Nutrition is a balancing act

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"Having tangible moments with real food and real recipes that can impact medical conditions was really important for me."

As the son of a Los Angeles-based chef, Jordan Nunnelee knew his way around food at a pretty early age. It was because of his upbringing that he knows how food can create joy and connection.

So, when Jordan was ready to attend medical school, having the opportunity to explore food as medicine was important. At The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Jordan enrolled in a culinary medicine course led by Local Matters.

The carrots weren’t growing. How could all the other gardens be full of growth, but not the carrots? Our food educators asked, 'For carrots, where does the growth occur?' 'Underground.' Yes, so we don’t always see the growth happening. We have to trust that it's happening before we can see the results.

In that sense, we are all just like the carrots. We have to trust that our growth, our recovery is taking place. Eventually, we will be able to see how the healing has impacted daily life. 

We asked Jordan to reflect on what he learned during the eight-week program. He focused on two key surprises. First, he was shocked by preparing and seeing what a single serving of food should be. "The difference between that amount and the serving you might get at a restaurant was shocking."

The second lesson that impacted Jordan more than expected is about sodium. When the class discussed hypertension, they talked about decreasing sodium as an effective strategy for reducing symptoms. Then, they measured out the recommended amount of daily salt intake. To Jordan, it seemed like nothing!

Jordan recognizes how lucky he is to learn these lessons as part of the culinary medicine cohort. "Nutrition can help so many problems that my future patients will be dealing with. Having tangible moments with real food and real recipes that can impact medical conditions was really important for me. You can't just walk up to a patient and say 'hey, stop eating salt and you'll feel better.' It's a step-by-step journey and we, as future doctors, need to be realistic about what it means to change a patient's diet."

At the end of Jordan's reflection, we asked if he had any final thoughts to share with us. He said he wanted to pass along something that Dr. Habash, one of his professors and a leader of culinary medicine at OSU, likes to say: eat more vegetables.

Now that's something we can support!