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Asa Siegel of STAMBA Superfoods

The holistic nutritionist on encapsulating potent plant foods, the scary truth about (synthetic) multivitamins and how we “feel” the effects of whole foods.

We believe in superfoods. And we’re always on the lookout for something new, which is how we discovered STAMBA. Founded by Asa Siegel, a certified holistic nutrition counsellor, yogi and all-round advocate and expert of healthy, conscious living, believe us when we say that Asa practices — and pops — what he preaches.

Raised on a whole foods diet of fresh fruits and vegetables from his family’s garden, Asa has known and felt the robust effects of whole foods from a young age. When he went through a bout of bad health in his early twenties — mood swings, digestive and prostate issue, and low energy levels — it was a whole food diet that helped right the wrongs.

Making it his mission objective to spread the word on the “health promoting power of whole food synergy”, Asa launched STAMBA with two supplements — DAILY and TRAVEL — and an adaptogenic powder blend called PERFORM. Made with ingredients like chaga, reishi and turkey tail mushrooms, maca root, hemp seed and so many more goodies, the formulations help to simplify your nourishment intake and support healthy bodily functions.

Though we know that the act of taking vitamins is often overlooked because the effects are hard to ascertain, we also know that doing so is bound to do some good. And STAMBA’s are as good as it gets to help you feel a bit more on.

“Our whole foods are exposed briefly to cold temperatures in a controlled environment. Through this process, the water content is removed, yet up to 97 per cent of their nutritional density and potency remains intact, including their active enzymes.”

What does “Stamba” mean?

In the Hindi language, “stamba” means pillar. It also refers to inner stability and fortitude. We view everything that we do at the company in fulfilment of this purpose: supporting people to live fulfilling, balanced and joyous lives. This is what STAMBA represents.

Tell us about STAMBA’s process in encapsulating plant foods into individual capsules.

One of our core values is “Quality is Everything”. As such, we begin by meticulously sourcing earth’s most beneficial whole foods from pristine and sustainable growth environments worldwide. The majority of our ingredients are fresh freeze-dried where the whole foods are exposed briefly to cold temperatures in a controlled environment. Through this process, the water content of our true superfoods is removed, yet up to 97 per cent of their nutritional density and potency remains intact, including their active enzymes.

The freeze-dried (or slow-dried, no heat drying methods used ever) powders are then gently milled resulting in extremely concentrated raw whole food powders. For instance, one pound of our freeze-dried maqui berry powder is roughly equivalent to 10-12 pounds of harvested maqui berries. Our powders are then blended according to our proprietary formulations and encapsulated in vegan capsules. This is how we are able to bring potent whole food nutrition to our clientele in the convenience of capsule delivery.

How exactly do you “feel” the effects of whole foods?

Whole foods represent nature’s ingenious delivery method for human beings. When our diet is replete with whole plant foods from rich, vibrant soil and vital growing environments, we experience the rejuvenating power of nature herself. The “feelings” associated with regularly consuming whole foods range widely and are based upon which whole foods one is consuming.

At STAMBA, we have a saying: “Eat great food, supplement with Earth’s most potent superfoods”. Consuming whole foods commonly found in our modern daily diet as the foundation of one’s nutritional regimen leads to great results. We are in the space of getting people to incorporate extraordinarily beneficial whole foods into their health regimen through supplementation.

For example, eating cremini mushrooms is a great way to receive the nourishment and the protective benefits that cremini has to offer. However, the range of beneficial phytonutrient activity found in medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, turkey tail, chaga, etc. eclipse those of the cremini mushroom, and offer powerful benefits such as blood sugar balance, immune balance and reduced inflammation that can translate to the “feeling” of energetic balance and the euphoria of not getting sick! Put simply, you could eat an abundance of cremini mushrooms every day and you wouldn’t be incorporating the range of phytonutrient activity (and resulting expanded benefit range) found in cremini’s medicinal mushroom relatives.

When we expand the range of true superfoods that we incorporate into our regimen, the effects we feel can expand. Tangible benefits that I experience through a whole food-based diet and regular STAMBA DAILY supplementation include consistently high mood and energy levels, healthy prostate function and great digestion.

Stamba Daily Après Avant

I am so aware of these beneficial “feelings” because I suffered from debilitating ailments in all of the health arenas I just mentioned. They have now been transformed through potent whole food intake. Sometimes we need to feel poorly to properly appreciate and value the feelings of vibrant health.

“Sometimes we need to feel poorly to properly appreciate and value the feelings of vibrant health.”

There’s a book called The Enzyme Factor written by one of the leading gastrointestinal surgeons in the world, Dr Hiromi Shinya, where he advocates for a diet made up of 85-90 per cent plant-based foods and 10-15 per cent animal-based proteins. What are your thoughts on this, or his recommended approach as a whole?

I agree with Dr Shinya’s diet recommendations completely. I am personally a pescatarean that eats a considerable amount of whole grains (core tenets of Dr Shinya’s nutritional philosophy — he speaks of fish as the primary meat source referenced in your question). With that being said, everybody is unique and certain people have inflammatory responses to certain grains in their diet. Many people reject eating any animal protein and therefore would need to modify accordingly. The challenge for many modern vegetarians is that they often consume a great deal of processed proteins as an alternative to meat sources. But isolated soy protein and wheat gluten can be very harsh on the digestive system and lead to numerous negative health conditions.

Dr Shinya’s recommendations are founded in extensive observation from his medical practice and his own personal experience as a human being thriving in his later years. People forget that personal experience and patient observation are vital aspects of science. We have been conditioned that something is only “scientific” if it involves test tubes and labs. Observation of dietary cause and effect in vivo — that is actually inside the human body — is the most trustworthy form of science as it relates to the protective effects of whole food nutrition.

Additionally, Dr Shinya’s recommendations regarding diet are fundamentally supportive of a sustainable relationship between human beings and our Mother Earth. Overly carnivorous diets not only lead to adverse health conditions in the consumer but are also directly linked to destruction of our natural environment such as the destruction of rainforest land being used for cattle to support the expanding beef industry.

You’ve said that most multivitamins are “composed of synthetic reproductions of nutrients found in wholefood sources”. How can we determine this before buying?

I have been vying for many years to have a regulation that requires nutrition companies to label their ingredients that are, and are not, derived from nature. When looking at the nutrition facts panel of any multivitamin, you’ll see the breakdown of isolated nutrients identified in the supplement. After the name of that “vitamin”, you’ll see parentheses that identifies the source of that component if it is from a synthetic source. e.g. vitamin C (ascorbic acid). When you see this, you’re being informed that the nutrient (one of millions found in whole foods) identified as vitamin C is coming from a synthetically produced ingredient that is nowhere to be found in nature.

Let me reiterate that: when you take synthetic vitamins, you are supplementing your diet with lab-produced chemicals.

STAMBA supplements

Do you take other supplements?

The only supplement I take regularly (in addition to STAMBA DAILY and PERFORM) is a certified organic, greens-based liquid probiotic that we have been developing with an amazing partner (soon to be a new STAMBA product release!). Maintaining healthy intestinal flora is a must on many levels. All of STAMBA’s products have prebiotic ingredients that feed the healthy bacteria in our bodies. The combination of replenishing your beneficial flora through fermented foods and probiotics (preferably non-lab produced) and keeping them healthy and nourished through their prebiotic food (from ingredients like yacon root and turmeric) is a winning health proposition.

Healthy intestinal form provides benefits ranging from nutrient assimilation to clear skin, immune strength and healthy brain function.

It’s cool that you’re a yoga practitioner. When and where was your first class, and what took you there?

My first hatha yoga “class” was in the summer of 1998 when I was part of Shakespearean acting ensemble doing theatre in Mendocino, California. Two of my cast mates were avid practitioners and offered to teach me the basics. I remember fondly being in a beautiful natural setting in the woods and standing in tadasana, then attempting trikonasana and realising how inflexible my body was! That was the beginning of a great journey that has led to expanding my flexibility in multiple senses of the word. I have been fortunate to study with awesome teachers like Debby Green, Jackie Prete and Nikki Costello.

What are the first three things one should do to start practicing a holistic lifestyle?

I think that the first thing one could do is ask questions. They could be as basic as, “Where does the food I am eating come from?” to a bit more profound ones like, “How are my actions impacting those around me and my environment?” and “What choices can I make to bring the most benefit and care to myself and others?”

Asking pointed questions leads to seeking answers, and subsequently making changes in our thoughts and behaviours based on awareness and inquiry; as opposed to ignorance, denial or obliviousness.

Secondly, seek balance. Many of us are engaged in routines or patterns of behaviour that don’t enable a healthy balance in our lives. Creating space for exercise, time in nature, experiences of silence and keeping the company of uplifting people is at the essence of living a fulfilling and joyous life. This often requires prioritisation and establishing boundaries in work life. Caring for ourselves by making time for what nurtures us is not selfish. As human beings, when we feel good within ourselves, we naturally bring positivity to others, and this has tremendous benefits for those around us. Have you ever experienced great joy from simply receiving a bright smile from a stranger?

Directly related and rounding out this “top three”, I’d suggest cultivating compassion and empathy. Most of us can be very self-critical and continually focus on what we are not doing well or we beat up on ourselves. Self-compassion leads to self-love and self-trust. From this space, we can extend compassion and empathy towards those around us more readily, thus perpetuating a benevolent cycle of greater understanding and care for ourselves and others.

STAMBA Perform Après Avant

What does conscious living mean to you?

There are many ways in which I could approach answering this question. Many of the points I shared in the response to the previous question certainly pertain to living consciously. I would add that on a most fundamental level, conscious living means being fully present in one’s daily actions, interactions with others and one’s environment; taking personal responsibility in one’s life, and making choices that contribute to the collective well-being of earth and her inhabitants.

Images courtesy of STAMBA