David and I just got back from New Zealand where he was invited to give the keynote address at the “Food not Nutrients” symposium at the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, directed by Dr Elaine Rush, Professor of Nutrition at Auckland University of technology. Elaine was also our hostess and now friend, along with her delightful husband Michael. David spoke about the need to shift our focus away from “nutrients” and more towards whole foods. He rallied us around the fact that the basic theme of eating for optimal human health is not a mystery – we are not clueless! “Eat food” means “Eat real food,” a whole variety — mostly plants — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds but also fish & seafood, lean organic meat & poultry, if so inclined, and the nutrients sort themselves out. David warned us that if we focus on any one nutrient, it invites the food industry to invent a whole new way du jour of eating badly: low-carb junk, low-fat junk, gluten-free junk, no sugar junk….you get the idea! He rallied us to embrace what we already know about the optimal diet, the part that is common to all the variations you may prefer, be it for ethical reason, for the good of the environment and/or for personal taste. That is the beauty and power of it: There is variation on the theme, but let us aim for the common theme–our common ground of an optimal diet, so beautifully coined by Michael Pollan: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. David reasserted the consensus about the fundamentals of healthy living: being physically active, controlling our weight, getting enough sleep, mitigating our stress and creating strong social bonds. He summoned us to recognize that these, our common grounds, ARE the corner stones of good health and prevention of chronic disease. He reminded us that this short list of behavioral factors and diet could cut chronic disease by 80 %, an astounding statistic we have known for decades from a vast, diverse, global impressively unbiased and remarkably consistent literature.
It is time we all agree about the fundamentals of healthy eating and stop bickering about the rest. It is high time we become immune to the fad diets and the nutrient wars du jour!
I was privileged to get a personal tour of some whole foods supermarkets in Auckland, with Sarah Hanrahan (2nd from left in the photo) dietitian and symposium organizer for the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation. Sarah is absolutely passionate about helping families to prepare healthy, affordable meals and is the project manager of the foundation’s fantastic interactive website ‘Just Cook’ which offers hands-on practical recipes for home-cooked meals that are inexpensive, quick and enjoyed by the whole family. She was such a dynamo and I couldn’t have gotten a better tour of those beautiful aisles filled with fresh local fruit and vegetables.
After the symposium, speakers and guests were invited to attend an 8-course degustation dinner (WOW!) at the Four Seasons, the University’s premier fine dining restaurant offering classic New Zealand cuisine in the heart of the city. The restaurant is staffed by students in training at the culinary school under the impeccable direction of Tim Bowater who planned a superb menu for us. This is also where I had the pleasure of meeting Niki Bezzant who is the founding editor of Healthy Food Guide magazine, which I LOVE! She is the author of two cookbooks – Eating In and The Beach House Cook Book and her creativity has me so inspired, I cannot wait to start cooking her recipes! You can be sure I will be sharing a lot of her delicious and nutritious recipes on Cuisinicity!
We leave this beautiful land and our new friends, filled with memories to last for a lifetime! We will be back New Zealand! …until then, let us keep our promise to stay connected and jointly continue to spread the word of good food, good health and the years added to life and life added to years that healthy living can empower us all with!