Plant-Based Nutrition for Our Genes

Published on : 9/15/22
  • Sharp HealthCare’s Nourish program feeds the body on a cellular level.

    It all starts with the food we put in our bodies. In a healthcare setting, this is even more vital, not just for patients and their families, but the health care workers who are taking care of them. At Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, a thoughtful dining program — one steeped in scientific research and formulated by registered dietitians, chefs and foodservice professionals — is at the heart of its facilities. 

    Nourish, a concept that launched its retail arm in 2018 and its patient services in 2020, has been universally loved by those who have experienced it. The program’s genesis began in 2015, when Sharp wanted a menu concept based on health, wellness and sustainability. The menu is inspired by research done in the Blue Zones — those parts of the world with the longest-living people — and is based on nutritional genomics, also known as nutrigenomics, which is the science of studying the relationship between human genome, human nutrition and health. Amanda Archibald, owner and founder of Genomic Kitchen, provided Sodexo’s chefs and registered dietitians with the background and the science, all of which are peer-reviewed in medical journals. The program addresses prevalent diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, and spans a host of dietary preferences, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten intolerance.

    The Nourish menu emphasizes bioactive-rich plant-based foods, nutrient-dense superfoods, and pre- and probiotics. Justin Searle, one of the chefs who created the menus, says that rather than trying to re-create regional dishes from those Blue Zones, his philosophy was simply to take a look at ingredients at their most unaltered forms. 

    Whole foods, whole fruits — less processed, more natural and organic — I tried to apply those in ways that were already familiar. So with gut health and bioactives. It was really about incorporating things like Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, apples, artichokes, leeks and all kinds of ingredients, and applying them in ways that are going to be appetizing to patients and giving them a good meal that’s also beneficial to them, he says.

    The method of preparation is just as important in order to get the most nutrients from the ingredients and reap all their bioactive benefits. A “raw-cooked approach” is used for vegetable, fruit and herb preparations, thus it’s important to know which fruits and vegetables are most beneficial in their raw form. Cruciferous vegetables, including kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, as well as vitamin C-rich food like pink grapefruit, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate, watermelon and tomatoes, are best consumed raw or cooked as minimally as possible. 

    Nourish’s science-based approach to food goes beyond nutrition. Feeding our genes is the next-level innovation in menu creation, and we understand now more than ever how vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and bioactives work on the cellular level. Ultimately, everything we put in our body has an impact on how we feel, and knowing the effect of certain types of food empowers us to make better choices. 

    If we really pay attention to our diet and what we're eating and when, it really does apply to our overall health, and we can all have a lot more say in our health and how it goes, Searle says.