I heard Dr. David Eisenberg from the Harvard Medical School speak at a recent Integrative Health Collaborative on the importance of food on health. Obviously this was right up my alley! Based on the title of the talk, “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives” I assumed Dr. Eisenberg was going to talk about diet and nutrition. Instead, he focused on the importance of culinary literacy on health.
He began by painting the picture of American health, which is dismal to say the least. Current children are the first generation who will live shorter lives than their parents, 30% of children are obese, 70% of adults are obese, diabetes as tripled in the last 15 years… you get the picture. The bottom line is people are eating too much and moving too little.
Dr. Eisenberg believes that food, not nutrition, is the cure. Many people do not have culinary literacy and honestly don’t know how to cook healthy food for themselves. He shared some amazing statistics about the correlation between cooking and health. Countries where people spend more time preparing food have lower rates of obesity. In fact, each additional 30 minutes per day spent cooking correlates with a 0.5% reduction in BMI. By cooking for yourself you have firsthand knowledge of the ingredients you are using, a greater appreciation for food and flavors, and a higher likelihood of eating healthy meals.
Unfortunately in the US the average time spent cooking has decreased by 50% since 1965. Dr. Eisenberg believes it is time to reaquaint people with the art of cooking — especially healthy and delicious foods. I couldn’t agree more!
He is addressing the problem by offering trainings for doctors on nutrition and healthy cooking in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health and The Culinary Institute of America (www.healthykitchens.org). The goal is to educate doctors about nutrition and cooking so they can help their patients make healthy choices.
For those of us who aren’t attending the conference there is still lots we can do – learn how to cook, play with new ingredients, explore different ethnic cuisines, teach our children and friends how to cool, and take responsibility for what we eat. By getting excited about cooking and learning how to use a variety of ingredients to make delicious and nutritious meals we’ll all lead healthier lives. So grab some family and friends this holiday season and cook something special together!