Daphne Oz, Author and Chef
I once read Daphne Oz describe food as "full of joy, pleasure, adventure, sensation." She embraces both the multi-sensory, emotional, celebratory side of eating with as much gusto as the grounding, nourishing quality— and that's why she's a soul sister at Sakara. We sat and chatted about smoothie supplements, showering your plate with herbs, exploring culture through food, and finding your purpose with every bite of a delicious meal. We also swapped stories about spa treatments, snack recipes to make in a pinch, and that aha moment we all have when we deep dive into health + wellness. Read on to fall in love with this chef, author, mama, beauty queen and learn why no food should ever be off limits.
On growing up with holistic health:
“I remember my mom making this morning drink everyday. It was green and terrible but I credit it with providing me great brain function and performance. My father is a cardio thoracic surgeon and both my grandfathers are as well. My mom and grandmother are vegetarian and were always interested in homeopathic medicine, caring for the soil and nourishing oneself as a whole person as opposed to just treating a disease. I grew up seeing how both of these sides of medicine interplay.
I always loved food and part of me thought I was going to be a doctor and go into medicine. I started in pre-med, and I loved understanding the body and the power and control of epigenetics, [and how it worked] to turn genes on and off. It was powerful to learn about this internal roadmap for living a very vital life that many of us don’t take advantage of until we’re fighting some kind of disease. However, I ultimately left pre-med because I wanted to teach people how to cook healthfully for themselves. My goal is to make healthy eating feel indulgent as opposed to it feeling like people are being deprived. I wanted to share my love of cooking and how every meal can be a celebration and experience as a way to help people invest in their health every single day.”
Her first stop on any travel itinerary:
“Wherever I am, or when I travel somewhere new, I have to hit up the farmer’s market. I live for a bountiful summer market, to see the many different specialties, and get a sense of what the locals eat and their celebration meals. I then need to check out the apothecary— I don’t care if it’s their version of a CVS. I’m interested in trying anything that claims it’s good for me and good for my skin.”
On her sacred “bath soup”:
“I’m a beauty product junkie. To unwind, I like to make a "bath soup" with mineral salt, essential oils, and regular oil to hydrate my skin. I put on my favorite podcast, Korean face mask and sit there for at least 10 minutes. It’s the most relaxing 10 minutes you’ll ever spend. Right now, I’m into Hidden Brain from NPR — I think about people differently, I learn something new every time I listen, and it’s great storytelling. I also just started listening to “All of You,” where they ask smart people dumb questions. They talk to someone who studies Dendrology, the study of trees, or Lepidopterology, the study of butterflies. You learn a lot about something you’ve never even been curious about."
Her favorite beauty spots:
- CAP Beauty, NYC, West Village
- Botanica Bazaar, Amagansett: “I feel like I immediately walk in there and get mermaid vibes. Shopping there makes me feel like I’m going to be living my best life, soaking up my May Lindstrom Jasmine mist and Blue Cocoon Beauty Balm… it’s just something of a perfect vibe.”
- Knockout Beauty, NYC, UES
- Detox Market, LA
- Moon Juice, LA “They have these "dew drops"— it’s all in the name for me, if you’re going to promise me a glow that turns me into a celestial being, I wil buy it.”
- Acupressure Massage: “A $50 acupressure massage in Chinatown is the single greatest thing you will ever invest in.”
The staples she always keeps in her pantry:
“I always have fresh beans, chickpeas, lentils, dried legumes, quinoa, sardines, capers, mustard and hot sauces, dried fruits and nuts. My grandfather is from Staten Island and I grew up eating fresh, homemade tomato sauce every week. Now I like to buy really high quality condiments, because then half the work is done for me. Oh, and Persian cucumbers! My family must be the #1 purchasers of Persian cucumbers in America; my kids love them with greek yogurt and a little dill.”
On her love affair for cooking:
“I grew up loving to cook. It’s always been a way to decompress and relax. It makes me feel confident, especially when I’m learning new skills. Nothing makes me feel better than bringing friends and family around a table and being able to present them with a beautiful meal that I made from scratch. Before I had kids, I had a lot more time to invest in tinkering around and trying new recipes. Now on a regular basis, it’s more about tried and true meals that are fail-proof. At the same time, we never want to get bored with our food and tired of the same flavors, so I do find myself relying on simple preparation but then add a showering of fresh herbs. I’ll dump scallions and mint and parsley or dill, even tarragon and go to town with fresh olive oil, salt, and chiles if I have them. It makes any simple pan roasted or basic seared dish feel opulent.”
On “the health epiphany”:
“People are now having 'the health epiphany'. It's when you realize that what you thought was feeling "good" was actually only about 50%. They realize that they have been self-medicating through coffee and whatever they thought they needed to get through the day. Then there is that 'aha' moment when they figure out how good they could’ve been feeling all along. You deserve to feel 100%! It’s amazing how much richer life feels when you’re operating from that place of strength and power.”
On her favorite beauty food:
“I start my mornings with either eggs and vegetables — because I try to get vegetables in any chance I can. In America, we tend to only get our vegetable intake by way of salad or as a side dish to a giant piece of meat at dinner. It's so backwards. (Getting 8 cups of greens every day) is critical for beauty. People are always curious about eating for beauty, anti-aging, eyes, good digestion, lifting bloat— leafy vegetables cannot be undersold.”
On smoothies as health insurance:
“A lot of times I start with a smoothie because it’s the way I can give myself and my kids a boost of nutrition first thing in the morning. If the rest of the day is a wash, at least I'll have this insurance policy. The morning smoothies are where I get in prebiotic fiber, collagen, sprouted pea protein powder, and kefir so my probiotic is in a living form. I eat sauerkraut throughout the day as well. I think so many of our immune failings can be helped by having a more robust digestion, and that starts with having good gut flora. I try to make sure that 1 or 2 meals a day are as clean as possible, so when I do go out, or just really want to eat a stack of ribs, I’m not sitting there worried that my body doesn’t have the nutritional back-up and resources it needs. I also drink a disgusting amount of water. It’s a nightmare when I’m pregnant because I’m peeing constantly.”
How to be more like the French:
“Don’t waste your calories on a stale store-bought brownie because it’s there and something to fill you up immediately. You’re just gonna scarf it down and pretend you didn’t, and it's not going to count for anything. It’s certainly not going to fuel your resolve to eat well the rest of the day and you’re not going to remember enjoying it because you ate it so fast. French people think about the food in their mouths less and think about the experience more. Americans on the whole, think about what’s in their mouth all the time and think about the calories and the nutritional breakdown — they have such an intellectualized way of thinking about what’s in their mouth without actually enjoying it. I want to get to a place where I enjoy my splurge, like a homemade speciality, or something I’ve waited for, or when we’re out to eat and it’s something I absolutely love. The reason why I bother going for it and savoring it and not feeling guilty or rushing the experience, is that so tomorrow, when I’m eating my clean + very green regular diet and slurping down my smoothie, I’m remembering that very wonderful experience and allowing that to be incentive to have a balance.
Every time you eat something quote unquote “unhealthy”, make it MEAN something to you. Because you’re not doing it for fuel, and you’re not doing it to help your body but you are doing it for something equally important — happiness, and your brain, that pleasure component should always be hand in hand with health.”
On the “wild things” she’s done for wellness:
“Fort Lee, New Jersey has the largest Korean population outside of Seoul. I used to go and spend days in the Korean Spa when I was 17, 18 years old — they have you sit in a sweat box absorbing minerals and nutrients of their gold room, salt room, jade room. Afterwards, they give you this killer body scrub where they essentially slough off the top 10 layers of your skin. You eat an incredible traditional Korean meal, and leave feeling fresh as a daisy. Oh, you’re naked the whole time by the way.
I went to We Care Spa out in Palm Desert, walked the labyrinth in 110 degree heat while I fasted for 3 days drinking nothing but broth. Once a day you drank an apple smoothie that tastes like ambrosia from the gods. My mom and I bought a huge tub of it to take home with us and drink after we got back, but then it was revolting! There, it tasted unbelievable.
People come over to my house and it literally looks like I’m running some kind of herbal medicine clinic and I own the entire Sun Potion and Moon Juice lines. Even back in the day when my friends were still chewing on their Flinstone’s vitamins, I was there huffing down 20 supplements!”
“First and foremost, I wish for happy, healthy, productive kids. I want to make sure my kids are resilient, and have a healthy sense of 'FOMO', something my parents taught me where it pushed me to say yes, when otherwise I might have said no. I hope to continue to be a naturally curious person, experiment and try new things that I've learned from smart people.
If there’s anything I could hope, it’s for the people in my community see that we have this incredible obligation and opportunity to create the lives we want, to feel happy, and to not feel like our life is on hold for anyone. I don't want people to focus on what you’re 'supposed to do', or feel they need to put their own lives on hold in order to be a 'better mother'. Your kids will always need you. You never want to wake up and feel like you should have done something [you didn't].
I also want to continue to create content for women to live their best lives. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gives me when people tell me ‘I hated kale until you showed me how to massage it!’ It’s so exciting for me.”