An Interview on Nutrition With My Father

The following Q&A was published in the New Era, Sep 1972 in an article titled:  “A Conversation with Gaurth Hansen on Diet, Foods, and Nutrition”:

How can we follow the Word of Wisdom advice concerning eating meat sparingly and still get a balanced diet?

As a nutritionist, I know that meat is a good source of protein, but it’s also an expensive part of many diets. . . . And to me the Word of Wisdom advises moderation.  This is very consistent with my professional feelings.  Also, remember that from a dietary point of view you get very good protein from fish, poultry, nuts, and milk products, as well as beef and pork. . . In our society beef has become a status food, and this is the only kind of protein many people think is worth eating.

If you have to be so careful at the grocery store in choosing what you buy, how did John the Baptist ever survive on wild locusts and honey?

You can get the required nutrients from a number of sources.  Honey is a good one.  It is high in calories, and it contains some important nutrients.  Insects are not bad; many cultures have adapted themselves to eating insects.  That makes more sense nutritionally than it does aesthetically!  No matter what culture you live in, you can get good sound nutrition by choosing a wide variety of foods.  To me, this is the most important thing we have discussed today.

How important is nutrition?  Does it really affect our size and mentality?

Nutrition definitely affects the average size of individuals in the population.  While diet may not be the only factor, better nutrition does contribute to each generation of college freshmen being larger than its predecessor.  Children are bigger than their parents.  And malnourished children are smaller than children who are adequately fed.  There seems to be evidence that nutrition also affects mental ability.  Malnutrition at critical stages in the development of a person may hinder mental development, but this is much more difficult to document than physical growth.

What about vegetarian diets?  Are they nutritious?

It would be difficult to have a properly balanced diet from fruits and vegetables alone.  The main reason is that vegetable protein is of lower quality than meat protein.  Often between one and three of the amino acids in good quality protein are not present in adequate quantity in vegetable protein.  To me, this is a fad diet; but fruits and vegetables are a very important part of a balanced diet.

Many young people today insist on eating food that is organically grown.  I’m interested in your opinion of this phenomenon.

I’m quite confident of the adequate quantity and quality of our general food supply.  You can go to the supermarket and purchase a well-balanced, nutritionally complete diet at what seems to be a reasonable cost for most people.

“New Era” author’s bio:  Dr. Gaurth Hansen, a biochemist at USU, is one of the foremost authorities on nutrition.  Presently a member of the Council on Food and Nutrition, he has served as a consultant for the US Public Health Service and as a consultant to the AMA.  He has published more than 90 journal papers and has received a national Borden award for his metabolic research.

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