A local nonprofit is hosting a symposium on eating and lifestyle choices this week, which could lead to a healthier UA campus.
Healthy You Network advocates whole, plant-based diets and will be hosting its third annual symposium in Tucson at the DoubleTree hotel on May 4 and 5. The network is the only Arizona nonprofit to advocate such a diet.
The two-day event features speeches from doctors, wellness instructors, nutritionists, chefs, academics and, for the first time, athletes.
“What’s different this year is we’re bringing in world-class athletes who eat exclusively whole food and plant-based food,” said John Reid, administrator of Healthy You Network, “to let people know that optimal athletic performance can be achieved on a plant-based diet.”
Presenters such as ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, retired mixed martial artist James Wilks and triathlete Rip Esselstyn, convey to people that “you can be fit and trim and a world-class athlete by eating the right stuff,” Reid added.
However, simply eating vegetables doesn’t guarantee you’ll become more athletic, Reid said.
“Part of the difficulty we have nationally is that a lot of people think that if they’re eating as vegetarians or vegans they’re going to be healthy,” Reid said. “And we never use the word ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ because there is many very unhealthy and even fat vegans, because you could eat a diet consistent of pulp and potato chips and be vegan.”
HYN encourages a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and beans, while sparingly consuming nuts, seeds and avocados, and excluding fish, dairy and eggs all together.
Mel Mason, the owner of Holistic Health Solutions and head of social media for HYN, said “tradition” and the assumption that what’s “available is good” can keep some people from trying the diet.
“You have a whole lifetime ahead of you,” Mason said, on why younger people shouldn’t wait to change poor eating habits. “It’s a gradual process … by the time you’re 50 or 60, a lot of the damage is done.”
While students and faculty aren’t directly involved with the symposium, Gale Welter, a wellness nutrition counselor for Campus Health Service, said any shift from a “high processed diet” to a whole food diet, will lead to better well-being.
While she added that some people treat dietary practices like “religion,” any relational shift to more produce in one’s diet leads to a “healthier organism as you age.”
Ava Guanzon, a communication junior, said she believed, as a campus, the UA could eat healthier, but also added, “I can’t just eat plants. I need some substance … something.”
In addition to speakers with an athletic-based background, the symposium will include T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study,” which Reid called “the bible” of plant-based nutrition.
In addition to Campbell, scheduled presentations include “Calorie Density” Saturday and “Label Reading” and “Diet, DNA and Disease” Sunday, all of which follow Reid’s and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild’s welcome speech.
“There’s no great mystery, it’s simply choosing,” Reid said. “I mean you could eat really, really healthy by going to Safeway or Albertsons … There’s nothing very complicated.”