I’ve actually run out of all of their products. For body, I like Aesop Resolute Hydrating and I use coconut oil for everything. Sometimes I use Eggwhite and Chamomile Facial Soap by Belgian Soaps. I also really love MCMC Fragrances roll-on perfumes. I don’t use much makeup but I like Pacifica Natural Minerals. It basically just covers up a bit. I always use They’re Real! from Benefit for mascara. These for my brows—Hourglass, if I need. I love this Chanel Rouge Cocoa. For toothpaste I have one that’s activated charcoal and it’s actually black. I don’t use it every day. I usually use Tom’s but when I feel like I want something more, it does feel like it draws things out.
Do you ever do oil pulling?
Yeah. I don’t do it every day, but whenever I remember I try to do it because you have to be doing that for like three minutes at least. But I love it. I love coconut oil for everything.
What about supplements?
I take the Proviotic from Juice Press; Spirulina; I’ve been drinking CBD oil at night. It’s from the cannabis plant but it doesn’t have any THC, so it doesn’t have the high part, but it just really relaxes your body and tea tree oil for your skin. I’ve been taking garlic pills. They are amazing for the immune system.
Describe your self-care regimen.
I use my dry brush. One day I’ll dry brush out of the shower and then I’ll alternate other days just brushing in the shower. I put honey soap on it when I’m in the shower. I also go to Bae acupuncture and take their draining formula. It’s to remove heat from the body. I feel like a lot of New Yorkers have extra heat on them because of the stress and being active. I’d be lying if I said I got a massage. I just try to practice yoga and move as much as I can.
Fernanda’s Aloe Moringa Lime Elixir
Combine all ingredients into a glass or mason jar. Stir gently and drink.