This Wellness Educator Sees Food as Medicine

Naturopathic medicine combines the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Depending on their position, those in this specialty diagnose, treat and manage patients with acute and chronic conditions while addressing disease and dysfunction at the level of body, mind and spirit. A naturopathic chef assists clients by developing and guiding implementation of nutrition plans to improve their lifestyle and overall health. We recently spoke with Shelly Rose, the naturopathic chef and nutritionist who founded Pure Roots Nutrition, about what led her down her health care career path. (EHC): Thanks for your time, Shelly! Let’s start general: What inspired you to enter the health care field? 
Shelly Rose (SR): I started to cook more meals at home with fresh ingredients and realized I not only totally enjoyed cooking, but that food tasted far better than all the “food-products” I had been eating for so many years! I dropped weight, lifelong headache issues went away and my digestion and skin improved. I was so impressed at how eating wholesome food directly impacted my health and I knew learning more about food as medicine was something I couldn’t not do.

EHC: Once you recognized your passion, what schooling did you pursue to help you turn it into a career? 
SR: I have a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Culinary Arts from Bastyr University, a leading natural health school based in Seattle, Washington. I’m a sponge and will always be learning, so I continue to seek out extra classes at the University, classes held by Naturopathic Doctors and workshops. I also take advantage of opportunities to volunteer and learn from the best in the field; so add on supplemental education in areas like herbal medicine, wild foraging and farm-to-table cookery.

EHC: How did you choose your field specifically?
SR: I was caring for my brother when he was very sick and I knew that what he was eating was so important. The doctors not only didn’t give nutritional guidance, but didn’t believe it mattered anyway. I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, knew food was therapeutic and a significant part of the healing picture. That lit a fire to pursue the field of nutrition and natural health.

EHC: What is your current title and what do you do?
SR: I’m a nutritionist, a wellness educator and a natural foods chef. I teach people how to simplify nutrition and confidently get back to the basics of eating wholesome food as part of a lifestyle they love. It’s also my aim to preserve the art of cooking in the home. To accomplish that, I offer meal planning, cooking instruction, group nutrition talks, workshops and guided sugar cleanses.

I created this “role” based on the gap I saw. And thankfully, a like-minded naturopathic doctor in the area appreciated the value of what I was trying to do and invited me to join her practice. There wasn’t anything like this here in Richmond, Virginia at the time, but there certainly was a need.

EHC: What advice do you have for students interested in going into your field?
SR: Seek out people in the field doing work you’d like to do. Talk to them, observe classes and volunteer — that will put you in proximity to the things you want to learn and in the path of opportunity. See what sparks your interest and boldly take a step in that direction.

EHC: What do you wish you knew before you entered this field?
SR: I began understanding this while I was in school, but I chose a track that was more entrepreneurial in nature, which meant carving my own path and in an area (Richmond, VA) that saw what I did as progressive. I had no idea how much help I would really need to start, market and launch a business — and how important it would be to connect with those in my field and form meaningful partnerships and collaborations. My advice: Don’t try to do it alone!

EHC: How do you stay up to date on happenings in the health care field?

SR: To stay up to date in the health care and nutrition field, I subscribe to and follow a variety of natural health, integrative and allopathic health leaders so I have a wide scope and pulse of what’s going on in the health world, not just the narrow area that I’m interested in. A few are Dr. Aviva Romm for women’s health, functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama and Marion Nestle for food politics.

I recommend getting involved with your local meetup groups to be connected with your immediate health community. For example, we have groups in Richmond for functional medicine/nutrition and a group called Mindful Mornings that connects like-missioned “do gooders” in the wellness field. The in-person engagement is key, especially in a highly virtual world.


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