click-clack of knives chopping on cutting boards and the
savory smell of sautéed onions filled the air on a recent
students from the University of Minnesota training to be
doctors, nurses and counselors raced around the classroom,
donning aprons instead of lab coats. Their assignment: Prepare
a delicious, healthful meal to treat patients’ specific
like a steak," Theodore Wang said, as he sprinkled a
pinch of salt over shiitake mushrooms simmering in olive oil.
his last class in the six-week course, Food Matters for Health
Professionals, which pairs the art of cooking with the science
of using food as medicine.
by a doctor and a chef, the novel course, offered through the
university’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, reflects a
growing awareness of the link between food and health.
Dr. Kate Shafto and Jenny Breen developed the class to teach
aspiring health professionals how to care for both their
patients and themselves through nutritious meals and mindful
long, Shafto and Breen say, information about how to cook and
eat healthful foods has been the missing ingredient in health
care education. They’re in the vanguard of a culinary
medicine revolution. Nationwide, at least 10 medical schools
teach culinary medicine, according to the medical journal
Population Health Management.
is a growing movement across the United States to incorporate
cooking and food into health care," said Shafto, an
assistant professor at the U’s Medical School. "Food is
one of the most important things, because it’s something we
engage in every day of our lives."
and the doctor joined forces after discovering they shared a
passion for food and its power to heal.
who has a master’s degree in public health, had connections
to the Good Acre, an agricultural hub in Falcon Heights that
provides space and support to local farmers. The class for
health professional students takes place in the Good Acre’s
teaching kitchen and uses fresh produce grown by the local
who also teaches a class for undergraduate students called
Cooking on a Student’s Budget, and Shafto saw a pressing
need to design a practical course for aspiring health
a long time, we were focused on treatment instead of
prevention," Breen said. As a society, "we’re not
incorporating this idea that eating and lifestyle are
diabetes and hypertension are just a few of the serious health
problems caused in part by poor diets.
shift from an agricultural-based society to an industrialized
one has affected the food system and brought "innumerable
health consequences," Shafto said.
diets have been stripped of rich vitamins, fiber and
minerals," she said, adding that industrialization also
has made us more sedentary and has exposed us to more
pollution and stress.
Matters for Health Professionals course covers topics such as
diet and inflammation and the importance of eating healthy
because burnout and stress are common among health care
providers, the course also includes information about
self-care. Students learn how to eat mindfully, taking deep
breaths before eating, sitting down to dine with others and
slowing down enough to taste their food.
the course, the students kept a journal and recorded their
were amazed at how much they weren’t paying attention,"
Breen said. They also reflected on how much their eating
habits might be affecting their personal health and their
ability to care for others.
their final assignment, the students formed teams and received
case studies of fictitious patients struggling with different
ailments. Each team needed to make a main dish and a side dish
designed to help their patient.
moved through the kitchen with swagger, but that wasn’t
always the case.
this course, I wouldn’t say I was much of a cook at
all," said McKenna Campbell-Potter, 23, a medical
student. "I am becoming more confident."
patient was "Maria," a woman struggling with her
weight. Maria worries about heart disease and has tried
several diets in the past without success.
and her teammates surfed the internet for dishes from the
Mediterranean diet. They settled on making pan-seared salmon
with tzatziki sauce and mashed cauliflower with garlic and
salmon, high in Omega-3 fatty acids, uses healthy fats to add
flavor and make the patient feel full, she explained. And the
mashed cauliflower is a healthful alternative to mashed
STOMACHS AND A TRAINING GAP
said she took the class after hearing rave reviews from
previous students. She also hoped it would fill a void.
medical education really lacks nutrition education," she
said. "We don’t learn what a patient should eat. This
class helps to set the framework for that."
nearby station in the kitchen, Wang was busy slicing carrots
chose to make Bibimbap, a Korean dish that looks like a rice
bowl with kimchi (containing fermented vegetables), carrots,
shiitake mushrooms, spinach, hot sauce and a fried egg on top.
For a side dish, they prepared a salad with Greek yogurt
who is studying counseling psychology, said he hoped the
yogurt and kimchi would help his team’s patient,
"Julia," a 37-year-old woman with anxiety and
depression who also wants to lose weight. The case study also
noted that she loves to eat at Chipotle.
his teammates chose their recipe because they learned that
fermented foods can improve gut health, which can also help
with anxiety and depression. "There are a lot of
neurotransmitters in your gut," Wang explained. He and
his teammates also reasoned that if their patient likes
Chipotle, then she would probably enjoy the pungent, spicy
flavor profile of Bibimbap.
end of class, Campbell-Potter stirred the Greek yogurt,
cucumber and fresh garlic in a large mixing bowl. Ashley
Spindler, a teaching assistant, swooped in with a spoon.
moment of truth," she said, before trying it.
smacked her lips and nodded.
really good!" she said.