Food from Different Worlds—Finding Foods that Nourish and Heal Across Cultures

josephineWhen I was a college freshman starting life on campus, I found the food available in our college cafeteria very confusing. Though ranked among the most diverse and delicious offerings, many times, I would walk through and find myself still with an empty plate. I could not find anything to eat. I had grown up on non-typical food, lots of roots and tubers, legumes and pulses, kale before it became a dietary hit, and lots of plain old water. Now I was part of a place that had fun theme food nights, and I could not find something that resembled my normal diet. Where I should have been thrilled, I was feeling tense, and very hungry. Many times, the most familiar thing was pizza. It often made me feel full, long before I felt satisfied with the meal.

Saved by a last-ditch connection with a wonderful nutritionist named Mimi in those first few weeks, I quickly started looking at our college food theme nights, and their accompaniments with new eyes. I could not find the foods I knew well, but I could find their close cousins in the dining hall. Since then, I began a lifelong practice of looking for the familiar foods, among those that may appear radically different. Foods from cultures that are not our own hold secrets to our own health, and happiness, if only I could get into them. (more…)

Second August Man of the Month: Chef Bill Barum

chef billHippocrates is quoted as saying “let food be thy medicine.”  Disruptive Women’s August co-Man of the Month, Chef Bill Barum, has taken this philosophy to unprecedented levels, linking culinary excellence and better health at respected institutions and delivering measurable – and eye-opening – results.

That the Cleveland Clinic, under the leadership of CEO Toby Cosgrove, has become one of the world’s leading health and wellness facilities is well known.  A critical component of the Clinic’s success was the hiring of Chef Barum as the hospital’s Senior Director of Hospitality, Food and Retail Services.  Bringing Barum to the Clinic set in motion a re-imagining of the role of food in health care settings and a series of actions that are being replicated in multiple hospitals and clinics.

Dr. Cosgrove believed a hospital should not only be a disease recovery unit, but must be a center that advances wellness.  Thus, out went the deep fat fryers, the sugared beverages, the whole milk, vending confections and all Trans Fats to be replaced with food and beverages that pleased the palate while strengthening the body, for both patients and hospital staff.  (more…)

A Simple Slice of Bread. Staff of Life for You. Poison for Me.

Glenna Crooks

Celiac Disease. Know of it?

Even if you do, you may not know it’s a serious genetic autoimmune condition. Because it can cause over 100 symptoms, it often masquerades as other conditions. For that reason, and despite availability of simple blood test to detect it, the average time to diagnosis is ten years for women and six years for men. The consequences in the meantime can be significant: miscarriage, stillbirth, osteopenia, neurological conditions, gastrointestinal symptoms, headache, fatigue, failure to thrive and stunted growth in children and, over the long term, increased risk of esophageal, stomach and colon cancer, or lymphoma.

There are no medicines or treatments for celiac disease.

Regardless, I was giddy when – after only five years of symptoms – I was diagnosed. What a relief to know it wasn’t osteoarthritis, or worse. I felt empowered! I could do something – namely, avoid gluten – the protein component of wheat, barley and rye.

Gluten is sticky, which is where ‘glue’ gets its name. Remember kindergarten paste? The ‘glue’ of those days might have been messy; the ‘glue’ of gluten is dangerous for those of us with this disease.

Those feelings of empowerment? Well, they’re gone now. These days, I know better about the subtle – but very substantial – burdens I’ve carried since the diagnosis. I may be healthier avoiding gluten, but I’m weary. I’m worried. And, I’m angry. (more…)

Body Respect disrupts business as usual to advance nutritional wellbeing for all

lucyHow do we get from calorie counting and food preoccupation to relishing eating and enjoying body confidence? I’ll share three ways in which putting body respect at the centre can help turn the tide on body shame, weight stigma and rising health inequalities and promote enjoyable eating, and nutrition justice.

A powerful first step is to bring body knowledge back in to view. It’s traditional to teach cognitive restraint and willpower in pursuit of healthy eating, but this all too often backfires. Rational knowledge has its place – just ask someone living with a peanut allergy – but food rules become problematic when they encourage us to ignore body signals. It’s hardly surprising so many people feel out of control around eating when we eat with our heads. All those ‘shoulds’ ‘have to’ ‘mustn’ts’ fuel body-mind disconnect and play havoc with our internal regulation systems.

Tuning into body signals and sensations such as appetite, fullness, gut comfort, emotions and overall satisfaction, can help restore a healthy relationship with food. This means we eat in response to occasion, taste preference, energy levels and learn to trust ourselves to meet our needs. Shifting to this more intuitive, connected way of eating allows food and eating to meet non-nutritional roles, such as pleasure,  values, family and identity. (more…)

American Hospitals Need to Stop Offering Fast Food, Quick!

heather farthingBan on Hospital Smoking: A Model

In the 1950′s the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published what was, at the time, an incredibly surprising finding: smoking is detrimental to health1. By 1964, the Surgeon General had publically acknowledged the linkage between smoking and cancer and, by the seventies, the smoking-cancer relationship was standard curricula in U.S. medical schools 2. Despite both medical and public awareness, however, hospital policy lagged behind the science; most healthcare centers had little to no official regulation regarding smoking in their facilities2. Reducing Smoking in Hospitals. A time for Action, published in a 1985 issue of the JAMA, declared a forceful criticism of this oversight:

Six years later, the Joint Commission: Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) ordered that all American hospitals be smoke free by the end of 19934. Today, American hospitals are plagued by a bad case of déjà vu. This time the paradox is not the presence of the cigarette at the bedside, but rather the burgers, the fries, and the soft drinks.

What’s Wrong With Fast Food? (more…)

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