We believe the cornerstone of optimal health is optimal nutrition, and we advocate the use of whole food and herbs as medicine. We view food primarily as nutrition. We emphasize a diet that contains naturally occurring nutrients- carbohydrates, fats, fibers, minerals, protein, vitamins- that are essential to health. We also identify food as nature and place a higher value on organic, seasonal food over food that is functional (nutraceuticals), genetically engineered, genetically modified or dietary supplements.
The circumstances that led us to define our philosophy of food and nutrition were not always obvious. Our professional education emphasized the medicalization of food, but it failed to address the question of what constitutes food per se, and by extension, what is healthy food. Certainly, our experiences during our youth in rural Northern California communities, one of us in Clearlake and the other in Santa Cruz County, shaped our view of food as nutrition and food as nature. We both experienced limited physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that met our dietary needs. One of us, a cancer survivor, learned the consequences of malnutrition both during treatment and in the long convalescence that followed.
We grew up in the era when people believed in the health benefits of high-sugar cereals because they were fortified with vitamins and minerals. We were seduced by marketing and drank artificial orange juice because it was sent with astronauts into space. We consumed swordfish regularly despite the high mercury content in its flesh because it was cheap and readily available, at least until big swordfish were wiped out in the 1960s by large-scale commercial longlining.
Today, marketers use the term “natural” on food labeling to increase sales and satisfy consumer’s desire for healthy foods. However, the term “natural” does not necessarily describe any nutritional or another health benefit, and there is no governmental regulation that it should do so. So-called “natural” foods often contain pesticides, and may be highly processed or manufactured using thermal technologies, pasteurization or irradiation.
The FDA, for its part, considers the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, food. Farmed fish raised worldwide are fed the color additives canthaxanthin (synthetic) and astaxanthin (natural and synthetic) to impart desirable flesh color. This poses an interesting paradox: Is farmed fish natural? It also begs the question: Is farmed fish a desirable nutrition source?
These are the types of questions we attempt to answer for our patients and the public in support of our mission to provide individualized nutritional counseling, nutrition education, and nutrition advocacy. Through our services, blog, and seminars we try to inspire others to think deeply about their relationship to food as a source of nutrition, nature, and culture. Nutrition education should be the practice of freedom; to speak frankly about food truths, dispel food myths and address the local and global nutrition issues of poverty, food justice, and food safety.