Urban Remedy Founder Neka Pasquale on How Food is Medicine

Urban Remedy Founder Neka Pasquale on How Food is Medicine

Neka Pasquale is the mind, body and soul behind the well-known wellness company Urban Remedy. Her journey in health and wellness started with a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco in 2001. She started practicing acupuncture at Evo Spa in Mill Valley, founded by her mother, Gail Ann, and then in 2009, created Urban Remedy, whose reach now spans nationwide and has a fanbase from Boomers to Millennials to Gen Z. Their mission is to “reimagine our food system and teach the world that food is healing.”

Neka’s life has revolved around a passion for healing and health, which, joined with the farm-to-table culture of Northern California, inspired how she looks at food. Her first storefront was located in Mill Valley, and today, you will see her meals, beverages and cleanse programs at your local Whole Foods, Mollie Stones, or other grocery stores. She has partnered with Cindy Crawford to promote her juice cleanses, created meal plans for celebrities like Kate Upton, and has a few other celebrities who enjoy her food, like Carrie Underwood. Her recipes combine acupuncture and Chinese medicine with cutting-edge nutrition and lifestyle modifications.

Feature Photo by Lauri Levenfeld

Urban Remedy combines your passion for optimizing health through nutrition with influences from Chinese medicine and acupuncture. What inspired you to start this journey and when did your food healing mentality?

I always loved food and was inspired by how food is used as medicine. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), every food has a taste, temperature, and medicinal property associated with it. I enjoyed utilizing this information with my patients to help empower them to take control of their health by eating an anti-inflammatory diet of real food.

I know we feel better when we eat healthier, but what do you mean by “Food is Medicine”?

Every time you eat something, it creates a chemical reaction in the body. Highly processed, fast, high sugar content foods or the standard American diet tend to promote inflammation in the body, which is the precursor to all chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease. On the other hand, when we eat real colorful foods in their natural state, we are eating foods that tend to be high in antioxidants and nutrients that naturally reduce inflammation, prevent chronic disease, and truly nourish the body. In TCM, we look at each individual’s constitution and recommend a diet based on their specific needs for optimal balance.

Beyond individual wellness, how does food-is-healing fit into a larger food system?

The foods you choose to eat directly affect the larger food system. Choosing certified organic foods is a real way to benefit the environment, local economies, and public health, both on and off the farm. Big Ag specifically grows mono-crops like wheat, corn, soy, and cotton, which degrade the health of the soil from high use of fertilizers and pesticides; this creates a loss of biodiversity and soil fertility and promotes environmental pollution. An estimated 90% of Earth’s soils could be degraded by 2050 without any protective measures. By choosing organic and regenerative foods, you can vote with your dollars while supporting farming that builds and heals the soil.

What are some ways to eat throughout the year that aligns with farm-to-table or food-healing?

Shop at local farmer’s markets. We are so lucky to live in the Bay Area, surrounded by a plethora of organic farms. There, you can find amazing varieties of winter squashes to make pies, roast as a side or main dish, winter greens, and root vegetables, which all fit perfectly into your holiday meal. Eating local and with the seasons is a way to live harmoniously with your environment and support your health. 

Do you have a ‘Least Wanted’ list of ingredients you recommend avoiding (and why)?

Yes! Throw away all your seed oils like canola, vegetable, corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed, and peanut, as these oils are industrially processed, promote inflammation, and increase oxidation in your body. White sugar and everything that it contains may increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and highly processed packaged foods.

Asking for a friend, do you have a go-to supplement to help with hangovers?

Curing pills!! You can usually find them at health food stores or online. It’s a food-based Chinese formula that is incredible for a hangover. Not that I would know!

Growing up in Marin, do you have any ‘nutritional heroes’ from the Bay Area?

There are so many amazing pioneers in the Bay Area, like Efrem Korngold and Harriet Beinfield from Chinese Medicine Works, Mark Squire, and Al Baylock from The Good Earth, Alice Waters, Judi Shils from Conscious Kitchen, Dean Ornish, Loren from Stemple Creek, Dr. Michelle Perro. All of these people are committed to healing people and the planet in their own unique way.

In regards to nutrition, food is medicine… Do you have any favorite podcasts?

Honestly, these days, I have not been able to find the time to listen to many podcasts. I do have my own, however, the Urban Remedy Podcast, where I interview thought leaders who inspire us to restore and preserve our innate healing capacity, educate us on sustainable, organic, and regenerative farming, and explore the how and why behind founders who are leading the way.  

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