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Nutrition 101

IMG_0859I recently finished a FREE, six-week on-line nutrition class.  Offered by Coursera.org through Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (in Nashville, TN) the class was officially titled Nutrition, Health & Lifestyle.  Head nutrition instructor, Jamie Pope taught the class and offered down to earth lectures that were factual and engaging.

I took this course for a number of reasons.  First, I wanted to learn more about basic nutrition.  Second, I wanted to start prepping myself for a 9 month certificate course at the University of Washington.  In the fall I’ll be starting the first of three segments in the certificate course: Food, Nutrition and Health.  Section one is Nutrition for Today, followed by Molecular Gastronomy: Chemistry and Culinology of Food, and the final class will be Sports Nutrition.  I am new to on-line classes and wanted to familiarize myself with the discipline of a self-initiated pace in the comforts of my home versus a fixed time and location of a classroom course.

The Coursera nutrition class was highly informative and I learned a great deal.  So much so, that I have altered my husband’s and my diet slightly.  Throughout the course, I found myself really inspired from the vast amounts of food for thought.  I also took comfort in the credibility of the class.  There is a great deal of conflicting information floating around about nutrition, and the fact that this was unbiased, university level learning helped me to better absorb the material.

Globally, food is a common factor between all of us.  Every one of us can benefit from eating better.  With all the tools, studies and up-to-date links, the message from this class was clear: eat more whole foods, more fruits & veggies, low or non-fat dairy, more fish, and eat less red meat.

What really influenced me, was that certain foods are highly effective in reducing the risk of serious illnesses like cancer.  Some foods even reduce inflammation – something I could certainly use.  Or the opposite – in some studies, red meat has been linked to cancer.  I also learned about Super Foods.  Honestly I hadn’t really heard of them before, and yes, I get out plenty, nor do I live in a cave.    I even printed out a list of several super foods and posted it on our refrigerator as a healthful reminder.

I learned that quinoa is a complete protein.  IE you really don’t need to add an additional protein such as chicken to a quinoa dish, because the quinoa is enough.  Also, most Americans on a daily basis consume too much protein (myself included).  The general rule is .8 grams of protein per kg of body weight.  For example: I’m 145 lbs.  That’s 65.77 kg x .8 = 52 grams of protein give or take.  It helps to have a converter app on your phone.

Another thing I found very interesting and incredibly helpful is when exercising sometimes drinking water isn’t enough.  As you sweat, you are loosing electrolytes that don’t get replenished by drinking water alone.  The primary minerals lost are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  I have added a (Hammer Nutrition) ENDUROLYTES FIZZ to my workout water and have noticed a slight difference.  I feel more energized, I can go longer without fatigue and I know I’m hydrated because (I don’t mean to be gross) my urine is now the proper color.  I learned that I may suffer from mild hyponatremia – an electrolyte disturbance in which my sodium concentration is lower than normal.  I don’t consume a great deal of salt, and I do work out a fair amount.  The mild symptoms of hyponatremia sounded familiar to me and so after chatting with my chiropractor about liquids for fitness I tried the fizzy and found that it worked for me.

All in all, I can’t say enough good things about this class.  I was surprised at just how little I knew about the things I put into my mouth and body for sustenance, fuel and nutrition.  I look at food and cooking in a whole new light, and I’m guessing that will continue to change.  My next Coursera class starts in a few weeks: The Science of Gastronomy (science in cooking) similar to the second component of my UW course.  I invite you to take the class with me.  The Nutrition class was a global experience as over 70,000 people from around the world learned together about something we all have in common.


The next Nutrition, Health & Lifestyle class is in May.  I highly recommend it!



Check out Coursera for more free on-line classes offered from top colleges and universities.


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