Debunking Food Myths

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Nutritionist Jennifer Adler was counseling so many clients at her practice, Passionate Nutrition, writing a book seemed like the best way to reach more. She channeled her healthy food know-how into Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine from a Nutritionist Who Healed Herself from the Inside Out, released this fall, which she says is intended to take a non-traditional approach to better eating. In it, she tells her own story, of overcoming a host of illnesses throughout her early life via dietary changes that she believes changed her life, as well as offering recipes and information that she hopes makes healthier eating enjoyable, rather than a chore. “So much of nutrition is rule-based and very punitive and with a lot of shame. This book is not that, it about honoring people, providing education, helping people know how to listen to their body and see how much they are already doing for their body and health.” We talked with Adler about her nutritional philosophy.

What is one food myth you want to debunk? The myth of calories. Our culture has a perception that weight loss is really simple, it is calories in versus calories out, a simple equation. But I think that anyone who has used that method realizes over time it doesn’t work. Some people end up feeling really badly about themselves, like they failed, when really the methodology was flawed initially. Adequate calories are the most important. Often times when a person is on a diet they are not [taking in] enough calories. When the body does not have enough calories it begins to burn up muscle and hold onto fat, and slows down your metabolism.

You highlight super foods in your book; can you give an example of one and some of its dietary benefits? Nettle or stinging nettle. It actually grows quite abundantly in this area or you can buy dried. One of the key points from the book is food as medicine. At Passionate Nutrition we do not use supplements, which is unusual in the nutrition world. We believe you can get all your nutrients through eating the right foods. Nettle is known for calcium. To put it into perspective, kale is also known for calcium benefits. But if you take a cup of kale it has about 206 milligrams of calcium and if you take a cup of Nettle it has 2,900 milligrams of calcium. So if you compare the two, kale begins to look like iceberg lettuce next to nettle.

In what ways has your personal health journey influenced your work as a nutritionist? My life experiences made me really look outside of the box and not accept the status quo on medicine and nutrition. I was sick for so long and felt like I had tried everything. So as a last resort I turned to nutrition. This is the same situation as many of my patients so the memoir section I believe [helps readers understand] that I have experienced some of the same issues and can help.

The word “diet” often has a negative connotation in our culture, how is your nutritional advice different from dieting? There is no counting calories; the ultimate message in my book is for people to listen to their bodies. Diets don’t work in the long term. My methods are for creating a sustainable lifestyle for people to feel so much better inside and out.