We had the absolute honour of being interviewed by Medium about InnerWellth* and the power of food as medicine. For more information about Medium, be sure to visit their website and explore other incredible articles.
In an era dominated by pharmaceutical solutions, there is a rising consciousness about the incredible healing and preventive powers of food. As the age-old saying goes, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” But how does this translate in today’s world? Can we really use nutrition as a potent tool against sickness and disease? How does one curate a diet that supports health, longevity, and wellness? In this series, we are talking to nutritionists, dietitians, medical professionals, holistic health experts, and anyone with authoritative knowledge on the subject. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Kristi Stuart.
Kristi Stuart is an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Inner Wellth Supplements. With a deep love of science, wellness, and women’s health, she’s on a mission to share empowering knowledge about the female body. As a trusted fitness, hormone and nutrition expert, Kristi formulates products that work, backed by solid science and beloved by thousands of women across North America. Check out her work here.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Iam extremely fortunate in that I had a great childhood. I had two loving parents who always told me I could succeed as long as I worked hard. I was a competitive dancer for 14 years and had planned to dance on cruise ships right after high school. Unfortunately a car accident ended that dream and I went off to University to study Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. The common thread throughout my career has been health and wellness. I started in the pharmaceutical industry, moved on to co-found the largest female fitness brand in Canada and most recently founded a supplement line dedicated to Women’s Health.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
The main motivation behind my career has always been to positively influence how women perceive themselves. Women are held to almost impossible standards and are judged harshly regardless of the life decisions we make. My entire career has been dedicated to empowering women and improving their self-confidence, as I firmly believe that when women truly believe in themselves, they have the power to transform their lives.
It has been said that our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made so many mistakes and they all stem from my impatience. I am very results oriented and will sometimes overlook details or rush through tasks to cross them off of my to-do list. However, I have learned the consequences from rushing are that the original task not only takes longer, but ends up being more expensive. I am trying to cultivate patience but it isn’t easy! A great counterbalance to my rushing is asking myself ‘If I move forward now, am I going to have to redo it later?’. If the answer is yes, then I slow down!
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Grit — Experiencing a business failure due to Covid-19 was a pivotal moment in my life. However I used this setback as a catalyst for personal growth. I learned how to navigate uncertainty, adapt swiftly and to keep moving forward. After this challenge, I am no longer afraid of obstacles, knowing that I can overcome them and will be a stronger leader for it.
Curiosity has been the cornerstone of my entrepreneurial journey. I am always seeking new ideas, perspectives and opportunities to help me become a better leader and colleague. Curiosity fosters informed risk taking which leads to innovative products and creative solutions.
Collaboration — there is nothing better than being a part of a high functioning, diverse team! Open communication and teamwork drives both innovation and support for tackling seemingly insurmountable challenges. When everyone feels valued for their ideas and contributions, magic happens inside companies.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am about to launch a supplement designed to naturally increase fertility. This speaks to the essence of our upcoming interview, in that as a society we’ve been trained to go down the pharmaceutical route first whenever a problem arises. While I wholeheartedly believe in pharmaceuticals, sometimes there are extremely effective, scientifically proven natural options that are worth exploring first. My goal for this supplement is for it to be a first line option for women starting their fertility journey.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview about cultivating wellness through proper nutrition and diet. To begin, can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority on the topic of nutrition?
My love of nutrition started in University where I majored in Molecular Biology and learned how nutrients affect your body at a cellular level. What you eat is broken down into the building blocks that make up our organs, muscles, neurotransmitters, everything in our body comes from the food we eat!
I went on to become a Certified Nutrition Coach and Certified Menopause Support Practitioner and have worked with hundreds of women, teaching them how food influences every aspect of their body.
I counsel on everything from what to eat for a metabolic supported weight loss, to completely eliminating PMS and perimenopause symptoms through nutrition and supplementation.
We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
First off, lasting change is very difficult. We have built up years of habits that are hard to undo which can make it challenging to incorporate these healthy behaviours into every day practice. Combine that with aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods and the potential judgement within your family or community to your ‘healthier lifestyle’ and your well intentioned efforts can be completely unwound.
Additionally, as a society we are incredibly busy and need access to convenient food. Unfortunately, at many of these fast food restaurants, the ‘healthy choices’ are still full of salt and saturated fat and are not healthy at all. If you are fortunate enough to have access to actual healthy fast food, it is often cost prohibitive to feed your entire family, even further preventing us from adopting healthy habits.
From your professional perspective, do you believe that nutrition plays a pivotal role in supporting the body’s natural healing processes and overall well-being, particularly in cases of chronic diseases? We’re interested in hearing your insights on the connection between a holistic approach to diet and its benefits for individuals facing health challenges.
I wholeheartedly believe that food is medicine and positively impacts the body’s ability to heal. Our entire body, from our heart to our muscles to our gut is made from the nutrients we eat and I don’t think people realize that. For example, when you eat protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids that are then used to grow and repair muscle, make hormones and neurotransmitters, boost your immune system and provide energy. If you don’t get adequate protein, your mood suffers, your immunity is lowered and you feel sluggish and tired. There is a direct correlation between what we put in our body and how it functions. We literally are what we eat.
A well known chronic disease is hypertension, or high blood pressure, and it affects 50% of American adults. It is widely agreed upon that high blood pressure is caused by eating unhealthy ultra-processed food and studies show that over 65% of the daily calories Americans consume are from these ultra-processed foods.
If you have hypertension, you have two options. You can be put on a pill to help control your blood pressure from rising, or you can change your diet from ultra-processed foods to a diet with fibre from fruits and vegetables and lean proteins to completely reverse your hypertension. The choice is literally medication as a treatment or food as a cure.
Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your research or experience could you share with us five examples of foods or dietary patterns that have demonstrated remarkable potential in preventing, reducing, or managing specific health conditions? If you can, it would be insightful if you could provide real-life examples of their curative properties.
Here is the link to my 5 Foods that can reduce your risk of 5 Diseases video:
1 . Protein to treat Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is increasingly common in Women of childbearing age and can be a cause of infertility. It has been shown that many cases of PCOS are due to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can be caused by a diet high in ultra processed foods and in addition to PCOS, insulin resistance is also linked to Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity. When we substitute ultra processed foods for meals with a minimum of 30g of lean animal protein, aiming for a total of around 100g of protein per day, blood sugar is regulated and fasting insulin levels will lower which can reduce the incidence of PCOS. In fact a recent study published in the Journal Nutrients showed that a High Protein diet is more effective at improving insulin resistance than the Gold standard Mediterranean Diet.
2 . Salmon and Walnuts for brain function. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna, and nuts and seeds like flaxseed and walnuts all contain high amounts of Omega 3s. In a meta-analysis of nine studies containing 1319 people, adding Omega 3 fatty acids to their diet was shown to increase learning, memory, cognitive function and blood flow to the brain. Omega 3s have also been shown to lower inflammation and cell death and positively impact brain function.
3 . Cruciferous Vegetables for hormone regulation. Cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower contain a compound called Diindolylmethane aka DIM. DIM helps support estrogen detoxification in the liver and has been shown to reduce high estrogen levels. Excess estrogen in the body can cause heavy periods, increased PMS symptoms, weight gain around the hips and thighs and mood swings. DIM allows for proper estrogen metabolism and therefore a reduction in the debilitating PMS symptoms that many women experience.
4 . Blackberries and Blueberries to fight cancer. Blackberries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin which lowers the biomarkers that cause colon cancer. Blueberries contain phytochemicals that have been shown to reduce cellular DNA damage which can cause a cell to turn cancerous.
5 . Leafy Green Vegetables to lower risk of Heart Disease. Spinach, Kale and Collard Greens are a great source of Vitamin K. Vitamin K protects your arteries by preventing the formation of artery clogging plaques and also have been shown to lower arterial inflammation. People with diets high in Vitamin K are 21% less likely to be hospitalized with cardiovascular disease due to clogged arteries.
Do experts generally agree that merely choosing healthy foods isn’t sufficient, but that understanding how to consume them is key to unlocking their full health benefits? (For example, skins on/off, or cooked/raw, or whole grain/refined grain) Could you provide advice on how to approach this and sidestep common errors or misconceptions?”
Yes, there is general consensus that while choosing healthy foods is important, it is crucial to understand how to best consume them.
A huge misconception is that vegetable and fruit juices are just as healthy as consuming the whole vegetable or fruit. Juicing a fruit or veggie strips it of the fibre. Fibre is integral in gut health and bowel movements, balancing blood sugar and lowering cholesterol. In fact, increasing your fibre intake has been shown to increase your life expectancy! Most fruit and veggie juices are high in calories and sometimes contain 0g of fibre. Make sure to eat your fruits and veggies, don’t drink them!
Additionally, certain foods need to be cooked to increase their bioavailability or rate of nutrient absorption. For example, cooking tomatoes increases the availability of lycopene which is a potent cancer fighting antioxidant. Cooking spinach, carrots and mushrooms also make their nutrients more bioavailable.
A good rule of thumb to know if you should cook a food for better nutrient absorption, is if it gives you gas if you eat it raw! Foods like legumes, spinach, cruciferous and root veggies are typically gas causing veggies. When cooked, the tough structures that cause gas are broken down and the nutrients are more readily available for your body to use!
With the recent prominence of nutrition’s integration into healthcare, what’s your perspective on the collaborative approach between medical professionals, health coaches, and nutrition experts when it comes to delivering holistic patient care? Can you please explain?
By 2030, it is anticipated that 50% of the American population will be obese. Aside from the reduced life expectancy and dramatic increase in disease, the cost of treatment is going to be catastrophic for the health care system.
We can no longer just focus on treating disease, we need to focus on prevention and that is where collaboration comes in. When a patient presents with high blood pressure, I would love to see both a prescription for a medication and a prescription for a session with a nutrition expert.
There needs to be integrations of health coaches and nutrition experts at pharmacies, physician’s offices, hospitals and grocery stores where patients can learn about nutrition and the healing power of food. We need to meet the patients where they are and provide the best resources to ensure their success.
Future patient care must be collaborative. By combining the knowledge of healthcare professionals with nutrition experts to focus on preventing disease, patients will receive superior care and outcomes and the overall cost of healthcare will decrease.
It’s been suggested that using ‘food as medicine’ has the potential to reduce healthcare costs by preventing disease severity. However, there’s concern about the affordability of healthier food options. What solutions do you believe could make nutritious choices accessible to everyone, ensuring that food truly becomes a form of medicine for all?
First and foremost, we need to lower the cost of healthy foods. According to data released in 2021, only 0.4% of Agriculture subsidies goes to fruit and vegetable producers which can translate into nutrient dense foods being up to 3x as expensive as ultra processed foods.
If more of the subsidies were allocated to subsidize the production and distribution of fruit and vegetables, the cost would come down and food deserts could be eliminated.
We can leverage community spaces to plant gardens and have school aged children nurture the garden as part of their curriculum. This initiative provides access to free fresh fruit and vegetables in underserved areas and teaches children where their food comes from and what a healthy diet looks like.
Finally, new research is showing that when families eat dinner together, they are healthier and their overall risk of disease decreases. I understand the busyness of life today, but adding a few family dinners a week, not only keeps you connected to your children, but will improve your overall health.
Everyone’s body is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. How does one navigate the vast array of nutritional advice available today to curate a diet tailored to individual needs, ensuring health and longevity?
Every body can benefit from eating more whole and less ultra processed foods. Nutrition can be as simple as making choices that fit within that paradigm. Grabbing an apple instead of apple juice or choosing protein rich greek yogurt instead of yogurt with sugar filled fruit on the bottom.
With the busy lives we lead, I think it is unrealistic to ask people to give up convenient and processed foods, so an easy tool that I love is to compare ingredients. For example, when you are choosing a box of crackers, look at the ingredient list on a few of your favourite brands and choose the box with the least amount of ingredients that you can’t name.
Let’s not overcomplicate it. Eat more whole foods and less foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce!
As our understanding of the intricate link between food and health continues to evolve, we’re curious to know which emerging trends or breakthroughs in nutritional science excite you the most. How do you envision these advancements shaping the future of healthcare?
I am extremely passionate about educating people on the dangers of sarcopenia, which is the age related loss of muscle mass and strength. I believe the work being done focusing on calculating amino acid concentrations vs measuring protein grams will really help prevent sarcopenia onset.
A huge misconception in nutrition is that all proteins are created equal. Women tend to eat more plant based proteins and unfortunately 30g of plant protein does not have the same amino acid concentration as 30g of animal protein Without getting into the weeds, you need a specific concentration of a few essential amino acids to promote muscle growth and with many plant proteins, you do not get the correct amount. Therefore many women believe they are hitting their daily protein goals, without realizing they are actually much lower in terms of amino acid concentration than they should be.
If we focused on daily amino acids needs, it would eliminate the confusion of ‘which protein is best’ and the general public would be much more equipped to ensure they are meeting their daily essential amino acid needs to prevent sarcopenia.
How can we better educate the public about the medicinal properties of food, and what role do professionals like you play in this educational journey?
It’s tricky as we are up against big food companies with billion dollar advertising budgets and much of the food they are advertising is quite unhealthy.
In my dream world, there would be warnings on food labels much like we have on tobacco products, but that takes Government intervention.
Until then, we need to engage our local communities and schools, teach them about power of food and encourage them to share their learnings. Ideally this grassroots education creates a groundswell which will lead to a full blown food as medicine movement that our politicians cannot ignore!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can follow me @yourinnerwellth or check out my website, www.yourinnerwellth.com
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!