Tag Archives: Ph.D.

BUT I AM A CHILD WHO DOES

I found this essay on the Center for Ecoliteracy Website.  It is so inspiring and speaks to the purity of children when not influenced by the media, etc.

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I didn’t mean to raise my two kids as part of a human experiment in food preferences. It just worked out that way.

When Faith was born in 1998, my husband and I were living in Boston in an historic building where the wainscoting and windowsills were coated with lead paint. We knew we would need to move by the time that our daughter started crawling. Since I am a science writer and Jeff a sculptor, we began to look at communities that offered both large research libraries and cheap studio space. Ithaca, New York thus became our new home. On the very day that Faith first figured out forward locomotion, we loaded up a moving van with all our earthly possessions and headed for a log cabin in the woods just east of the Ithaca town line. The backyard descended into wetlands where great blue herons and foxes lived. The well water was sweet, and the frogs kept us awake at night. When we discovered, upon arrival, that our television set had apparently been stolen out of the back of the truck, we just shrugged.

And so the experiment was set in motion. We didn’t replace the TV. I got pregnant again and started writing a new book, which I was determined to finish before the baby was born. Meanwhile, Jeff took over the running of the household and the care of a willful toddler. He quickly made three discoveries. One, there was a community-supported organic farm at the top of the hill which we could join. It had a play area out in the fields to occupy little kids while their parents picked produce or engaged in adult conversation. It also offered regular potluck dinners, which meant less cooking for him and more choices for his lumbering and now quite finicky spouse.

Two, there was a cooperative grocery store downtown called GreenStar that we could also join. Not only did it stock organic teething biscuits, it had a play area near the deli to occupy little kids while their parents could read, say, the arts section of the New York Times and drink much-needed cups of coffee.

Discovery number three: if he worked two hours a week at GreenStar, we could get a twenty-percent discount on groceries. The discount meant that the prices at the coop now approached those in regular supermarkets. And this meant that he didn’t have to drive anywhere else for dog food, toilet paper, dish soap, and toothpaste. The result was a net gain of time. Running errands with small children, Jeff pointed out, takes a lot longer than just the driving time, especially when one factors in the minutes lost to the buckling and unbuckling of car-seat straps, the zipping and unzipping of little jackets, the diaper changes in the men’s room, and, most dreaded of all, the disruption of the nap schedule. (Parents of toddlers are nodding furiously in recognition here, knowing all too well how one badly timed nap can throw an entire household into chaos.)

I was convinced by these arguments. So, for the past five years, all the food we eat at home has come from our local food coop or a local community-supported farm in which we are shareholders. The result for our two kids — Faith is now six and her brother Elijah almost four — is that they have never been advertised to. The images, jingles, and pitches of the food industry have, by and large, never reached them. Their food preferences have, consequently, been entirely shaped by their direct experience with the food itself and the farmers who grow it. No cartoon characters stare at them from boxes of presweetened cereals displayed at pediatric eye level in supermarket aisles. No candy bars wait in the checkout lane, ready to spark a parent-child battle of wills. No television commercials seduce them with pictures of crispy chips and bubbly colas.

I realize that my children are only a sample size of two. But because their commercially unmediated relationship to food is so unfortunately rare, it seems worthwhile to report on what they like to eat. Both my kids ask for sweet potatoes, baked with maple syrup drizzled on top, as bedtime snacks. Neither of them cares for soft drinks (“Too spicy,” says my son). Both like almost any kind of vegetable, and are particularly fond of kale (with sesame seeds and tamari sauce), broccoli, and peas. Elijah has a special enthusiasm for avocados and cole slaw. Both are willing to try new foods, but Faith has the more adventurous palate. Elijah prefers to stick to the tried and true; he is big on eggs, beans, toast with olive oil, and any kind of soup.

Both of them cycle through food aversions in ways that seem fickle and irrational. One week Faith suddenly proclaims that she hates bananas and always will. The next week, she complains that there are no bananas. Elijah announces that tomatoes are detestable. A few days later, tomatoes are okay again. But no raisins! (Jeff and I treat these sudden-onset reversals of preference respectfully but casually.) Black and green olives, on the other hand, are always desirable, as are brown rice, tofu, red peppers, chickpeas, and corn. Watermelon is the ambrosia of the household, closely followed by cantaloupe, strawberries, and cherries. Apples are a staple.

It also seems worth reporting the following story: About a year ago, while traveling with Elijah and Faith, I was delayed in Chicago’s O’Hare airport for several hours. We ran out of snacks. Forbidden from leaving the gate area — the problem was alleged to be a computer glitch that could be resolved at any moment — I looked around for something to eat. The only vendor within earshot of the gate was McDonald’s. And that is where we went. Well, this is a watershed moment in parenting, I thought, as I handed each of my hungry children a little red and yellow sack, warm with food.

They hated it.

“Too spicy,” said Elijah.

I urged him to eat it anyway; we wouldn’t be home for another four hours.

“Look, Mama,” Faith shot back. “Look at their sign.”

I looked over at the big yellow “M” to which she was pointing.

“Even their name is made out of limp French fries,” she asserted. “Why would you want to eat their food?”

That’s when I realized that she didn’t see the world-famous logo as golden arches at all. No one had ever told her that’s what it was supposed to be. To her, the M in McDonald’s looked like two yellow, bent-over fries. Yuck.

Faith has already begun school, and Elijah will follow her in another year. I know that their innocent, unpropagandized view of food will change once they spend some time at the lunchroom table, comparing the contents of their lunchboxes with those of their friends, hearing other comments, encountering other habits. I can hope that some remnants of the habits and tastes that they’ve developed so far will remain, but I’d like to do more than just hope. Already, Faith has noticed that many of her school friends, as well as characters in books, have disparaging things to say about spinach.

“I guess children don’t like spinach,” she observed. And then she added, “but I am a child who does!

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THE CHINA STUDY

 The China Study is a very powerful book filled with decades of research by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.  I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about plant based diets and why specifically they are beneficial for your health.  Below is an article from the New York Times Health section written by Tara Parker-Pope

 T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.

T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.

NUTRITION ADVICE FROM THE CHINA STUDY

By TARA PARKER-POPE

books

Six years ago a small Texas publisher released an obscure book written by a father-son research team. The work, based on a series of studies conducted in rural China and Taiwan, challenged the conventional wisdom about health and nutrition by espousing the benefits of a plant-based diet.

To everyone’s surprise, the book, called “The China Study,” has since sold 500,000 copies, making it one of the country’s best-selling nutrition titles. The book focuses on the knowledge gained from the China Study, a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine that showed high consumption of animal-based foods is associated with more chronic disease, while those who ate primarily a plant-based diet were the healthiest.

Last fall, former President Bill Clinton even cited the book in explaining how he lost 24 pounds by converting to a plant-based diet in hopes of improving his heart health. The president gave up dairy, switching to almond milk, and says he lives primarily on beans and other legumes, vegetables and fruit, although he will, on rare occasions, eat fish.

Recently, I spoke with T. Colin Campbell, a co-author of the book and professor emeritus at Cornell University, about the success of the book, the research behind it, and why he thinks the nation’s health woes can be solved by plant-based eating. Here’s our conversation.

Q.

How did you end up writing this book?

A.

I have been in the field for a long time and had a major research program at Cornell. We published a lot of research over the years. My program had a good reputation. I’d finally gotten to a point where we’d discovered a lot of things that were very exciting, things that were provocative. Finally I sat down to write the book, to tell my story.

Q.

What was so unusual about your story?

A.

In the beginning of my career I was teaching nutrition in a very classical sense. Nutrient by nutrient. That’s the way we did research, that’s the way I taught it. I came to believe, after doing the work we did in the Philippines and China, that there was a very different world of understanding nutrition. I ended up with a view now that is almost diametrically opposed to what I had when I started my career.

Q.

How have your views changed?

A.

I was raised on a dairy farm. I milked cows. I went away to graduate school at Cornell University, and I thought the good old American diet is the best there is. The more dairy, meat and eggs we consumed, the better. The early part of my career was focused on protein, protein, protein. It was supposed to solve the world’s ills. But when we started doing our research, we found that when we start consuming protein in excess of the amount we need, it elevates blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis and creates other problems.

The problem is that we study one nutrient out of context. That’s the way we did research — one vitamin at a time, one mineral, one fat. It was always in a reductionist, narrowly focused way. But I learned that protein is not quite what we thought it was. We’ve distorted our diet seriously through the ages, and we have all the problems we have because of that distortion.

What loomed large for me was that we shouldn’t be thinking in a linear way that A causes B. We should be thinking about how things work together. It’s a very complex biological system. The body is always trying to restore health every microsecond of our lives. How do we furnish the resources for the body to use? In order to try to understand that, we shouldn’t be giving ourselves individual nutrient supplements. We shouldn’t be trying to discover which gene causes what. But those two areas have become the major focus of research over the years.

Q.

So how should we be eating?

A.

I don’t use the word “vegan” or “vegetarian.” I don’t like those words. People who chose to eat that way chose to because of ideological reasons. I don’t want to denigrate their reasons for doing so, but I want people to talk about plant-based nutrition and to think about these ideas in a very empirical scientific sense, and not with an ideological bent to it.

The idea is that we should be consuming whole foods. We should not be relying on the idea that genes are determinants of our health. We should not be relying on the idea that nutrient supplementation is the way to get nutrition, because it’s not. I’m talking about whole, plant-based foods. The effect it produces is broad for treatment and prevention of a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to heart disease to diabetes.

Q.

Do you advocate a 100 percent plant-based diet?

A.

We eat that way, meaning my family, our five grown children and five grandchildren. We all eat this way now. I say the closer we get to a plant-based diet the healthier we are going to be.

It’s not because we have data to show that 100 percent plant-based eating is better than 95 percent. But if someone has been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease, it’s smart to go ahead and do the whole thing. If I start saying you can have a little of this, a little of that, it allows them to deviate off course. Our taste preferences change. We tend to choose the foods we become accustomed to, and in part because we become addicted to them, dietary fat in particular.

If we go to a plant-based diet, at first it might be difficult, but it turns out after a month or two our taste preferences change and we discover new tastes and feel a lot better, and we don’t want to go back. It’s not a religion with me, it’s just that the closer we get to a 100 percent plant-based diet, the better off we’re going to be.

Q.

Have you been surprised by the success of your book?

A.

I have been a little surprised. When I finished writing the book with my son, who had just finished medical school, I didn’t know how well it was going to do. We had an agent who shopped the manuscript around, and the publishers all wanted 60 to 70 percent of the pages to be recipes. I said, “That’s not my shtick.” They wanted me to dumb it down.

I went to a small publisher in Texas who let us do what we wanted to do. I didn’t want to proselytize and preach. I didn’t want to write a book that says, “This is the way it has to be.” It’s a chronology. Here’s how I learned it, and let the reader decide. I say, “If you don’t believe me, just try it.” They do, and they get results. And then they tell everybody else.

To read this article directly on the New York Times website click here

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