Culture and Nutrition

Nutrition and Disease
Natasha Tovar
HCS308 Intro to Nutritional Concepts
Instructor Christine McMahon
June 09, 2016

What Nutrition Means to Culture

Nutrition has become deeply rooted in our culture.  For example, we label certain types of foods for the country that it originated, such as Mexican, Chinese, and even Vietnamese foods.  Food can have a sentimental value, for instance, certain smells will remind one of being in Grandma’s kitchen, certain types of foods remind us of certain loved ones or friends, and even eating habits are specific to families and cultures.  Food choices are often driven by this connection from the most basic snack to the elaborate dinner in town.  Nutrition has more than sentimental value; however, and certain lifestyle factors can have implications on one’s nutrition.  Socially speaking, nutrition is often misrepresented, and the philosophical and psychological impact nutrition has on one’s health are misunderstood.  Also, the cultural differences make an impact as well as finding misunderstood nutrition controversies.

Preserving Culture

Every American has a vague idea of what cultures eat, for instance, Chinese restaurants are found in any substantial city in America.  While these restaurants are often “Americanized” with added preservatives, MSG, fatty foods, and fried foods, the effort to preserve Chinese culture is still present.  After viewing the video Preserving Chinese Cultural Heritage, we can see the importance of the culture of the food prepared.  There is an actual heritage to cooking, including who should be cooking and how the food is presented.  This culture is represented by the way the food is prepared, assorted and presented, and even consumed.  For instance, in segment 9, Knife and Fire Skills, we can see that the food appeal is more than just taste and the way the food is prepared and presented is part of the cultural picture and tradition for Chinese foods.

Social Health and Nutrition

Social health can be affected by nutrition and vice versa as well.  For instance, if one is trying to be healthy and socializes with people who are enjoying a pizza and movie marathon binge, the healthy eater is going to feel like an oddity.  Likewise, if a person normally eats healthy and joins a social event that encourages unhealthy eating, he or she will find themselves in the position of eating unhealthy foods followed by regret during recovery.  According to Fitzergald (2004), there is clearly a festive relationship with food and social implications, which can make it difficult to engage in social activities for those who are suffering from chronic illnesses that require a specific diet for their health during treatment, such as in the case of cancer patients.

Psychological Impact

David, M. (2014). Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Mind Over Food. Retrieved from URL:

The psychological effect of nutrition lies in the processing of the micronutrients and macronutrients, in the way the mind perceives the nutrients themselves.  As David (2014) said, “The relationship with food is as deep and revealing as any we might ever have” (Introduction), and moves on to say that the way we think about the food we eat will actually affect the way we metabolize the meals.  Our brain has a huge impact on the absorption of nutrients in our diet, and therefore makes a decision about the value the food has on our body and our minds.  One example of the way David explains this is that our mind communicates with the digestive system, and creating the image of a fat person with the ice cream cone that we are about to eat will communicate with the intestines to store fat with this food.

Of course, this does work the other way as well.  According to NCHPAD (N.D.), lack of nutrition through a diet filled with fast food heavy in trans fats and saturated fats, sodium, and sugar can lead to psychological disorders as well.  For instance, in this article, the author depicts a person who eats only McDonald’s foods, even when it comes to drinking water.  This person’s diet wreaks havoc on his physical health for sure and also has a huge impact on his psychological health.  For instance, he suffers from massive headaches, depression, and low energy levels.  This person would benefit tremendously if he would go to a Nutritionist and learn how to prepare healthy, nutritious foods and may even find that he feels better than he did before.

Philosophy on Nutrition

Nutritional philosophy is clearly connected to culture, as something that is handed down through the generations.  For instance, a family that is vegan will likely teach their children to be vegan as well.  Looking to Chinese culture and nutrition philosophy, we see through observance of Kong (Confucius’s 77th generation descendant), who was also “a gourmet who believed that where food is concerned, seek the finest” (segment 3).  His philosophical cuisine focuses on moderation, nutrition, as well as balance whether it be fancy banquets or everyday meals for the family.  His cultural philosophy included with the importance of the order dishes were presented, where the dishes were placed, and also the way it was eaten.  Philosophy of nutrition is the understanding of the way nutrition finds itself in our daily lifestyle and guides us with the significance of our culture, in a way that helps us make healthy, nutritious choices in our daily diet.

Physical Implications

Physical implications are directly related to nutrition.  For instance, above we mentioned the poor nutrition of the individual who lived off McDonald’s fast foods and suffered from psychological stress.  Well, in this article, NCHPAD (N.D.) also mentions that this diet left him with hypertension, high cholesterol, and weight gain.  In like manner, a healthy, nutritious diet can also leave one with good physical health.  For example, cod-liver oil, which was previously thought of for easing joint aches and pain, has now been used as a supplement for pregnant mothers, which was shown to decrease the development of Diabetes by 70 percent (Life: Life & soul: Nutrition: NUTRITION NEWS: Cod philosophy, 2002, Feb 24).  One’s dietary lifestyle has a great impact, in retrospect of the nutrition on our health.

Contemporary Nutrition Controversies

The Examiner. (N.D.). 38 Most Controversial Issues in Nutrition for Local Media Debate. Retrieved from URL:

Nutritional controversies are filled with food misinformation and are fueled by consumerism.  According to The Examiner, nutrition security is a huge topic in the news, covering areas of food preparation cleanliness, sanitation and preparation practices, and even food-borne illness prevention.  For instance, when it comes to food banks, which are in place in order to deal with local hunger, is the food healthy foods, or is it feeding into obesity and malnutrition through the obesity from poverty paradox (Sizer and Whitney, 2013)?  Is the food actually feeding them nutrition, or is it just filling their bellies with fattening products that taste good and increase their hunger through flavor enhancing additives such as MSG?





David, M. (2014). Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Mind Over Food. Retrieved from URL:

Fitzgerald, K. A. (2004). The psychological and social impact of home parenteral nutrition (Order No. 3126816). Available from ProQuest Central. (305077419). Retrieved from

Gourmet China [Video file]. (2009). In Films On Demand. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from

Life: Life & soul: Nutrition: NUTRITION NEWS: Cod philosophy. (2002, Feb 24). The Observer Retrieved from

NCHPAD. (N.D.). Food and Your Mood: Nutrition and Mental Health. Retrieved from URL:

Sizer, F. and Whitney, E. (2013). Nutrition Concepts & Controversies, Thirteenth Edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

The Examiner. (N.D.). 38 Most Controversial Issues in  Nutrition for Local Media Debate. Retrieved from URL:


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