Research… that inspires!

I often speak about turning your black and white food world into technicolor; moving from all the tan and beige on the Standard American Diet (SAD) plate to the rainbow-hued plate of the healthy whole foods cook. Over the years we’ve learned that rich color actually signifies the presence of nutrient density. The deeper the purples, blues, and reds for instance, the greater the concentration of antioxidants. The ruby red raspberries, indigo wild blueberries, and purple-black blackberries really are nutritional gems of the plant kingdom.

How do we know this? Through nutrition research. Are you picturing guys in white coats looking through microscopes in a sterile lab?

Introducing Christopher Gardner. Though he’s the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center—e.g., a really big deal—he’s likely to show up in shorts and sandals. And if you’re looking for him, you might find him with hands deep in the soil of Stanford student gardens or his backyard garden where he grows his own vegetables. He might be teaching his wildly popular class on food and society or putting on a food summit at Stanford, or conducting cutting-edge nutrition research in the medical school. He’s not only a top-drawer researcher, but an advocate, a motivator. He’s moving the food movement forward.

He’s on my short list of food heros.

I’ve know Chris since 2012, when we worked with Freddie Kronenberg on summits for doctors at Stanford about food and cancer. He didn’t just help get them going; he was there at every event, cheering us on! He’s the real deal, one of those guys behind the scenes that have been doing the important science forever, presenting at Andrew Weil’s annual Nutrition and Health Conference, challenging our thoughts and beliefs, WAY before the research finally went mainstream and appeared in the New York Times.  

Case in point: this study was published last week:

The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds

Anahad O’Connor reporting 2/20/18 in the New York Times says,

“Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that the standard prescription for weight loss is to reduce the amount of calories you consume.

“But a new study, published Tuesday in JAMA, may turn that advice on its head. It found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

“The strategy worked for people whether they followed diets that were mostly low in fat or mostly low in carbohydrates. And their success did not appear to be influenced by their genetics or their insulin-response to carbohydrates, a finding that casts doubt on the increasingly popular idea that different diets should be recommended to people based on their DNA makeup or on their tolerance for carbs or fat.”

For those of us who have been attending the Nutrition and Health Conference (coming up April 30 - May 2, 2018 in Boston, don’t miss it!) and learning about the latest science years before studies hit the mainstream—this is not news.

Christopher Gardner

What’s special about this?

  • This is a HUGE, high-quality study, a randomized clinical trial among 609 overweight adults between the ages of 18 and 50, documenting weight change over 12 months.

  • It is HARD to get funding for a quality study about food.

  • Key conclusions shed light on obesity. “This is the road map to reducing the obesity epidemic in the United States,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the new study. “It’s time for U.S. and other national policies to stop focusing on calories and calorie counting.”

  • It’s published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), the premiere peer-reviewed journal of American Medicine, It will be seen and taken seriously by mainstream doctors, most of whom still receive no nutrition education during medical school.

A paradigm-shifting, myth-dispelling study

The takeaway? Sugar, processed foods and white bagels are OUT. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are IN.

Many of you are probably already on this whole foods, quality nutrition train. But this will help the rest of the world benefit from the science, and shift their black and white food world to technicolor! This is a start to moving the mainstream beyond a deprivation mindset of counting calories and diets, to a plateful of rainbow colors. To a mindset of abundance— to all the colorful, nourishing food you CAN have, versus what you CAN’T.

An aha! moment.

Read more, learn more, be inspired by Christopher Gardner:

Leslie Chang, Stanford nutrition guru on how to change our food system (without giving up pizza).

Holly MacCormick, Nutrition expert Christopher Gardner discusses ways to encourage healthy eating. Stanford Medicine, Scope blog. Includes, “Picky eaters: Getting kids to eat better with guest Christopher Gardner” on Stanford Radio.

Christopher Gardner, These 3 Food Myths Could Be Hurting Your Health, According to a Stanford Nutrition Professor.

Stanford Profiles: Christopher Gardner. Learn more about his spheres of research.

Try these nutrient-dense, flavor-rich technicolor recipes!


I know quite a few cooks (including myself) who like to paint, and when you think about it, that makes sense. We enjoy creating dishes in part because of the ways colors combine to enhance enjoyment of a meal—and, I would argue, also engage the sense of taste. And so it goes here, where the full color palette of food is on display: orange, purple, greens, yellows—it’s like Pixar on the plate. Beets are the power player here; they contain natural nitrates, which the body turns into nitric oxide, which in turn expands the walls of blood vessels and increases blood and oxygen flow to benefit the brain and other parts of the body. (The Romans used beets as an aphrodisiac. Enough said.)


Dark leafy greens—kale, chard, collards—are arguably the greatest longevity foods out there, exploding with disease-fighting phytochemicals. Good thing they have their pilot’s license! By working with different spices and herbs, greens become like a local tourist guide to a host of cuisines. These dishes reach across the globe: Latin America, the Mediterranean, India, and the Orient . . . they are as versatile as a Renaissance man at a cocktail party. Bon voyage!