Bookmonger: Nutrition guide offers a passionate approach to healthy eating

Passionate Nutrition” by Jennifer Adler

Here’s a game I sometimes play: When I’m in line at the grocery store checkstand, I glance at what other people have in their carts – snack packs, leafy greens, diet sodas, trays of meat, bakery goods in plastic clamshells? Look at the aggregated contents of the cart first, and you get some pretty good clues as to what the person pushing the cart is going to look like. Sadly, a lot of the time, if the food doesn’t look healthful, the people buying it don’t look healthy.

But Bainbridge Island nutritionist Jennifer Adler isn’t into playing the shame game. Instead, her new book titled “Passionate Nutrition” is about helping people reconnect to food and eating in a more meaningful way.

She writes of what she knows. Her book, which is memoir as well as nutrition guide, tells of her hard-knocks childhood, in which poverty and neglect left her significantly malnourished.

Her journey toward a healthier life didn’t take place until she was a young adult, and it was gradual, experiential and deeply personal. She traveled abroad on a shoestring budget to learn about the food wisdom in different cultures. Eventually she earned a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from Bastyr University and now she serves as an adjunct faculty member there. She runs clinics throughout the Puget Sound region and offers online nutrition courses.

Adler contends that it was ultimately a nutritious diet that healed her from the inside out. She maintains that many foods contain substances that rival some commercial medicines for their therapeutic properties.

In her book, she shares loads of common sense observations about how nutrition can optimize health, yet her ideas may sound radical to the ears of people who have grown up in a culture that is complacent about increasingly processed foods. (To make her point, she lists the 50 ingredients – including something called ethyl methylphenylglycidate – that make up the artificial flavoring found in a typical fast food chain’s strawberry milkshake.)

“If I were a nutritionist practicing in any other part of the world, I would probably starve from lack of business,” Adler writes. Too many Americans, she contends, don’t remember how to pay attention to what their bodies truly are hungry for.

She advocates for whole foods, quality fats and sufficient water, among other things.

Those of us who are vegetarians won’t subscribe to all of her recommendations, but even so, Adler’s book has plenty of wisdom to embrace.

She concludes each chapter with a “prescription,” but there is no strict regimen, and she encourages readers to be thoughtful about their own needs. This book is about diet, but it most emphatically is not about dieting. Instead, “Passionate Nutrition” offers a holistic and transformative way of thinking about food as nourishment. What a concept!

Better nutrition can lead to better outcomes in many areas, from losing weight to overcoming maladies to developing higher self-esteem. Adler’s goal is to help every reader develop a personal food philosophy that is enjoyable and sustainable.

The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. For more entertainment, go to BellinghamHerald.com/entertainment.