Dr. Mona Vand understands wellness at a chemical level. After earning her Doctor of Pharmacy degree and practicing as a pharmacist for more than six years, she now uses her clinical knowledge to inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle.
As part of her belief that medication is only part of the equation for maximum health, Vand turns to superfoods to achieve holistic wellness. Today, she’s sharing the superfoods she recommends, how to consume them properly, and the techniques she uses to sneak in extra nutrients every single day.
When did you first learn about superfoods?
When I had just finished pharmacy school and first moved to Los Angeles in 2009, I discovered that you could buy algae or spirulina or goji powder. But honestly, it was so expensive and I wasn’t making enough [money] to afford those items. And now they’re everywhere, it can get overwhelming.
My strategy with superfoods is all about simplicity. If you’re completely new to wellness and superfoods, getting a blend of superfood greens can be amazing. But if you’re eating well and pretty on top of it, I like to keep it simple because you don’t want to complicate things. Pick and choose what you want for that day—you don’t try to get all your superfoods in every single day.
How does your background as a pharmacist inform your decisions on which superfoods to take and to avoid?
We learn how drugs metabolize in your body, their half-life and their bioavailability (or the amount the body is able to absorb). And that’s what I think about when I think about superfoods. You have to account for that bioavailability—for example, liquids or blended superfoods will be easier to absorb in the body. So that’s why I recommend, in the morning, to always drink green juice before your meals so it can be readily absorbed. I use those little techniques and think about what will activate the superfood even more.
What are some of those techniques that you use?
I love sneaking in little things wherever I can. I get so much joy out of it, which is so funny to say. It’s so easy to make a dish that’s plain, and give it an extra boost with a superfood. People don’t take enough advantage of spices; they’re not just there to add flavor. Spices add so much value—if I’m making pancakes, I’ll load them up with nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s so delicious, but it’s also helping you. If I want oatmeal in the morning, I’ll make quinoa instead for more protein and fiber.
If you could only take one to two superfoods a day, which would you take and why?
Turmeric would be the #1. It’s so powerful. If you don’t like the taste, taking a pure turmeric capsule is perfectly fine. I try to go to the root of the food, so I’ll buy turmeric root. I honestly like to put turmeric in everything I can (tea, smoothies, food) just because I am always trying to incorporate anti-inflammatory spices and foods into my daily routine. But one of my favorite ways to use turmeric is in a veggie stir-fry with either lentils, quinoa, or rice. Bonus tip: Add fresh ground pepper to enhance the absorption of turmeric!
And cacao! It seems too good to be true. It has more antioxidants than berries and it’s chocolate flavored. I’ll add this to coffee or tea, or heat it up for a cozy drink with almond milk and vanilla. Or I’ll add it into my oatmeal in the morning for an extra kick.
What’s the best way to incorporate superfoods into your diet?
In a perfect world, I think that the best thing you would do is get the actual root of the superfood. For ginger and tumeric, I’ll slice it and keep it in the fridge and throw it into a smoothie. Not having to slice it in the morning will make you more apt to add it to a smoothie. If roots aren’t an option, then buying a high-quality form of the powder great. Put it into a mason jar and get some mini spoons so that all you have to do is open it and put it in cereals, smoothies, shakes, etc. And third, I would say pill form.
Speed round! Name your favorite superfoods for…
Gut health? Ginger. I really like incorporating ginger into my morning routine because there's something about the taste that's super fresh and helps me wake up. My two go-to ways of using it is either in my tea with lemon, or in my green smoothie. It's so refreshing and gives whatever you're drinking or eating a little tang.
Overall disease management and general wellness? Turmeric.
Final words of advice?
Take advantage of the food that the earth is offering you. These foods are so simple and so powerful. Don’t underestimate what they can do for you. Everyone wants to feel their best and look their best, and superfoods will give you both.
What do you love most about Thrive Market?
I love that it’s a hub of all the foods that I like. Normally, when you go to the grocery store, you [have to] sift through all the different aisles and find what’s organic and all the snacks, but everything I like is all in one spot at Thrive Market. And I also love the delivery aspect—I would much rather have everything delivered than to go to the store.
What is your favorite product that you always order?
Sprouted quinoa! One of my favorite ways to use quinoa is for breakfast. I like to swap it for oatmeal and make chocolate-y quinoa. I heat up around 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, add a couple teaspoons of cacao powder, and pour in a little unsweetened almond milk and a few small drops of stevia. I heat up all the ingredients together on the stove (or microwave if I’m in a rush), and it’s such an easy breakfast! The protein and fiber fills you up for hours.