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The Secret to Better Health May Be Eating Delicious Food

Forty years ago, Christopher Gardner — then a philosophy undergrad in upstate New York — was tired of being asked about his protein sources when he told people he was a vegetarian. He dreamed of opening up his own vegetarian restaurant, but he wanted to make sure he understood nutrition first. “So I went and got a Master’s degree in Nutrition Science that turned into a Phd that turned into a faculty position at Stanford that turned into millions of dollars in NIH funding to run randomized controlled trials on nutrition,” he says.

Gardner has led studies in his field for 20 years and his findings have been consistent: To be healthier, people should eat more vegetables and less red meat and processed foods. But teaching people about nutrition didn’t seem to result in much change. “I’d go to medical conferences and share my research, and people would eat candy bars while they listened to me talk,” he says.

The issue, he realized, wasn’t that people didn’t know which foods were healthier. They just didn’t want to eat them. People wanted food that tasted good. Gardner’s recent research has focused on building a new framework for nutrition that doesn’t compromise on things like taste or environmental sustainabilityfor the sake of health.