STAMBA Founder Asa Siegel on Why Food is Medicine

By Christina Najjar. This article originally appeared on Gotham on February 22, 2019.

Suffering from a broad range of debilitating health ailments, STAMBA founder, Asa Siegel, embarked on a healing journey in pursuit of optimal health. This journey led him to discover the transformative benefits of the true superfoods of ancient cultures and begin his obsession with sustainably sourcing the “best of the best” ingredients from around the globe. Incorporating a combination of these potent superfoods was the key success factor in Asa’s healing journey, the power of true superfood synergy is the discovery that transformed his life. Asa created STAMBA to make the full rejuvenating power of nature’s nutritional bounty easy to integrate into modern lifestyles for experiential and lasting results. We talked to the founder about his company and why food is the ultimate medicine.

What was the inspiration behind Stamba?
ASA SIEGEL: Nature is the inspiration behind STAMBA. I have great reverence for Earth and the beauty and wisdom that nature holds. As a child in Berkeley, CA, I lived on a commune where we had a large organic vegetable and flower garden, as well as plum and loquat trees, and blackberry and raspberry bushes. The experience of helping grow, harvest and enjoy food in its raw and organic state was fundamental for me. Dirty feet from wet soil, and fingers stained from blackberry juice were marks of joy in my childhood. With STAMBA, I am committed to bringing direct experiences of the purity and potency of Mother Nature through our product line and serving as a proponent and protector of our planet through our business practices. In many ways, we are serving as a bridge to the natural world for our clientele.

What personal experiences have you had that led you to start the brand?
A.S: When I faced a series of debilitating health ailments in my early twenties, I discovered the healing and restorative power of traditionally revered whole foods. When I began taking these true superfoods together on a regular basis, I experienced some unexpectedly wonderful benefits. Taking this experience further and sharing it with others is how STAMBA came to be.

What trends are you noticing in wellness?
A.S: I think there are two major trends right now: CBD and the merging of beauty and wellness. Both of these trends have downsides and aspects that will be short lived, yet they both also represent innovation and fundamental market shifts far beyond just being a trend.

The downsides have to do with common themes when anything becomes hot: companies releasing inferior quality products and/or exaggerated claims of benefits that can leave consumers confused or disillusioned by lack of results. I see this with low-grade CBD products, as well as certain brands just slapping the word beauty on wellness products or claiming lofty benefits that are a stretch of the truth to say the least.

On the good side, hemp is a medicinal plant that has a myriad of beneficial applications and we are only beginning to unlock cannibinoids’ secrets. As more is learned and discovered, I believe many people will continue to encounter high-quality products conferring an expanding range of serious health benefits. 

With regards to the beauty and wellness worlds merging, there are a couple of primary things happening. One is quite literal: people are looking to take ingestible wellness products that contribute to tangible benefits in appearance. The next is that the definition of beauty is expanding and people are making deeper correlations between how they feel and how they show up in life as vibrant and beautiful. This is wonderful in that the space actually has the opportunity to be a source of inspiration for people to live more rich, beautiful and meaningful lives.

There is also great focus on high quality and clean products in the beauty and wellness worlds merging. One could say that the introduction of ingestible wellness products in the beauty space has come about because of the clean beauty movement and the awareness that it has inspired. This benefits consumers and high integrity brands for prioritizing quality and values at the heart of their product offerings.

What are your thoughts on "food is medicine"?
A.S: It is the truth! Yet, to be provocative, I will add the following statement: “food is poison”. I say this because we need to honor the relationship between our dietary and lifestyle habits and our wellbeing in both regards: beneficial and harmful. In the same way that proper nutrition can be the foundation of vibrant health, poor nutrition and lifestyle are directly correlated to the onset of many preventable conditions. There is an unfortunate tendency for people to only start thinking about their health when something goes wrong. Then, in western society, the relationship with the medical field is often characterized by prescribing medications to address diagnosed maladies. What is striking in this dynamic is that the vast majority of medical doctors don’t study nutrition or preventive health. As such, medical doctors are trained to treat and address maladies as opposed to fortifying well being and utilizing nutrition as a tool in protective and preventive care. Luckily, this dynamic is shifting and the rise of functional and integrative medicine practices as well as health coaching are bringing more holistic approaches to the field. On an individual level, if people make beneficial nutrition and lifestyle choices, they are actually taking powerful steps towards their long term well being and reducing the likelihood that they will have to deal with a host of negative health conditions.

Let me bring this home with a concrete example and summary. Chronic inflammation in the body is now correlated to the onset of many forms of disease. Reducing inflammation can be achieved by both adding anti-inflammatory foods to our diet (medicinal mushrooms, therapeutic spices, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables, etc.) and by removing inflammation-inducing foods from our diet (sugar, processed foods, etc.) When people come to me with ailments, starting with creating a plan that addresses eliminating harmful foods as well as incorporating beneficial foods and STAMBA supplements is the fastest path to major improvements. Mix in sufficient rest, exercise, and water intake, and not only does the list of health issues drop even faster, great health benefits arise.

Modern medicine and food-science are beginning to honor the deep truth in the statement, “food is medicine”. Wisdom from indigenous cultures and Eastern medicinal traditions has been putting this truth in practice for generations. What is exciting now is that we all have access to incredibly beneficial whole foods from different parts of the world. Utilizing those foods as medicine has been limited by what foods have been regionally available to different peoples based on geographic location. I believe that we are in the midst of major breakthroughs in nutrition and a much deeper appreciation for the therapeutic power of food.

What are you most excited about for this upcoming year? 
A.S: I am most excited about STAMBA making an impact in the market and in people’s lives. I am incredibly passionate about what I do and obsessive about the quality of what we create. It is extremely gratifying to see that translate into meaningful benefits being brought to more people throughout the world, which is my vision for 2019 and beyond.

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