Recently I received this question from a college student studying nutrition:

Dear Susan,

How can I study nutrition without conforming to the influence and ideas of the FDA and big pharma companies? What I am being taught right now in school is not "let thy food be thy medicine" but more so "let thy food destroy thy health, and then take thy medicine." I don’t want to be a part of that. I want to be self sufficient, and sustainable. I want to grow my own food (though currently lack the space. eventually it will happen). I want to learn about the true, natural, concept of nutrition, that we are what we eat, and what we eat not only has a big effect on our health, but the health of the planet..... that is the education that I’m after. I don’t know, maybe there is no school for that. Maybe the education I’m after can only be obtained through experience. Over all I guess what I’m asking is how do I combat the conventional in school right now?

Thank you so much Susan

Dear Devyn,

You are a smart girl, who can see through the veil of illusion. That is the medicine of the Owl, known as the nighthawk in the Native American tradition. The people who can see are our teachers.

It is sad that conventional institutions, public schools and most universities, are still behind the times with regards to nutrition. Fortunately, some professors teach current scientific data, but many are stuck in old traditions and outdated material. I have seen great strides in environmental programs in universities, yet many of them don’t make a practice of what they teach (school cafeterias and on-site environmental practices, for instance).

One of the reasons I found for this, during my experience in dealing with schools and institutions, is that new information is coming out so fast that institutions (which must have approved curricula) don’t have the time or budget to keep up with the speed of our conscious and factual expansion.

One of the biggest roadblocks is money.  There is tremendous support from large food companies, Monsanto and big Pharma (as you put it) to keep old dietary guidelines in place. They have huge amounts of money invested in PR, which means wide circulation of biased scientific studies, stacked with their own agenda, as well as educational materials and large public relations campaigns (PR).  In addition to validating some less than excellent practices, the PR leaves a lot of people “thinking” that nutrition does not matter, and that pharmaceutical medicine is still the route to take for healing.  In other words, many still treat the symptom without even thinking of going to the root cause. Food, simply, is not thought of as being powerful enough to heal. We know now, from many personal cases, that another truth exists.

This mindset is changing rapidly, as consumers make better health and environmental choices, because they want and need something that will heal them. Many are sick and looking for answers that work. As the dollars turn, so do the practices. As for your question of where to learn: you are obviously learning from somewhere, so keep it up. There are many good doctors, scientists and health professionals who are writing excellent books. Some are resurrecting solid knowledge and practices that served us well, before fast-, convenient- and factory-food came along. Some are coming out with new vital information as to the exact science behind the value of what whole foods from a healthy earth can provide. The Internet has a wealth of knowledge, facts and wisdom.

One of the reasons I switched from writing and lecturing to teaching nutrition and food prep, was that I found most people genuinely understood the need to eat better, but they did not know how. I became exhausted with talking and began helping people navigate through the propaganda and learn new skills and practices. For instance, many still think that “low-fat” is a better choice than whole-fat foods. And, they are right, if they are choosing a low-fat option that comes from the factory, a grain fed cow or a rancid vegetable oil. That said, a whole-fat option is the best when it comes from dairy products of grass-fed cows that grazed in an organic pasture. The process of removing the fat results in more processing of the food, making it harder for the body to digest and assimilate.

Cold-pressed oils are another example where whole is better than low-fat. Did you ever try a low-fat olive oil? Yuk. EVO means Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which means the oil comes fresh from the first press in its whole form. Any oil that has to go through heat and over-processing loses some of its nutritional value, such is the case of low-fat anything. Not only in the nutritional value compromised,  but the processing is also harder for the body to digest causing weight gain and other problems.  Whole nuts, seeds and avocados are other examples of the good fats that are essential and thus precious nutrients for our cell function.

My focus is not to teach people a particular “diet,” but to help them navigate through all the material out there, and teach them how to eat from the earth and not the factory. And, of course, let’s make that a healthy Earth with clean air, water and soil.

Recently, I launched a new line of cultured vegetables that I have been selling at the Famer’s Market, here on Maui. I am stunned at the number of people who are sick and on special diets. Many are also very educated about the latest in nutritional healing protocols.  They are grateful for my product and buy it up.

I guess my advice to you is to teach those who you are teaching you, as well as your fellow classmates. When you have reports or papers to write, bring your professor or school the latest information you can find. Inspire a discussion.  Also, keep reading and visiting blogs that understand that the body is a system that mirrors the system of the Earth. When people understand the body as a system, they are usually turned on to stewarding it in a different way. There is a lot out there to learn.  In the summer or when school is out, you could also intern with someone. I recently had an Intern with me.  She started out thinking raw food was the only way to go. She knew nothing of cultured/fermented foods. Now, she has a well-rounded diet and is an expert at making cultured veggies. Her sugar intake in down, cravings gone and she is in balance.

You might also want to Intern on a farm. Many sustainable farms, here on Maui and all over the world, take on workers for a period of time, to live on the land and learn as they work.  Quite frankly, I have never met anyone more educated and with more intelligence than a sustainable farmer, an expert in body and soil health. They are the most conscious and informed people I know, and fortunately, the most fun, too.

There are also conferences you can attend and trade journals you can subscribe to. A few are:  Acres USA, Weston A. Price Foundation, and the Natural Foods Expo (you can find high quality lectures on nutrition and supplements at these Expos).  Mercola’s website is awesome (, and so is the Health Ranger’s (

Keep up the great work. You are definitely on a roll.

Good luck and let’s keep in touch.