December 9, 2019

Healing others through food is nutrition alumna's mission after recovering from her own devastating illness

A week after she turned 24, Sasha Bayat had a stroke. 

An active, healthy Arizona State University sophomore working toward medical school, Bayat’s fast-paced life came to a grinding halt that day. Feeling dizzy, she noticed that her right foot was dragging and her speech was slurred. Rushed to the hospital, Bayat spent a few days in intensive care and was released with a good prognosis for a full recovery. 

After being discharged, however, Bayat still wasn’t feeling well. She had muscular pain and fear that her stroke might return, feelings that caused anxiety and high blood pressure. Her doctors offered chiropractic treatment and a prescription for high blood pressure medicine, but Bayat didn’t want to be dependent on medication and decided instead to seek natural remedies. 

She had always been interested in using nutrition to complement exercise, and now she began actively researching the natural medicinal benefits of food to treat her symptoms. It worked. Her blood pressure returned to normal, and she felt well enough to return to school where she decided to concentrate her studies on nutrition. 

Back at school, she began a friendship with Fares Tarabichi, a founder of The Crepe Club restaurants, which operates a location on the Tempe campus. Impressed with the story of her recovery and her passion and knowledge about nutrition, Tarabichi encouraged her to open a business focused on health and wellness. He partnered with her and two other ASU alumni to start The Bodhi, a meal delivery service that quickly morphed into a restaurant near ASU’s Tempe campus during Bayat’s senior year.

Since graduating in May 2018, Bayat has seen The Bodhi grow into a successful business, and she and her partners are planning a second location opening inside ASU’s Hayden Library in January 2020. She also owns and operates ILO Health, a nutrition consulting and meal planning service. The College of Health Solutions recently caught up with Bayat.

Question: How are you impacting health for both individuals and your community?

Answer: I wanted to work in the medical field to provide accessible health to all individuals, but I soon found my niche was helping people through the preventive and restorative field of nutrition. The Bodhi started by creating affordable meals for those with chronic illness, but our menu is flexible enough to work for anyone — people who follow certain diets, who want to eat to manage a health issue, or anyone who wants a quick, healthy meal. The menu is based on various health goals, nutritional information is posted around the restaurant and the staff is trained in nutrition. We make everything from scratch without any additives, preservatives or hidden ingredients.

Our goal is to help educate people about nutrition by what they see in the restaurant and by what they order. For example, the "heartbeet" salad is loaded with nutrients that have been linked to dilating blood vessels to improve their elasticity, which lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow. The idea is that if someone enjoys this salad, when they go to the grocery store they’ll remember to buy beets and greens that are good for the heart and carry the power of choice at home as well. 

Q: What did you learn at ASU that helped prepare you for your career or for the next step in your career journey?

A: Everything! ASU faculty and staff were so patient, helpful and understanding in every aspect of my journey. The professors are incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and compassionate. ASU also has a vast number of resources to help you succeed. I had access to every journal article that I needed, and if it wasn't available, the library or professor went out of their way to obtain it for me. I also appreciated the diversity at ASU. My business partners are ASU alumni from different countries, and the success of this business would not have been possible if we did not have diverse minds coming together to collaborate. 

Q: What advice do you have for others wanting to make a difference in health?

A: Take advantage of everything around you! ASU offers you nearly every resource you could possibly need or want; don't be afraid to use it. Then take the leap for that bigger goal to make a positive change in the world. It may seem scary, but everything will start to work when you do it. 

Top photo: Sasha Bayat in The Bodhi restaurant. Photo by Scott Mitchell

Kelly Krause

Communications Specialist , College of Health Solutions