We Need To Taste Our Life: An Interview With Abdi Assadi

“How’s your digestion?” Abdi asked me as he released a needle into the flesh of my shoulder. My digestion was fine and so that concluded our conversation about food. But I knew he had a lot more to say, and I knew that if what he did have to say about food, was even half as wise as all the other things he’d ever said to me, I wanted to listen.  So I asked Abdi (an acupuncturist, spiritual counselor and author of Shadows on The Path) if he’d let me turn the questions on him and share his views on food.

You’ve worked closely with well known people such as Sheryl Crow and Norma Kamali (who have been very public with their thanks and respect for you) but also with homeless drug addicts. Is there always a correlation between healthy eating and a healthy body or can some people make a meal of french fries without consequence?

I treat people, not famous people or poor people. We’re all the same. People with money just have access to more options.

Depending on your constitution, you either have to be super attentive to food or, in some cases, you can eat crap and be fine. But for most of us because of intense stress, exhaustion and toxins, we need to pay close attention to what we eat.

Why are we so challenged in our relationship with food?

We are a culture of addicts. Addiction is any process where we’re not in the moment. Food is a drug we use to numb and control ourselves. The profound spread of eating disorders (including over-eating) in our culture, can be traced back to this fact. The insane focus on our physical presentation also plays a big role.

Mood and food, what’s the connection?

Some people have serious biochemical imbalances but we all benefit from cleaning out our diet. Keeping stable blood sugar is a powerful mood stabilizer.

What’s damaging us the most?

Sugar and refined foods destroy the body. Period. For most, just cleaning those two out would bring profound changes.

Any other ways we’re inadvertently harming ourselves when we abuse this drug called “food” ?

It’s being discovered that inflammation is the root cause of most disease and our diet of processed foods is a big contributor. Gluten is a monster lurking for many people and can mask itself in a myriad of symptoms. Take a week off and see how you feel. Most people respond positively.  Dairy can also wreak havoc on some people,  I had intense sinus infection as well as food allergies in my late teens and discovered that cutting out dairy totally cleared them up.

Other food practices you advise?

Eat less. Systematic “under eating” is a good practice. Most of us eat far more than we need. Studies show “under eating” really helps longevity and health. But skipping meals has negative effects as well. I’m also a believer in keeping protein and starch separate to aid digestion.

Are you a supporter of  fasting as detox?

Depends on your health. Most people go too far with fasting. Short term fasting is best done in warm weather when you can rest.

This is not very uplifting, give us the good news

Eat greens. They are a cure for many ailments.

Raw greens?

Raw food can blow out some people’s digestion. For others it’s amazing. Generally, when we are in warm weather we can do raw. In a freezing place unless you are using warming herbs, it can cool your system too much. I am a big fan of root veggies in soups and broths in winter.

What about juicing?

Juicing is fantastic. Go easy on sweet fruits and vegs. Stick with greens.

Are supplements worth it?

Our soil is depleted which is robbing food of a lot of its nutrients. Digestive enzymes are useful as are super greens.

Meat or no meat?

I would say a third of people I see, do perfectly well on a vegan diet, another third need some animal protein (such as eggs), another third need a larger amount. Most people who eat meat though, eat way too much.

Your favorite food

Kale, in any form. Arugula is amazing. I love Italian food and do enjoy it from time to time.

The one meal you could eat over and over again

Steamed kale with lemon and olive oil dressing

Most memorable meal

That would be about the person, not the meal.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic that we can reverse the obesity trend?

Pessimistic as long as corporations dictate our food policy through control of our government. The growing epidemic of poverty of wallet and mind, also makes processed food an easy choice.

If you had the power to effect one change that would make the biggest difference to people’s health, what would it be?

Make sugar and corn syrup a prescription drug.

Parting thoughts?

After religion, nothing brings up more emotion than food. We can get dogmatic. People either don’t give a damn and eat whatever or get fixated.  The middle road is what we should aim for. Why are we so fixated? To leave a good corpse? We need to taste our life.

If you’re reading this in email, please come to the site to leave (and read) comments! Click on the title at the top or go to www.thesweetbeet.com/abdi-assadi

Photo credit: Abdi portrait (Chloe Crespi), kale with lemon and olive oil (The Sweet Beet)

Related Posts

Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Kale (Why to eat it, how to cook it)


How Bad Can It Be When It Tastes This Good (Why sugar’s getting trashed)



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  • http://twitter.com/beingpresent Nancy Coleman

    Thank you for this excellent summary. While I have paid attention to my nutritional intake ever since a youngster when my parents followed Adele Davis, the path has had too many diversions — college days, living with dudes, and whatnot. However, the internet is playing a huge part on helping me to focus on what is real and possible, and I have recommitted to Health. Good thing, too, as I just turned 60 and I want to live for many more decades. So, thank you for your part in helping me to do that. BTW, I love this blog — great content and exquisite imagery.

  • Cindy

    I’m still pretty young and have not yet had to deal with any age related health problems, but I am a HUGE believer in prevention and would rather spend $3 now on a bunch of spinach than $300 later on pills to cure my ulcers.

    I’ve also learned that healthy eating can and DOES taste amazing!! I used to detest kale, for example, until I learned that with a touch of dressing it tastes, not only as good, but better than salad greens…

  • http://profiles.google.com/kszapa Katy Szapa

    Key phrase: “as long as corporations dictate our food policy through control of our government”

    I think putting the whole post in the emailing is awesome! I always used to just bookmark them and intend to go back and read the whole thing without ever finding the time to follow through. Now- I read them right away!

  • http://twitter.com/tintin1011 Peter Buckley

    Good call re: most memorable meal! Enjoy food with like minded people and be smart – there’s lots of great information out there, the Sweet Beet, the Primal Blueprint, the Paleo Diet, etc… Think and enjoy. It’s one thing we have in common, no?

  • Rick Machado

    Excellent questions Michelle. Great article. And yes, Kale is king.

  • Dariane

    LOVE the parting thoughts! I think I need to be reminded of that daily 😉 Great interview.

  • Janera

    Abdi is my acupuncturist and I love his idea of losing dogma and balancing what tastes good with what is healthy!

  • Karen

    Great interview Michelle! Thanks so much for sharing. I was introduced to Abdi’s book, Shadows on the Path, from a dear friend and highly recommend it! ps: I love kale too. :)

  • Lauramychal

    I liked what he had to say, seems like a great guy. I agree with the part about taking the middle road when it comes to your eating practices. Being open and aware simultaneously makes for a happier you. It’s also nice to hear him explain that different people need different things. When people ask me why I don’t eat meat (other than fish) I don’t know exactly what to say, because I don’t have a clear reason other than I feel that I don’t need it, and other factors enforce that for me. Some people feel like they do, and I understand that. The part about the sugar and corn syrup is nice too, although I’m sure I’d be needing a prescription for it! Seriously though.

  • Gillian Kirby

    Excellent interview! What an enlightened mind.
    And yes, KALE is most certainly KING …and unfortunately it’s nowhere to be found in South Africa :(

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com Michelle Madden

      Now THERE’S a business opportunity for you! I’ll send you a packet of seeds :)

  • Lsf4fairvu

    Bravo, ABDI. My guess is your Middle Eastern heritage fueled your healthy attitude toward food. My own Lebanese parents, who lived long healthy lives in their adopted home city, Boston, taught us to avoid “easy white bread, processed foods, chemical dyes and fertilizers, along with environmentally-sound gardening practices long before the green craze.” For them, it just made sense – scientific and pracitical sense; as it should to all people exposed to facts as Abdi seeks to do – expose the facts.

  • http://www.nutritionbycarrie.com Carrie

    Yes! Couldn’t agree more about sugar and kale. I liked his point about warming foods in the winter. I was eating a lot of cold green smoothies and salads this winter, and felt like something was off. I switched to more veggie soups and cooked greens, and felt much more satisfied. I’ll go back to smoothies and salads once we actually get some warm weather in Seattle!

  • Sarah

    At the beginning of spring I experienced the worst digestive issues I have ever had in my life. I was nauseous, bloated with gas (my stomach was distended), and felt like if I ate anything I would just shrivel up. It was terrible. After doing some research and having my doctor tell me to try Prilosec, I decided to give up all sugar for a trial period and ignore my MD. I’m not even eating fruit right now. I’m eating animal proteins, fats, and low glycemic veggies. Lots of veggies. It seems so simple, but I can’t even tell you how amazing I feel and how much brighter my life is now. Sugar is such a downer, even more so when it’s refined. My energy is through the roof, no gas, great mood, I feel smarter, and I am so much happier. I wish that I could get my husband on board, but he can’t see a life past his tortilla chips. I’m slowly adding in some foods like whole milk greek yogurt and nuts, eventually I’ll try and add some fruits back in, like berries. Slowly though because of how sick I was before. It’s amazing how the quality and type of food you eat can turn your life around. It’s also amazing how much more you can enjoy your food when you eat slowly and don’t over-season with salt. I’m really enjoying the natural sweet and salty of my veggies mixed with different fats.

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com Michelle Madden

      It is so frightening how quick docs are to prescribe meds to alleviate symptons rather than working with the patient to get to the root cause. Sure Prilosec might have cured some symptoms but what about its unintended effect on the body? Our bodies are not meant to be pumped with drugs and even if in the short term we dont feel adverse side affects, they are sure to manifest over time… Sure it can take some time to find the combo of foods that work and identify the culprits that are acting as toxins on us, but it sure beats drugs.

  • Cheapnorthface

    I’ll be really curious about what you think of the pizzas then! Enjoy and keep me posted.

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  • http://homegardening101.com/ Gineen

    the best and way to enjoy more greens is to grow them yourself…
    how can you not eat spinach when its growing in your backyard