Candice Wood: Co-Founder of Stressfree Recipes, Obstetrician and Gynecologist

Candice Wood, co-founder of Stressfree Recipes, obstetrician and gynecologist, photographed at Carly's in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Candice Wood, co-founder of Stressfree Recipes, obstetrician and gynecologist, photographed at Carly’s in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Candice Wood

In her day job, Candice Wood helps mothers-to-be and women of all ages as an obstetrician and gynecologist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. She’s also a clinical professor with University of Arizona, helping medical students learn the ropes as an OBGYN. Online, the 33-year-old Phoenix resident helps families around the world plan healthy meals, with the website she co-founded with her doctor husband, Stressfree Recipes.The site is like the Pandora for meal planning, where specialized recipes dependent on diet needs are delivered daily to members’ inboxes. The site launched in March, and the doctor duo are constantly improving it for its members. Read on to hear some health tips from Wood, as long as to hear five reasons why she loves calling the Valley home.

What brought you to Arizona?

My training. I was born in Denver, Colorado, and six weeks after I was born, we moved to Germany for three years because my dad was an OBGYN physician in the military. We went back to Colorado when I was three, and I lived there for nine years. Then, we moved to El Paso, Texas, for three years before he retired from the military in Salt Lake City, Utah. I did high school and college there. I went to The University of Utah and got a Bachelor’s in chemistry, with a minor in business. I did medical school back in Colorado at the University of Colorado. I did my residency here at Good Samaritan Hospital. I was initially interested in living here because I was dating a guy at the time who lived out here. By the time I came out here, that relationship was long over.

What drew you to wanting to be an OBGYN?

I love it because there are so many different facets to obstetrics and gynecology. There’s nothing more amazing than delivering a baby — to be a part of that experience with a family is amazing. I love that it’s a specialty where healthy people come, and they actually love to see their doctor. I love that I get to do surgery. I love there’s a component to overall well care, and I feel like I can have an effect on women making healthier choices and living healthier lives.

What drew you to teaching?

Medicine is a career of life-long learning, because we’re constantly finding things out, and changing the way we do things. I love to learn, and teaching helps keep me on my toes, always trying to be up-to-date with the latest research. There’s something really fulfilling about teaching inquisitive minds, and it has great long-term effects because you’re teaching someone who’s going to be helping hundreds of people.

What are the biggest trends you’re seeing in the medical industry?

One of the biggest things we’re seeing recently is changes in medical care. I think we’re seeing a lot of doctors who are becoming disenchanted with being a doctor. I worry about that for the future. I love my job, but I think we all worry about losing the ability to make our own decisions about our patients. We’re going to see streamlining in the future where doctors follow algorithms, rather than using your own clinical expertise.

I think one of the trends is that doctors will start getting creative about how they can make health care affordable, like charging just a little bit more than an normal co-pay for a visit, and taking no insurance. I know a doctor who, for a fee, you can email him any time you want to get questions answered. With insurance reimbursement constantly changing, doctors will be forced to start thinking differently.

What’s your ideal healthcare industry?

I think for emergency situations, there should be protocols, but there’s something to be said for clinical expertise. If you’ve known a patient for 10 years, and they’re complaining about something, you might know that you should order a CT scan, whereas for someone else with the same complaint, that might not be appropriate.

In my ideal world, there would be health savings accounts, where instead of people saving up for insurance, they can put money into this fund, and spend it appropriately. Along with that, when patients participate in wellness programs, or they’re non-smokers, or they’re a healthy weight, they should have discounts or rewards, because they’re taking care of themselves.

But there’s no perfect answer. I don’t think any country has the right answer. Everybody may get care, but it may not be the best care. I really dislike how negative the political medical climate is, because I love what I do so much.

What advice do you have for women to be healthier?

Overall, women should pay attention to what they’re putting in their bodies. We wouldn’t put bad gasoline in our car, but we oftentimes don’t pay attention to what we’re feeding ourselves. I think nutrition is a huge pathway to health that is untapped.

Exercise is also so important. The American Heart Association wants us to do 30 minutes of exercise a day, six days a week. They recommend you get to the point where it’s uncomfortable to talk. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is key to stay healthy and exercise your heart as a muscle.

I also think emotional health and taking time to meditate are so important. I see a lot of women who are so stressed and who carry the weight of the world with them. They work and are expected to take care of the family most of the time. It’s important that even if you’re not where you want to be from an appearance, emotional or career standpoint, to take a look at what you’ve accomplished, and pat yourself on the back.

Do you have tips for fostering emotional wellness?

You could write a list each day of the things you’re thankful for. It just opens your eyes to the things you have and the things you have accomplished. I try to be thankful each day for the things that have gone well. Exercise is super-important because of the endorphins it gives you. There is some type of exercise for everyone, and it’s important to find some physical activity you like to clear your head.

Why should people sign up for Stressfree Recipes?

It’s a simple way to tackle one of life’s daily issues in a better way. Everybody has to eat dinner, and everyone wants to eat something that’s good and good for you. This is an easy way to do that. This makes meal planning so easy and allows people to find what’s good for them. The program even provides you with shopping lists.

Besides controlling weight, why is eating healthy so important?

It boosts your immune system when you eat antioxidants and vitamins. Eating foods that are not full of saturated fats and simple carbohydrates gives you more energy. Eating more protein and complex carbs boosts your mood and gives you energy. Just as one example, there are lots of studies that show certain nutrients can eliminate or lessen the pain women have during their monthly cycles. I made a list of those nutrients and started recommending them for some patients, and that has really made a difference. The typical American diet is a little nutrient-poor. Food really is medicine.

What are some of those nutrients that lessen monthly pain?

Calcium is one, either directly or as a supplement. Riboflavin, thiamin, fiber, and magnesium are the other ones — those all need to come from food, not from supplements. Black beans, spinach, kale, and pumpkin seeds are great for these.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when eating?

One common misconception is that healthy foods can’t taste good. I’ve actually spoken to a lot of people who are afraid of spices, and that’s why they don’t use them. It’s important to realize that healthy food prepared with the right spices can make food flavorful. Food doesn’t need butter or cheese to taste good.

What is your favorite Stressfree Recipe?

Sweet potato black bean burritos are definitely power-packed super-foods, and they’re absolutely delicious. They’re made with red peppers, which have more vitamin C than oranges, and then sweet potatoes, which is a super nutrient-rich vegetable, and delicious fiber-packed black beans.

What advice would you have for aspiring doctors and aspiring business owners?

If you love science, medicine and helping people, there’s no better career than to be a doctor. You have to be willing to challenge yourself and be a lifelong learner.

As for aspiring business owners, there’s nothing like filling an untapped need. It’s definitely super-difficult, more difficult than anything I’ve ever done. Becoming a doctor, there has always been an end goal, that next exam or the end of training. With being a business owner, there is no guaranteed outcome, so handling the element of risk can be challenging. We love it, though. There is always something to do and something new to learn. We just feel lucky to have the opportunity to bring something we know has bettered our life to the world. It’s amazing.

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