8 Small But Worthwhile Changes You Can Make to Eat Healthier

by Katelyn Castro

Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month® with new (and a little cheesy) nutrition theme each year. This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” While this can be interpreted in many ways, here is my spin the theme, including a step-by-step guide on how healthy eating can fit into your lifestyle.

National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward! For more information about National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, visit www.eatright.org.

National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward! For more information about National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, visit http://www.eatright.org.

When January rolls around, reflecting on the past year leaves many people vowing to lose weight or eat healthier. Yet, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February, according to U.S. News. Why? More often then not, we set our weight loss goals too high or make our diets too extreme, asking our bodies to work in overdrive and making failure is inevitable. Our high expectations can leave us feeling defeated and too frustrated with ourselves to even consider a different approach.

Creating SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely— goals on the other hand, can set us up for success. By working on a behavior, like eating more mindfully, rather than focusing on an outcome, like weight loss, lofty goals can become more reasonable. Now, three months into the New Year, is the perfect time to re-evaluate resolutions and take a more practical approach to health and wellness with SMART goals.

“Put Your Best Fork Forward,” the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month® aligns perfectly with this sustainable approach to healthy eating. National Nutrition Month® 2017, recognized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is all about making small changes in our food choices—one forkful at a time—to develop lifelong, healthy eating habits.

Below is a list of eight small changes that you can make to shift towards healthier eating. Since our priorities, like our food choices, are personal and unique to each of us, I included eight suggestions so you can focus on a goal that fits into your lifestyle Make the goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely with the help of this resource, and give it a try!

1. Cook more meals from home.

When you take the time to cook your own meals, whether it’s English muffin pizzas or an elegant chicken marsala dinner, you can choose the ingredients and manage the portions. Even if you choose to add some oil, butter, or salt while cooking, most homemade meals are still lower in unhealthy fats, sodium, and calories than the restaurant or fast food version, according to research. Homemade meals also save money and time. In the time it takes to have a pizza delivered or a meal served at a restaurant, your dinner can be prepared and ready to eat—especially if you choose simple, tasty recipes like these.

SMART Goal Idea: If you eat out frequently on weekends, skip your Saturday restaurant plans and spend time with your family or friends cooking a meal from home instead.

2. Switch one of your daily grains to a whole grain.

Many of us have at least one go-to starch, whether it’s pasta, rice, or bread. Choosing the whole grain version of one of your mainstay starches is an easy way to add fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and reduce added sugars. For example, swap white bread or honey wheat bread for whole grain bread, switch white or veggie pasta to whole wheat pasta, or replace Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal with Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon cereal.

To find whole grains at the grocery store, ignore the front of the package labeling or the whole grain stamp of approval—these health claims can be deceiving! Instead, go straight to the ingredient list: the first ingredient listed should include the word “whole” followed by the name of the grain in the product. For example, if “whole wheat flour”, “whole oat flour”, or “whole rye flour” are listed as the first ingredients, then you’ve found yourself a whole grain!

SMART Goal Idea: If you add rice to your meals on a regular basis, swap out the white rice for a brown rice, or try one of these lesser-known whole grains.

3. Change the way you use fat in cooking.

Adding butter to a skillet for pancakes or pouring oil into a pan for a stir-fry can seem like second nature after a while. However, it’s easy to overdo it with these calorie-dense foods—one tablespoon of oil has about 120 calories! Using oils, like canola and olive oil, instead of butter when cooking can be a simple way to replace saturated fats with more heart-healthy unsaturated fats in meals. Also, investing in an oil mister or an oil spray like PAM can make a little oil go a long way, sparing you some calories.

SMART Goal Idea: If you like to sauté or roast foods like meats, veggies, or potatoes on a daily basis, skip the butter and layers of oil and use an oil mister. Spray the bottom of the pan before cooking, then add food and lightly spray the oil again over the top of food.

4. Aim for two to three servings of vegetables each day.

Eighty-seven percent of Americans do not meet the recommended servings of vegetables (2 1/2 cups daily), according to a national report from the Center of Disease Control. If you fall into this group, then you’re probably missing out on some essential nutrients. Vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are all important for skin, eye, heart and immune health. For some veggie inspiration, check out these flavorful vegetable-filled recipes.

If you already eat enough veggies, focus on increasing the variety of your vegetables since different colored vegetables have different vitamins and antioxidants. Aim for a combination of green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, red/orange vegetables like carrots and tomatoes, and starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes.

SMART Goal Idea: If you are a pasta lover, steam or roast some veggies while your pasta is cooking. Fill half your plate with pasta and fill the other half with a colorful array of cooked vegetables and some protein like beans, chicken, or shrimp. Broccoli and squash, tomatoes and spinach, mushrooms and cauliflower are a few tasty veggie combinations.

5. Sweeten your breakfast and snacks naturally.

Flavored yogurt, sweetened cereal, and packaged oatmeal are some of the sneakiest sources of added sugars. Even a serving of Raisin Bran cereal has 18 grams of sugar—equivalent to 4 to 5 teaspoons of white sugar! Unless you’re eating Raisin Bran for dessert, save those added sugars for times when you’re really craving sweets. Stick to the unsweetened yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal, and flavor them yourself with fruit, nuts, or seeds. Even drizzling some honey or a sprinkle of brown sugar on unsweetened oats, cereal or yogurt, will still give you less added sugar than most sweetened versions.

SMART Goal Idea: If you rely on sweetened oatmeal packets for breakfasts, replace them with plain quick oats or rolled oats. If you like your oatmeal fruity, try this recipe. For a more savory and creamy oatmeal, give this recipe a try.

6. Make water your beverage of choice.

If you’re a regular soda drinker, switching to water could be the simplest change that you can make to improve your health. Replacing soda and other sugary drinks with water doesn’t just save you calories, but it eliminates empty calories so you can make room for other calories from more nutritious food.

If you’ve already cut out soda from your diet, focus on drinking enough water. Since many metabolic pathways rely on water, dehydration can make our metabolism work less efficiently. Memory, concentration, mood, energy level, and muscle movement are also negatively impacted by dehydration, even mildly dehydration. Though eight cups of water daily is generally recommended, the best way to find out how much water your body needs is to check your urine. Yes, I’m talking about your pee—you want it to be a light, almost clear color. If it’s dark yellow, then you may not be drinking enough water throughout the day. To up your H2O intake, set a reminder on your phone to drink more water with one of these apps or try one of these drinks to give your water some more flavor.

SMART Goal Idea: Once you determine out how many cups of water your body needs, split the volume in three and aim to drink that amount every three to four hours throughout the day. For example, if you need nine cups of water, try to drink 3 cups before noon, 3 more cups in the afternoon, and 3 more cups before you go to sleep.

7. Go meatless once a week.

Since the World Health Organization identified processed meats as “carcinogenic” and red meat as “probably carcinogenic,” concern continues to grow over the potential risks of eating too much of these meats, especially processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats. While avoiding all processed meats and red meats may be unrealistic, try committing one day of the week to not eating meat. Making this small change has several health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and lower risk of some cancers, according to research from the Meatless Monday campaign. Going meatless once a week may seem a little less daunting, when you consider everything you can add to your plate like whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables. For some delicious meatless meals, check out these recipes.

SMART Goal Idea: Instead of ordering a burrito with steak, cheese, and rice, fill your burrito with black beans, rice, corn salsa, and guacamole­—you’ll still get plenty of protein, with the addition of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

8. Check in with your hunger, fullness, and cravings.

Not ready to change anything about your eating habits? That’s okay too! Start by getting more curious about how, when, and why you eat. Before meals, ask yourself how hungry you are. After eating, consider how full you are: satisfied or uncomfortably full? When you have an intense food craving, ask yourself what may be triggering the craving. Are you overly hungry, stressed, or distracted? Is it emotional hunger or physical hunger? Keeping track of how certain foods make you feel and identifying what may be influencing your food choices can give you perspective for when you’re ready to make changes.

SMART Goal Idea: Pick one meal each day and spend 10 to 15 minutes tracking your hunger, fullness, and cravings before, during, and after the meal. Keep a journal, write a note in your phone, or get an App to track your intake and make you more mindful.

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student in the DI/MS Nutrition program at the Friedman School. She’s a foodie, runner, and part-time yogi on a mission to make healthy eating easy, sustainable, and enjoyable. You can find her thoughts on all things relating to food and nutrition at nutritionservedsimply.com.

 

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Is There a Fourth Type of Diabetes?

by Shannon Dubois

We all know about diabetes: the infamous enemy of our bodies’ blood glucose homeostasis; the delicate balancing act between insulin and glucagon to keep our blood sugar stable. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most well-known and talked about, type 3 was brought to the table a few years ago, and type 4 has just been “discovered.” So, what is this newest type of diabetes, and should we be worried?

As a reminder, type 1 diabetes is the insulin-dependent form of diabetes mellitus where pancreatic beta cells (typically destroyed by an autoimmune response) do not supply insulin to the body to signal cellular glucose uptake, resulting in high blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is primarily caused by insulin resistance (cells becoming desensitized to insulin’s action due to overuse), and decreased insulin production over time as the pancreas gets “worn out” from overproduction. This type of diabetes is often associated with obesity, inactivity, and aging.

The less talked about, newly termed (by some) type 3 diabetes is discussed in a 2008 literature review and is proposed to be linked to insulin deficiency and insulin resistance in the brain as contributors to Alzheimer’s Disease neurodegeneration, thus a sort of combination of type 1 and 2 that can lead to cognitive decline.

Now to the latest discovery: a fourth type of diabetes to keep on our radar. An article published around mid-November in Nature detailed the results of a study led by Salk Institute researchers who were investigating age-associated insulin resistance. They discuss how obesity-associated insulin resistance (driven by inflammation due to macrophages), which is deemed to be a large contributor to type 2 diabetes, is different from age-associated insulin resistance, which occurs independent of obesity.

The authors explain that “fat-resident regulatory T cells, termed fTreg cells, accumulate in adipose tissue as a function of age, but not obesity.” These cells lead to the age-associated insulin resistance that the article discusses. Thus, it seems that no one is safe from this disease—even the lean and physically active healthy eaters can fall prey to type 4 diabetes as a simple consequence of aging.

The article concludes that fTreg cells are implicated as potential therapeutic targets for treating age-associated insulin resistance, suggesting that fTreg cells could be depleted to increase insulin sensitivity and, therefore, ameliorate diabetes symptoms.

Overall, it doesn’t seem that this is a newly discovered type of diabetes per se, because it has long been known that even lean people are sometimes diagnosed with diabetes. Whether it was believed to be due to a genetic predisposition, or just attributed to the process of aging, it seems that this article is more the discovery of a mechanism that may be at play than of the condition itself.

The authors suggest “type 4 diabetes as a designation for non-obese-dependent fTreg-driven metabolic disease of the elderly,” and this may be an appropriate designation for the mice they have studied, but maybe not to classify humans just yet. This study did only include mice, so their findings would have to be proven in humans as a next step. Keep an eye out for future research on this topic, as it is hopefully coming soon.

Shannon Dubois is a second-year Master’s student studying Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition.

Edible Seaweed: An Ancient Vegetable from the Sea

by Nusheen Orandi

We call it an exotic “health food” now, but edible seaweed became part of the world’s cuisine thousands of years ago and still remains a normal kitchen ingredient in many parts of the world. Why should we pay more attention to the stuff that gets stuck in between our toes at the beach? While western chefs and foodies play catch-up to the rest of the world by switching up their vegetable dishes, nutrition scientists say seaweed offers health benefits. Perhaps both contribute to why U.S markets are starting to make room for this sea vegetable on grocery shelves.

The health benefits of edible seaweed

Edible seaweed can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and hosts many health benefits that can add value to our diets. The nutrient content of seaweed can depend on the variety. People harvest green, red, and brown seaweed in Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, India, New Zealand, and many other parts of the world. There are over 30 commonly eaten seaweeds.

Seaweed is rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, with red seaweed containing the most protein. Seaweed also contains omega-3-fatty acids, which have been shown to promote heart health by lowering triglyceride levels (bad fat) in the blood. Seaweed is comprised of fiber as well. About a ¼ cup serving of fresh seaweed, or a couple tablespoons of dried seaweed (like nori), has approximately one gram of fiber.

As an antioxidant-rich vegetable, seaweed provides us with some of the immune-boosting vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and E. A single serving of seaweed (about two tablespoons) also gives about a fifth of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, which plays an important blood clotting role in the body and helps maintain bone health. But, it is the vitamin B12 in seaweed that may really pack a nutritional punch. Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the Antioxidant Laboratory at the USDA’s Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, explained why: “It’s not just important to look at the nutrients present in a food, but how readily those nutrients are released once you eat it.”

The healthfulness of a food depends on how much of a nutrient is released once we eat it (its bioaccessibility) and how much of that nutrient our body can take up (its bioavailability). So, nutrients in a food are only useful if the body can take them up in the first place. This makes seaweed curious because most plants do not contain bioavailable vitamin B12. Research conflicts with whether the vitamin B12 in seaweed really is bioavailable or not. For example, it has been shown to be bioavailable in the red seaweed known as purple laver, which is usually sold dried. But it is not clear if other edible seaweeds have bioavailable sources of vitamin B12. However, this potential source could benefit people trying to include more plants in their diet. It would also suit vegetarians, who usually have few food sources of vitamin B12. Animal foods, such as red meat, act as the main source of vitamin B12, however nutrition professionals recommend that most healthy diets should consist of less red meat.

What gives seaweed its high mineral content? Some scientists suspect it is the exposure to ocean minerals. Seaweed has plenty of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, iodine, zinc, selenium, and copper, which have diverse functions in the body. A single serving of seaweed (particularly green or brown seaweed) provides over half of the daily-recommended amount of calcium. In fact, the calcium found in seaweed (calcium phosphate) is more bioavailable and useful to our body than the calcium found in milk (calcium carbonate). Seaweed is a major source of iodine. Brown seaweed contains the most iodine, while green and red seaweed contain less. The other primary source of iodine is iodized salt. But, as Dr. Blumberg noted, “If people are being told to decrease salt intake in their diet, then that means that they are also taking in less iodine in their diets.” This especially applies to heart patients on low-salt diets that may be at risk of iodine deficiency.

The health risks of edible seaweed

Seaweed can pose risks for some people. For example, people with thyroid health problems would do best to avoid large amounts of brown algae because of its high iodine content. A person with kidney problems could also be at risk because red seaweed, such as dulse, is very high in potassium and could present a risk of potassium toxicity.

What makes seaweed any better than the usual green veggies, like broccoli and lettuce? It’s not so much that it’s superior to other vegetables, but that it can add variety to a healthy diet that, as Dr. Blumberg said, should lean in a plant-based direction.

“I would argue that one of the things we need people to do is to eat more plant food. And, that can be done with one of the principles of nutrition: diversity of the diet. A healthful food doesn’t have to be a ‘superfood,’ just a good, nutrient-dense food,” he said.

So edible seaweed is full of good things. But, how are we supposed to eat this mildewy-looking green stuff? Cooking with seaweed may seem like a high dive, but you can actually easily work it into any meal or snack.

Cooking with edible algae

You don’t need to learn how to roll sushi in order to cook with seaweed. Different types of seaweed, fresh or dried, add unique flavors to soups, meats, salads, and snacks.

Kelp is a popular form of seaweed, usually dried, that people cook with. Kombu, a brown kelp, is one of the most common types. It comes in dried sheets in most grocery stores. You can rehydrate it by adding water to be used in salad, stir fries, or with fish. You can even add it dried to soups or rice dishes for flavor. As it gets cold out there, try out this Seared Salmon with Winter Vegetables and Kombu Broth recipe.

Did you know you could add a vegetable to your popcorn? Well, with red seaweed, you can! Dulse, red seaweed, is sold in the form of dried flakes, which gives it the nickname “sea lettuce flakes.” It has a naturally salty flavor and chewiness that dresses up your popcorn nicely. Just add about ¼ cup of dulse flakes to your favorite bag of popcorn kernels, and let it pop!

If you try a seaweed salad in a Japanese restaurant, its main ingredient is probably wakame. You buy wakame dried, but once you add water to it, it turns into a dark green and slightly crunchy vegetable. Cucumbers and sesame seeds complement wakame in a salad, such as this easy Sunomono (Cucumber Salad) recipe.

The most well known seaweed is probably nori, a dark green seaweed. It’s often seen as sushi’s belt and adds a salty and vinegar flavor to seafood. You find nori as dried sheets, just like kombu. You can break it up and add it to your trail mix, or cut it up into strips and use it as a healthy cracker substitute for an appetizer. Get fancy with this Tuna Tartare and Nori Chips recipe.

Arame is a funky, dark brown kelp that comes in dried, long strands. It actually tastes slightly sweeter than other kelps and adds flavor to an assortment of dishes. Arame brings a blend of texture to a dish, such as in this Arame and Edamame Salad, where you get creamy and crunchy all in one bite.

Remember when trendy kale chips swept through Whole Foods? Seaweed chips naturally have lots of flavor and also provide a healthy alternative to even our guiltiest snack cravings. Roast 3-4 cups of seaweed with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice.

If the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator tires you out, adding this flexible and flavorful sea vegetable to your meals could benefit both your health and your palate.

Nusheen Orandi is a second-year student from California in the Nutrition Communication program with a concentration in Agriculture, Food and Environment. She likes to spend her time tea-shop hunting, breakfasting, tensely watching the Tottenham Hotspurs, and cooking and eating with friends and family.

Stop with the Clickbait, You So-Called Muckrakers

by Matthew Moore

Mother Jones has done it again. The news organization took an informative and well-researched nutrition-based article and buried its message with a sensationalist, clickbait-style social media post more effective at ruffling feathers than fostering dialogue. Last month, Kiera Butler examined the hype surrounding bone broth, and it was tweeted from the official Mother Jones account imploring people to “Stop drinking bone broth, you stupid yuppies.”

It’s no question that the claims made about bone broth are sketchy at best as The Sprout covered earlier this year. I was amused when I saw that Osteobroth was an exhibitor at this year’s Philadelphia Marathon (tip: broth is a vile post-marathon beverage). However, the Mother Jones tweet is more likely to make bone broth advocates defensive and agitated instead of curious about learning the facts behind it.

If you think the tweet sounds familiar, you’re not wrong. Last July, Tom Philpott’s critique of almond milk was published under the headline “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters.” While he later revealed that his editors came up with the headline, he admitted they did so with the intent of maximizing web traffic.

Not only did he agree to the headline, it succeeded. Readers rushed to defend almond milk, disassociate themselves from the “hipster” label, and rebuke the implication they were ignorant. Such inflammatory language overshadowed Philpott’s legitimate points.

The unfortunate part of all this is that Butler and Philpott are excellent writers, but these recent tweets and headlines distract from the facts about highly questionable food trends. The public relies on nutrition communicators to offer educational, constructive discourse on nutrition and the national food system. Mother Jones is failing both the public and its writers.

To be clear, Mother Jones is an extremely important journalistic presence. It was responsible for capturing Mitt Romney’s infamous “47%” video that impacted the 2012 presidential election. It offers a critical progressive voice in a field being overtaken by incendiary soundbites from the likes of CNN and Fox News. It prides itself on its muckraking journalism, so why is it giving into the trend of BuzzFeed-worthy headlines?

Potentially more concerning is this phenomenon creeping into more mainstream media outlets that reach more readers curious about nutrition. In her August “Unearthed” column, Tamar Haspel struck readers’ nerves with her piece “Why salad is so overrated” in which she claimed “it occupies precious crop acreage, requires fossil fuels to be shipped, refrigerated, around the world, and adds nothing but crunch to the plate.”

The headline is certainly provocative and elicited strong responses in both support and opposition from outlets including Salon, Slate, The Guardian, and Vice. Two days later, Philpott chimed in with an article headlined “Salad Seems Really Virtuous, Right? It’s Not.” and further stoked the flames. Unfortunately the resulting “salad war” did not spawn much constructive dialogue about the food system.

According to The Washington Post, Haspel’s column is supposed “to cut through divisive food-policy debates and illuminate the facts and the middle ground.” Haspel usually tackles hot-button topics like GMOs, corn, and soda taxes, and typically distills the science and rhetoric on both sides into an objective, easy-to-understand format for her readers. She gave two excellent talks last year at Friedman: one in Tim Griffin’s Fundamentals of U.S. Agriculture class and another as part of the weekly seminar series.

However, a statement such as “skip the salad” in her August column does not come across as middle ground. Instead, it is a gross oversimplification and alarming argument to make in the midst of the oft-discussed obesity crisis. In fact, many common salad ingredients are listed on ChooseMyPlate.gov as vegetables that Americans should be eating every day. In essence, her declaration to “skip the salad” can be interpreted as being in conflict with recommendations based on the established Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Butler, Philpott, and Haspel are respected journalists covering topics related to nutrition and the food system. If possible, they should do more to prevent social media, headlines, or their own personal biases to distract from legitimate content. This is also something we strive for at The Sprout and would love to discuss further with readers about how we can continue to improve and contribute to the nutrition communication space.

Matt Moore is a second-year AFE student who is sad the CHIKARA finale won’t be available on iPPV this year. He was a Mother Jones subscriber until it didn’t fit his AmeriCorps or grad school budget.

Good Sense and Humor

By Katherine Pett

Why Someone Should Give James Hamblin, MD, a TV Show

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Dr. James Hamblin poses with students at the 2015 Gershoff Symposium

“The formula is simple, to write a bestselling diet book.  I’ll tell you…if you promise not to do it.”

James Hamblin, MD, Senior Health Editor at The Atlantic, paces in front of a giant projection of a man’s head.  Dr. Hamblin is tall, slight, and—as is often noted in profiles of the doc—looks young.  The projected head is slightly orange, suggestive of a spray tan, and belongs to Dr. David Perlmutter, neurologist and bestselling author of the book, Grain Brain, which blames gluten for all chronic diseases.

Hamblin is giving a talk at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition as part of the annual Gershoff Symposium.  This year’s theme is “Nutrition Messages in the Media: Making Sense of the Chaos.” Despite the serious title of his talk, “Evolving Strategies for Effectively Conveying Nutrition Information,” Hamblin keeps the mood light.

A sense of foreboding enters his voice as he describes the recipe for a bestseller.  Starting slowly, voice low, he starts an alarmist “trouble in River City” style rant of a stereotypical Fad Diet Doctor:

“We’re in Danger,” he starts.

“There’s a Serious Problem.

It is threatening us all.

It is going to give us all everything you could possibly be scared of:

People are going to hate you,

You are going to get dementia,

You are going to be fat and have cancer,

AND have hypertension,

And be socially ostracized and every single thing!

You’re going to default on your mortgage!

And it is not your fault! You know it’s not your fault.

It’s the corporations and the government! They have lied to you!”

But luckily Dr. Hamblin’s fake diet book has the solution: a single, simple dietary switch that will save and your family from harm:

“Cut the gluten… You’re gonna see a lifespan triple!  You’re gonna go home and you’re gonna find a new car in your garage!”

The audience is laughing, but the topic is a pressing one. How do doctors, scientists, and nutritionists defend against sweeping assertions made by health gurus with fewer scruples about bending the truth? A headline saying that Mediterranean diets may or may not improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease is a lot less catchy than “one weird trick” that promises effortless weight loss.

Doctors like James Hamblin and David Perlmutter trade on their MDs; their medical content knowledge informs their prominent careers in media. While Perlmutter has leveraged his MD into a massive brand, fad diet book, and YouTube channel around his name and tagline, “empowering neurology” (draw Dr. Oz comparison here), Hamblin has taken what one could call a more measured approach. And though he isn’t interested in writing the next diet bestseller, his long-term aspirations are not modest.

Leaving his unfulfilling residency in radiology after year three of five years, Hamblin joined The Atlantic when the staff created a health segment for the online magazine. In the more creative essay style of The Atlantic, Hamblin uses his writing talent and self-deprecating sense of humor to take objective, approachable stances on divisive health issues. His work often requires him to interview the creators of fad diets and purveyors of pseudoscience, such as Vani Hari (The Food Babe) and Dr. David Perlmutter, who likens eating gluten to pouring gasoline on oneself.

Dr. Hamblin stars in The Atlantic’s popular video series “If Our Bodies Could Talk,” where he sheds light on awkward health situations like how to get a friend to quit smoking, or how to empower women to ask their doctors about orgasms. He’s also purchased (legal) THC laced candy…for science.

Hamblin’s accessible comedic style in “If Our Bodies Could Talk” make it easy to see him as a potential John Oliver or Stephen Colbert of health and nutrition, and Hamblin feels he’s headed in that direction.

“I want to entertain people, and I want it to be substantive; why don’t I do it about the thing I know and care about like health? John Oliver and Daily Show and Colbert, they set out primarily to entertain. And I really like that, I think that’s more my path.”

Blending health and comedy may be the ideal way to combat nonsense that floats around the Internet and daytime TV (Dr. Perlmutter has a 90-minute Grain Brain special that airs on PBS). And there’s no mistaking the powerful combination of common sense and jokes in YouTube clips that can easily be shared on Facebook, the major source of news for at least one third of Americans.

Perhaps getting people to laugh about the absurdity of gluten as the root of all evil, like a recent episode of South Park did, is the key to dispelling nutrition myths that can’t be combated through reasoning alone.

While Dr. James Hamblin doesn’t have any concrete plans yet, he’s open to the idea. As we spoke the day after his talk, he threw out the possibility.

“Yeah I’d love to have a TV show, and if you know anyone I could talk to…”

Katherine Pett is a first-year student in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition program at The Friedman School.  She can be reached at katherine.docimo@tufts.edu.